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Meet Essen, the seasonless, eco-friendly shoe label that won’t put a dent in your wallet

Images by ESSĒN

Words by Olivia Hart

Thoughtful footwear for the conscious consumer.

Essen – short for essentials – is a Melbourne-based label that creates investment footwear. With a focus on ethical production and slow fashion, in an unusual move, the label has only made eight silhouettes available. 

The brainchild of Marre Muijs and Prue Treweeke, two friends who worked together to build the visual language and story of the label, according to Marre, Essen is all about “ethical practice with an honest price point”. 

Despite the fact that sustainability was not a popular topic when they launched, Marre and Prue created Essen in response to the growing frustration they felt towards the wasteful, neverending fashion cycle and the out-of-reach price points of designs they liked.

“We did it together for two years, but after launching she [Prue] moved to New York and I moved to London. Eventually, she decided to step back and focus on her career in New York, but we’re still really good friends.”

Thankfully, the care and thought that Prue and Marre had poured into the label early on continued when Marre took sole charge at Essen. 

With parents who taught her to reduce waste from an early age, conscious consumerism has always been at the forefront of Marre’s mind. When it came to creating her own label, it’s no surprise she wanted to take an ethical approach. 

Although sustainability is finally coming to the forefront of our conversations in day-to-day life, it’s certainly taken its time. Working in a fast-paced, competitive industry that has long ignored its waste problem, Marre is a bit of an anomaly. 

“When I founded the brand, sustainability wasn’t really a part of the conversation. Even now, not everyone in the supply chain is able to meet our standards instantly, but if they’re willing to put in the effort, we can work through it together.”

Every Essen shoe is individually handcrafted by family-run factories in Italy, Portugal and Spain and Marre’s forward-thinking production methods mean that the label doesn’t release new collections each season, as a way to avoid overproduction.  

“The way I work is I sample a new style in a very small quantity, and I only work in black at first and when I know that works I go back and place repeat orders.”

When it comes to challenges the business has faced, the biggest has been educating its customers. Compared to fast fashion, where styles change constantly, Marre takes a slower approach. 

Because the label’s styles are made to transcend season, Marre decided it was best for the brand to never go on sale. “We price fairly all year round because our edit is a curation of seasonless staples.”

With each style sticking around long-term, it makes sense that Marre wants to tirelessly perfect each and every piece she puts out. “There were two styles where it took me a year and a half, two countries and three factories to get them right. It was definitely a moment where I was like, ‘Why am I doing this?’” 

But luckily for us – and the environment – Marre kept at it. With orders now coming in from all over the world, she has already ticked off some pretty impressive goals, but she has more ambitious ideas on the horizon. 

“Going forward, my next goal is very wild. I want to only produce on demand. So we’ll research what new styles and colours to invest in and produce only what we sell.”

At the end of our interview, I asked Marre “Why shoes?”. She responded, “If you’re wearing a good pair of shoes and you’re comfortable, you can do amazing things.” And if Marre’s story is anything to go by, then that must be true. 

essenthelabel.com

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