Esse The Label - Ethically Made Women's Garments




New Zealand




  • Certified Organic Certified Organic
  • Circularity Circularity
  • Fair Fair
  • Gender Equality Gender Equality
  • Give Back Give Back

Latin for ‘existence’ or ‘to be’, Esse was the name chosen to represent a brand whose focus was to invoke thoughtfulness. Alicia Tsi, the founder of Esse, wanted to be really discerning when it came to designing her garments. The result of this discernment is a brand that is completely counter to the fast fashion movement, bucking the trend of poorly made ‘fashion’ pieces that fall apart in the wash after three wears; there’s a whole page on the website dedicated to ensuring you know how to care for you garment so it lasts as long as possible, and leaves no footprint when it’s time to say goodbye. 

Of course, this doesn’t just happen with no effort. It requires timeless design, care and love during the manufacturing process, and very careful fabric selection. 

The design concept is beautiful; classic investment pieces, all of which seem to mix and match perfectly. ‘Seasons’ for Esse don’t function like most brands. Colours and styles can be cycled in and back out based on what feels fresh. In this way, there’s no pressure on the label to use evermore resources, and no pressure on you to constantly buy more stuff. 

Esse works closely with their manufacturers, and they’re radically transparent about it (just check out the in-depth page on Esse’s website!) Their first studio is in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. It’s a small unit above a shophouse, and the sewers are skilled artisans. Esse also works with a team of seamstresses from a workshop based in Batam. With over 30 years of experience producing garments for global brands, the workshop owner ran into financial problems as the brands moved their production offshore to larger scale factories. He has since scaled down, employing 5 full time staff and home-based seamstress around Batam. As garment-making is a sunset industry in Batam and a sought-after skill, the team receives a fair amount of bargaining power when determining the production price of the garments.

Esse has a zero-waste goal. In 2018, they launched their OFFCUTS capsule, which is made of – you guessed it- all the textile offcuts that couldn’t be avoided after clever waste-saving design techniques had been utilised.  

They solely use plant-based fabrics, and you can even choose to search their website by the environmentally-friendly fabric of your choice; organic cotton, Tencel, or linen! 

One of our favourite elements of this brand is that you have a say. They constantly tweak their designs and fit based on your feedback, so you really do end up with garments that you will want to keep forever. It doesn’t get more sustainable than that. 

Want to know where Esse sits and what they’re working on in terms of these 5 values? Hover over these values to find out.

Want to know more about the founder’s journey?
Read our interview.

Alicia Tsi
“The sustainability route was not something I gravitated towards initially – it came about through a culmination of experiences. I used to be quite the fashion victim and chased trends mindlessly. Over time, I became quite dismayed at the quality of fast fashion brands. I felt like I was devoting too much space in my wardrobe to purchases that left me feeling empty and I wanted to develop more of a relationship with the things I was wearing”.

Alicia Tsi


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