IN BED Residency #1: ESSE

Photography by Nicole Squelch

We’re excited to announce the launch of our IN RESIDENCE program; a series of collaborations that will see our Melbourne flagship store become a conceptual space to showcase creations from a roster of our favourite brands, designers, and artists. 

For our first residency, our friends at ESSE have been hard at work designing a sustainable capsule collection in collaboration with Future From Waste Lab, made entirely from repurposed bed sheets. To celebrate the launch of the capsule, which will be in store at IN BED Armadale until April 28th, we caught up with ESSE’s Founder Charlotte Hicks to learn more about the brand and the meaning behind this beautifully considered collection.

Hi Charlotte, can you start by sharing a bit of the ESSE story with us?

After working as a designer for 15 years and witnessing significant changes in the industry, when the time came to embark on the journey for myself, I knew I wanted to start something with purpose. Something that enabled me to produce in a way that felt creative and considered, but had intention. ESSE really is a distillation of the things I love about the craft, but a departure from what doesn't serve me and most importantly the world around us. It’s about my craft as a designer and my desires to produce with intent.

I do want ESSE to be more than just design or fashion, it's a focus on the modern woman. Aiming to intuitively respond to her needs, optimise her life through design. Encourage her to be the best version of herself and support her lifestyle. It’s about giving her a moment to be heard, listened to, and even a world for her to indulge, and lose herself in.

What does the ESSE capsule wardrobe look like?

ESSE is an exploration of the modern gentlewoman’s wardrobe. A fluid line between the masculine and the feminine. The top notes: a quintessential homage to the classics. The base notes: refined ease, with considered artfulness.

ESSE is an exploration of the modern gentlewoman’s wardrobe. A fluid line between the masculine and the feminine.

Do you have any advice for those wanting to become more mindful consumers, and how we can re-establish our relationship with dressing?

Take the time to look into how your pieces came to be. Who made them, where did the fabric come from - the journey behind each piece. Think about the brand and the business that brought them into this world. Who are they? Then finally, take a minute to consider how you feel when you put them on. Is it going to make you the best version of yourself? It’s about a sense of presence and consideration with every purchase you make.

ESSE Studios will be in residence at IN BED Armadale from April 21st - 28th.

Part of ESSE’s core sustainability pillars are the consideration given to fabrications and a predominantly local supply chain. How are developments in sustainability making these commitments more accessible, and what challenges do you as a designer and business owner still face?

This is a big question so I’ll try to keep it concise.

There are still so many challenges. Generally speaking the biggest challenge to mitigate is quite simply how to navigate scale. How to build a commercially sound business that has core values of ‘slowing down’ the system and encouraging consideration and awareness. 

These two poles don’t often align. Profit isn’t always in harmony with a more purpose driven proposition. The path of least resistance in this industry is to be fast paced, grow fast, volume, low costs and feed consumption. The road less travelled and often the road harder to navigate, is the slower more considered one. However, the business would cease to exist without the commercial side so it is a constant ‘dance’. Ultimately though it depends on ‘why’ you are doing what you are doing.

Supply chain and fabric selecting is a big part of my ‘why’. Having been a designer forever I witnessed quality and fabrics become less and less valued. The pace and speed of manufacturing and the constant drive to improve margins in this industry has sacrificed quality. Then when it comes to who is making your clothes, that connection has become so disintermediated from the consumer. I’m passionate about encouraging that connection. I’m also passionate about supporting our domestic (mostly female fuelled) manufacturing industry. We need to try to foster our homegrown industry that could thrive if it is nurtured.

Supply chain and fabric selecting is a big part of my ‘why’. Having been a designer forever I witnessed quality and fabrics become less and less valued.

Led by Editions instead of the traditional fashion calendar, what changes do you hope to see in the fashion industry around circular design and the concept of recycle, repurpose & resell?

I just hope that this industry supports brands that dance to a different beat, or challenge the status quo. It’s a very delicate ecosystem - the retailer, the brand and the consumer. It does require support on all fronts, at least an engaged audience in the network to help effect change. 

Tech is only going to make this whole space more compelling. That’s what I am most excited about.

A brand evidently born from your frustrations with the ecological impacts of the fashion industry, how did this compel you to collaborate with initiatives such as the Future from Waste Lab?

As I mentioned above it’s a dance between the commercial and the more purpose led or passion pursuits. You sort of have to participate in the ‘fashion system’ to a certain degree to make waves, and actually build that sound, commercially viable business: one that is set up for scale, one that helps find an engaged audience, one that enables a team to grow and thrive. 

However, you cannot forget your ‘why’ and your more purpose led pursuits - so for me these initiatives should run in parallel to ESSE’s core business. Especially in the business’ early stage. Then who knows what the future will hold, perhaps this evolves into ESSE’s core proposition.

BETA By STH BNK’s Future From Waste Lab is an incredible initiative and I am so honoured to have been selected to be a part of it. With a shared vision for rethinking retail and experimenting with what the future of retail should look like, it’s been an exciting opportunity. 

I’ve also just got such an aversion to waste - wasted energy, wasted creativity and not to mention waste in general. It’s actually a big part of my creative process, designing by reworking my own older designs. Deconstructing them and reworking them. So this project felt quite intuitive for me and I hope it’s just the start of so much more to come. 

Details from the collection for BETA By STH BNK’s Future From Waste Lab, made entirely from repurposed bed sheets.

Can you share some insight into the collection, specifically how the collection is made from repurposed bed sheets?

The capsule collection that I have created is made entirely of repurposed bedsheets, 100% cotton. Giving a second life to something that was otherwise going to waste. The idea around the collection is that they are beautiful elevated pieces that can be easily styled back with your existing ESSE wardrobe. I love the idea that waste can be refined, polished and seamlessly integrated into your everyday. A piece you reach for always! So waste isn’t tokenistic or something ‘novel’. I like the idea of challenging the narrative that waste is ‘gimmicky’, instead keeping it timeless and elevated.

The idea around the collection is that they are beautiful elevated pieces that can be easily styled back with your existing ESSE wardrobe.

We are thrilled to be housing the collection as the first in our IN BED In Residence program. Can you share the creative process behind your week-long pop-up at IN BED Armadale, and how the relationship came about?

I am fortunate enough to have known Pip & Eddie, the founders of IN BED, for a while. We have such an alignment in our ethos: both passionate about growing businesses that oscillate between beautiful design, immersive retail experiences, and conscious consumption. I love what they are doing to support artists and designers within their retail spaces. A beautiful gallery-like notion to showcase works of art. It felt like the perfect home to ‘hero’ the reworked and repurposed bed linen - such a synergy! To bring in the BETA By STH BNK’s Future From Waste Lab collaboration further solidifies a mutual vision for innovation and the future of retail. 

You are currently in the process of becoming B-Corp certified - congratulations on the journey so far! What do you believe is the value of certifications such as this, and the importance of measuring ethical, transparent & sustainable business credentials?

Thank you. It is definitely a robust and rigorous process, as it should be. I see B Corp as the perfect pillar to scale the business on, even from an operational perspective. I really like that you have to continue to reapply every few years too, it keeps everyone accountable and encourages continual evolution as the world changes.

What else does the future hold for ESSE?

Too much sometimes, I have big dreams, and a huge vision! Baby steps though, slow and steady. I hope it’s a lifelong pursuit and a life-long legacy because the world is about to get a whole lot more interesting! The future is more intriguing than ever before and the rate of change is going to be exponential.