Melburnians Prue Treweeke and Marre Muijs started their shoe label Essen – a nod to “essential” – in 2016.
“We wanted beautiful and quality shoes but everything was either a luxury $900 pair, or a high street brand that falls apart after a season,” Treweeke explains. “What we thought was missing were shoes that were investment pieces you can wear season after season but at a fair price and great quality.”
To keep their price lower than other luxury shoe designers, Treweeke and Muijs sell their pairs exclusively through a web store.
The shoes are handmade in Italy and Portugal with limited runs of 60 pairs in each style. New styles are added intermittently but best sellers – such as a loafer – will continue to be reproduced. The current range includes a pump, ankle boot, loafer, sandal and Oxford. These are shapes most of us likely already own, but Essen stands out for its luxury detailing.
“We each design with our own wardrobes in mind,” Treweeke says. “We look at a classic and then say, how do we add our signature?”
Heels hit the height sweet spot, straddling both comfort and sophistication. Look closely at the double strap sandal and you’ll notice an architectural square toe. Likewise, a small metal rim on the Oxford injects a contemporary edge.
With their idiosyncratic take on modern classics and tangible quality production, you could easily mistake Essen for a high-end European brand – prices listed in Euros certainly encourage that idea. But a global audience is part of the plan, and one reason it espouses that international sensibility.
“We’re targeting women around the world who appreciate quality shoes and craftsmanship,” Treweeke says of the label’s growing fan-base, which stretches from Australia to Europe.
Treweeke and Muijs are part of the international community they’re targeting – Treweeke is based in New York and Muijs in London, each with full-time job in art direction and product development, respectively.
Treweeke says going forward, new styles will only be added sporadically or when the pair “feels it’s necessary.” They’re not working to a seasonal fashion cycle.
“Not being focused on the fashion calendar allows us to take the time and care when designing the form and fit,” Muijs says.
“Life is too short to wear uncomfortable shoes.”