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In Conversation With Amanda Briskin-Rettig

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Our admiration for A-ESQUE runs deep. Based on firm foundations of conscious design and slow, ethical production, Amanda Briskin-Rettig is leaps and bounds ahead of the game. You can see for yourself when you visit the brand’s Richmond atelier, with the beautiful leather bags coming together before your very eyes. We spoke with Amanda about the ethos of the brand, what she’s loving in her winter wardrobe and future plans. Photos by Annika Kafcaloudis.

A-ESQUE bags are beautifully crafted by hand by local makers in your atelier. Why is handcrafting important to you?

I really enjoy things that are made by hand and that come from a crafted place. Especially with bags, the hand feel as well as the longevity that comes from a handcrafted piece is just on a different level to a mass-produced product. In the case of A-ESQUE, we focus on high-end crafting techniques, for example instead of edge painting we hand-finish all of our seams. The way we create the soft structure of our bags is really what’s unique in the way we craft things, which is informed by our brand DNA. I think that’s what really works at Jac + Jack, there’s a fluidity and flow of the design DNA that is inherent to your brand, and that comes through the way you craft. So, as much as I love the concept of crafting, it really stems from brand DNA and a quality point of view for why we do what we do.

Even the nature of your Richmond atelier, being in a beautiful open-plan space and having makers sitting amongst your showroom and on display for customers to see also feeds into that idea of your brand DNA. There’s a complete transparency about the process.

Totally. And that’s very much why we’ve opened the atelier and that’s what that space is about. Our values system is about transparency within the process, this new space allows us to create a physical experience for partners, customers and for ourselves as well.

Recently, what have you been inspired by in a design sense or otherwise?

Continuity is the name of our current collection. I’ve been inspired by what’s worthy of existing and what’s worthy of making, wearing, and producing. Everything needs to be justified. I’m inspired by this heightened awareness of what’s around me at the moment. The fact that we’re travelling again and there are more bigger bags has played into things. I’ve also felt a pull towards designing for utility that is high quality. I’m thinking about pieces that you continue to wear and move around with, that can take you from day to night.

I’m really inspired by the Puffa collection as a story that has been refined, taking the concept of design for work to the weekend to the next level. With the Puffas, which have been iterated from the Mellows, you have this flowy and fluid yet refined piece of design that you can use as your everyday bag but also one you take to go out with. The Puffas have got what the Mellow has in terms of the ease of wear but there have been updates to the look, aesthetic, and pattern into something that’s more refined. So, definitely refinement and dressing up more have been on my mind.

We love that idea of pieces that we reach for again and again. As the world’s opened up, we’re going out more, travelling more; there are more occasions to dress for.

It’s dressing up for the everyday too – which is something I really enjoy, more so now and I’m more aware of it. We did have a break for a while there, and whilst Covid is slowly seeping into a thing of the past, I still think it takes time for your wardrobe, life, habits and shopping to catch up with you, especially if you are considered with your purchases.

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Is there anything that’s part of your winter wardrobe that you’re gravitating towards styling this season?

I’m always layering. Melbourne is already cooler so I’m already starting to get into winter layering but not yet in heavy winter weights. Winter is very much my season. I don’t tend to change that much season-to-season. But this season I am enjoying a wide shoulder. I’m doing that with knitted vests, boxy tees, blazers and open shirts over singlets. Wide-legged pants are always in my wardrobe, but this season I’m picking up a bit more with tapered-leg silhouettes too.

What’s in store for A-ESQUE this year?

We’re launching our event series. Part of the vision for the atelier is to use the space for more events. Whilst we don’t have our own retail stores, apart from stocking in Jac + Jack, we are doing a lot more face-to-face events in the atelier, exploring how people can experience craft firsthand. That’s collaborating with other designers and hosting workshops, as well as demonstrating and exhibiting the craft of making bags. We had our first one three weeks ago and that went really well. We’re just in the infancy of it, but that’s what’s exciting.

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Go to Style Guides: A-ESQUE here.