Inspired by the minimal aesthetic of its namesake city in Japan (pronounced “e-say”), new luxury homeware label Isē came about after founder Lilian Tran struggled to find a local maker of quality bedding when she returned home to Australia after four years working in London and New York.
“There was a lot of stuff on the market made out of China,” she says. “I wanted something better than that.”
She found that quality in the Seine-et-Marne countryside in France, where farmers cultivate high-quality organic flax. She gets it woven into linen by Belgium’s only CO2-neutral mill, which has been in operation since the mid-1800s and is renowned for its quality linen. The mill has a Royal Warrant certification.
“Belgian linen is essentially the highest grade of flax linen you can get in the world,” Tran says. “It’s that heirloom quality you’re buying into that gets better with age.”
Isē’s products meet the Global Organic Textile Standards, which certifies that the entire production process is carried out through ecological and socially responsible methods. All weaves are also Oeko-Tex certified, which means the fabric is free from chemicals that are hazardous or potentially harmful to the human body.
Having something that lasts a long time was really important to Tran after years as a designer in the fashion industry and a lot of time spent at markets with her mum as a child. “[I’ve] always been about buying something you’re going to have for a long time,” she says, “that you’re not just going to throw away.”
Isē’s linens (sheets, duvet, pillowcases and bed sets) are only available in a “season-less” white for now, and some of the pieces (like the duvet) are finished with sustainable handmade bone buttons from Nepal. As is standard with linen, the more you wash it, the softer it gets. “It’s 190 grams [per square metre],” Tran says. “Most things on the market are 165.”
The collection also includes a bolster – made with Australian wool and finished with an invisible zipper made from recycled PET bottles – that can be used as a headrest or at the foot of your bed. There’s a taupe leather throw too, sourced from a family-run tannery in Veneto, Italy. The top-grain leather is buffed so it feels like a soft suede.
At $925, the duvet set – which includes two standard pillowcases and a duvet cover – isn’t cheap. A queen-sized fitted sheet will set you back $545. But Tran says if you want something of this degree of quality and sustainability, you need to be prepared to pay for it.
“We make sure we are an ethical company and we pay our workers, craftspeople and artisans what they should be paid,” she says. “At this stage, where we are in the industry, anything you buy that is organic is going to be a lot more than your stock-standard conventional fabrication or product.
“In future, we’re hoping that things will be much easier and more affordable,” she says. “But at this point in time it is what it is.”
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on May 21, 2019. Some details may have changed since publication.