Charlotte Hicks, designer and founder of Esse, on Sustainability, circular fashion and her creative process.

Charlotte Hicks Esse on pre-loved fashion and sustainable fashion There were only a handful of brands we knew we had to include in our launch campaign back in October last year. Brands focused on designing for a lifetime and creating styles that don’t become obsolete with the changing of the seasons. And most importantly, brands committed to re-thinking traditional supply chains and leaning into sustainable practices.  

ESSE was firmly on our list. We spotted their pre-loved, perfectly cut ivory collarless blazer we just had to have it for our launch collection.

Fast forward five months and we couldn’t be more excited to sit down with Charlotte Hick’s - the authentic, generous in spirit and incredibly talented designer and founder of ESSE. Here she shares her thoughts on sustainability, circular fashion and what inspires her creative process.

How do you approach sustainability at ESSE?

It’s sort of a multilayer question for us and I might not be able to summarise it but in general it really is just an integral value of the brand, a pillar I wanted to build the business on. However, that doesn’t mean we are perfect, we don’t believe there is such a thing as perfection in what we are all doing. For us it’s just responsibility. It’s our job as business owners and manufacturers of product to be responsible and committed to making the best, most informed decision in every facet of what we do.

We live by the mantra to never stay stagnant, to constantly question and challenge. How can you be better, do better, and make more informed decisions? We aren’t perfect, we are very real, open and honest about that. You simply cannot be.

It’s an industry that is constantly evolving, it is Pandora’s box. Technology is going to change the landscape even more, so it really is about keeping your eyes open and making sure you are always staying informed. If you can make the best decisions for right now and set goals based on what you are working towards, then there is a structure and framework for nimble change. We’re in the process of becoming BCorp Certified which for us is a great way to measure where we are at, as well as help guide us into the future.

Can you tell us about Editions, what encouraged you to release in this way?

The Editions were sort of an enabler for us to be able to make better decisions. The brand itself was built on the idea of evolving your wardrobe, slowly curating, so slow release ‘editions’ seemed like the right tone for each release.

On a personal level it was a bit of a revolt to the fashion system, it wasn’t about collections that became old as quick as they were new. It wasn’t about seasonally focusing on any one space and time.

It is just an Edition that is curated for any woman anywhere, anytime, hopefully for longevity. It was more about how we dress, and how we shop, changing our consumer behaviours. 

Esse on pre-loved fashion and sustainable fashion

Where did your journey in fashion begin?

Cliche to say it did start when I was pretty young. My mother was in the industry and my father a jewellery designer so it did really feel like I natural progression. I studied Fashion and Textile Design straight after school and then headed into the industry. 

Where does your design inspiration come from?

So many places, spaces and time. Really though, it is my woman - her needs, her wants. ‘Peppered’ in there through her (and mine) artful appreciations.

Esse on sustainable fashion and pre-loved fashion

Can you describe your personal style?

I am pretty masculine, and quite minimal.  Life is kind of physical so I need pieces that work.  I love proportions and subtly mixing textures. I do love my treasures mixed in there.

What does circular fashion mean to you?

I think it means being responsible for everything that you put out to the world. If we are going to create a new product, how can we ensure the entire lifecycle of the product is considered, including the ‘end’ of the lifecycle? What can we do to be responsible for everything that we put out there.

Have you ever sold your own clothing or bought pre-loved?

Always! My wardrobe is mostly pre-loved or ESSE.

Who do you think is leading the way in sustainability globally, and where do you think Australia sits in comparison?

There are some really interesting things happening globally. I think there are specific brands doing interesting things, and clusters around the globe but to be honest right now I think the most inspiring things aren’t even in the fashion space. 

Where do you see the fashion industry in 10 years?

I don’t even know if I can see where the world will be in 10 years. It is just such an unprecedented time. I think fabric innovation is what I am most excited about.

What does a typical day look like for Charlotte Hicks?

I’m writing this from the airport heading down to Melbourne, I haven’t boarded a plane in two years. I feel like we are slowly finding our groove again, but that seems like it could be disrupted at any time.

Generally speaking, I get up early, tackle emails over a morning coffee - I wish I could say I was starting the day with nourishing meditation, but the reality is I love my morning time. I enjoy that fresh head space to get on top of the day.

I try to take a more soul nourishing moment when I can, even if it is just rewiring my thoughts in the shower. I head straight to the office and to be honest each day is so different - sometimes I'm out at the factories, other days in meetings. I won’t tell you about when tools go down, it’s not that pretty in fashion life, but this year I am trying for better boundaries! I love my design and creative days they’re my favourite days. 

What advice do you have for an up and coming fashion designer?

Just be authentic, do you. My favourite saying is 'those that say they can, and those that say they cannot are both right'. You need a mantra like that, it is hard work so if you love it and you want it, just keep on making it happen.

Remind yourself you are the only one who can make it happen for yourself.

On a more practical level, think about the type of business you want too, how big or small do you want it to be? 

Esse Pre-loved Collarless Blazer The Harmonic