The SELECTED. team were lucky enough to sit down and chat to Marre Muijs, the force behind Australian footwear brand ESSEN.
Muijs has utilised her knowledge of slow design and ethical production to produce classic footwear that will last the test of time.
Tell us about the vision behind ESSEN.
One of the biggest problems in the fashion industry is overconsumption. ESSEN encourages people to buy less and choose better. I aspire to simplify women’s wardrobes by helping them consider what they really need. That’s where the name comes from – the essentials.
One of the things that makes ESSEN different from other footwear brands is that we produce in very small batches, or entirely on-demand. This allows us to make smarter use of resources, minimise waste and overproduction. All styles are handmade in Italy, Portugal and Spain in solar-powered factories by expert artisans who have been making shoes for generations.
How do you express yourself through your work? Where do you find creative inspiration?
My design philosophy has always been based around a respect for those key items in your wardrobe – meaningful essentials that stand the test of time and balance design, interesting details and comfort.
I’m inspired by women’s day-to-day realities. Busy lifestyles call for practical yet stylish shoes- comfort is luxury! I believe that what a woman wears will have a direct impact on how she feels. Shoes carry us, add height, alter posture and boost confidence. My shoes are hardworking, reimagined classics; they need to be wearable and sophisticated, but never boring. I want women to feel confident and comfortable, not wasting too much time thinking about what they’re wearing.
Why was it important for you to incorporate sustainable practises?
I recognise the contradiction between the current fashion industry, producing for consumption and the concept of sustainability.
I don’t know if fashion can ever be truly sustainable, however we try and do better by creating responsible systems & processes. Shoes are an everyday necessity so my ambition is to create a brand that upholds a more conscious pace and process, thus minimising harm when produced or consumed.
The environment is the most precious resource we have so it is our responsibility to do all we can to preserve it. I’m continually looking into innovative ways of making a greater impact on people’s wardrobes whilst reducing environmental impact.
What is something you wish Australians knew about sustainable fashion?
'Sustainable’ by definition is still rather impossible to achieve as a brand. It’s why I prefer the word 'responsible'. There are sustainable components and materials, however we are still a long way away, as an industry, from truly being sustainable.
At ESSEN ‘sustainability’ is at the core of everything we do. The brand is built on a foundation of considered consumption, ethical production and transparency. We need to make more responsible choices wherever possible, so it's easier for customers to make them too.
Responsibility not only includes environmental but also social responsibility. We need to ensure people are looked after and compensated fairly for their craft, and at an economic level too.
It can feel quite overwhelming at times, but there’s so much power in people’s purchasing decisions and in the wake of a growing climate emergency every action matters.
What is next for you and for your label ESSEN?
I’ve just had a baby, so I’m currently trying to find some balance between running ESSEN and being a new mother, but I love it.
For ESSEN, I’m really looking forward to being able to visit the workshops again – we’re currently working on ways that we can increase our visibility and traceability across the supply chain. In the near future our customers will be able to track the journey of their shoes across the supply chain.
This Earth Day (22 April) I’m launching a very special collaboration with local jewellery brand Linden Cook, to raise awareness for the environmental benefits of on-demand manufacturing. I truly believe this is the future.