This Luxury Leather Label Takes Personalisation to the Next level

Welcome to How It’s Made. Where we go behind the scenes with your favourite brands to find out how their designs are produced. For our next instalment, we visited luxury leather label A-ESQUE to discover what goes on behind the scenes.

It’s pretty safe to say every girl has a bit of a handbag addict—there’s something about the smell of soft, supple leather that draws you in, but it’s the delicious shapes and sizes that keep you coming back for more. Can you ever have too many? The answer is quite obviously, no.

The handbag label that’s recently hit the top of our wish lists, is A-ESQUE. The luxury leather brand launched in 2012, and in four short years, has filled a gap we didn’t even know was missing. The soft leather, and unique shapes make this label stand out—and its attention to detail, and listening to its customers is what gives this label life. A-ESQUE is doing something different, and we had to find out more.

We sat down with founder and designer of A-ESQUE, Amanda Briskin-Rettig to discover how one of its signature handbags is created, and why its personalisation service is so special. Keep scrolling to read our interview.



Courtesy of A-ESQUE

Who What Wear Australia: Tell us about how A-ESQUE launched and what you set to out achieve.

Amanda Briskin-Rettig: I initially started in accessories during my early 20’s. Always being artistic and growing up absorbing art and fashion wherever I could find it, I had the idea of creating a few styles of leather handbags. I went overseas with a small amount of savings and the brand MIMCO was born. After moving on from the business in 2007, I didn’t consider starting another accessories brand, I took some time off and spent time consulting creatively to a number of businesses, but a seed of an idea began to form. I became more and more interested in creating something that came from function, longevity, honesty, and paid homage to craftsmanship. In 2012, that seed became A-ESQUE.


Courtesy of A-ESQUE

WWW: We love that your label is so unique—from your materials and colours, to shapes. Do you follow trends or ignore them?   

AB: I wouldn’t say I would actively pursue or ignore trends, but the brand as a whole comes from a thoughtful but also a more malleable place. Everything is handcrafted in our atelier in Melbourne from paper patterns and vintage tools. We tend to strip back a design to what is absolutely necessary and will often play with unexpected colour combinations or texture. I try out all of the designs and we tweak them until they become the forms you see in store. We update versions of our bags, after wearing them and from customer feedback. It could visually be a minor detail but to the wearer, it’s a noticeable difference.


Courtesy of A-ESQUE 

WWW: We love that you’re always listening to customer feedback. Are your pieces designed and made in-house?

AB: Yes, every piece is made here and I am designing from wherever I might be in the world at any given time.

WWW: What’s your best-selling piece?

AB: Forms that have resonated with our customer are the Petal Bag ($800) and Box Clutch ($350) and the applique elements across the brand have continued to grow. However as we nurture the brand and we continually re-consider each piece, how it’s held, how it sits, what it feels like in the palm of your hand, these styles evolve. Research, innovation and development really is the DNA that underpins A-ESQUE.


Courtesy of A-ESQUE

WWW: Customers are able to customise your pieces with their initials. Is there a huge demand for this? Why do you think this is?

AB: We have launched The Initials Bureau which allows customers to customise their bag with the initials of their choice. As a design brand, we work through a methodology of how a bag can be customised; there are guidelines as we want the piece to still feel intrinsically A-ESQUE. We utilise our own bespoke font and offer the service across four-five bag styles a season. Lettering is twice cut leather, with a shadow line edge and initials are colour on colour. I think for our customers they enjoy the democracy of the process, it’s collaborative for us too, you begin to hear stories as to why people have chosen certain initials, that story then becomes a part of the bag. The end result is the wearer has created their own logo; this piece will have so much more personal resonance because of this journey.


Courtesy of A-ESQUE

WWW: What do you think will be the next big trend in handbags?

AB: I’m quite interested in investigating some of our key shapes and downsizing them into smaller versions of themselves. Stay tuned!

WWW: Where do you source your leather and materials?

AB: Our leathers are sourced from the finest Italian tanneries, but each bag is handmade in Melbourne. We’re working with a company in Brunswick who have started creating bespoke steel knives for us to ensure we have a local supplier. I’m interested in technique and details and because of this we utilise artesian methods to create a contemporary aesthetic.


Courtesy of A-ESQUE

WWW: Where do you search for inspiration?

AB: Travelling is a huge inspiration, as is art and architecture. Being around creative people and looking at unconventional ideas will often start the germ of an idea for colour contrast or how a bag is carried or folds.

WWW: How important is Instagram and social media for your label? Does it help direct designs?

AB: Instagram is great conversation tool and as makers, we have the ability to adapt, change and shift focus, if there is a particular style that is garnering a lot of attention, or our followers love a particular leather hue over another. It is also wonderful for communicating the visual language of A-ESQUE and something we’re continually developing.


Courtesy of A-ESQUE

WWW: Talk us through the process of start to finish of creating the Box Clutch.

Each bag begins as an initial thought or design sketch, from which we create a paper pattern. From here pieces of the pattern are cut from leather using vintage tools.

Each piece is laid out by hand, and pieces are then glued and taped into place. Bags are sewn and finished to create the final product. Even the smallest piece has taken many man hours to create, however the culture of craftsmanship is of genuine importance to the brand.

Shop our favourite pieces from the collection:

A metallic carry-all is what your all-black outfits are missing.

Wear it two ways. Either as a clutch, or with the long leather strap as a sling bag.

Make a colourful tote your signature piece. 

Have you ever seen a cooler overnight bag?

It's the year of the backpack, and we're loving these retro vibes.

You'll be surprised by how much you can fit into this slouchy handbag.

What other labels would you love to hear from? Share in the comments below!

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