Image: © ESEMBLE
ESEMBLE is a Hong Kong-based contemporary handbag brand known for incorporating classic silhouettes with vibrant hues. Founded by designers Tink Wong and Alex Jiaravanont, their mutual New York education was the juxtaposing catalyst for their careers and is a continuously woven thread that is fused into each collection. After checking out their latest lookbook, I wanted to know more about the brand and people behind the label that hoped to “inspire kindness” and “create products that have meaning for the modern girl”.
How has ESEMBLE evolved to incorporate your New York backgrounds and its Hong Kong base?
I think the best way to describe ESEMBLE is a brand that is born in Hong Kong but highly influenced by New York.
I identify with New York because having a cobbled together identity is the norm (I was born in Bangkok, have a Thai-Chinese father but was brought up by my Taiwanese mother, grew up in Hong Kong and the US, and worked in New York and Shanghai). I am like a buffet lunch personified!
When starting the brand in Hong Kong, we wanted to create something that is not very apparent in the immediate surroundings. Hong Kong is a free port and hence is bombarded with new things all the time, and people naturally gravitates towards the newest things. At ESEMBLE we gravitate towards vintage-inspired aesthetic, drawing from my time rummaging through the vintage shops in New York. And this is something I had in mind when we started ESEMBLE—modern handbags with a vintage aesthetic.
How do you envision the ESEMBLE “modern girl”?
Our modern girl is a very motivated individual and she cares a lot about the world. She has resilience, and I think it is a trait that even surpasses fearlessness because fear and hesitation is a human trait, but the ability to stick to your beliefs and cope with adversity enables a person to develop.
When translating to fashion, nowadays there are plenty of platforms to create your own taste and express it online. But, on the flip-side, it is also very easy to become swayed by someone else. A modern girl is able to recognize that but finds pleasure in finding pieces to celebrate her individuality.
What and who are the influences behind the AW18 collection?
ESEMBLE’s Autumn/Winter 2018 collection is a tribute to the 90s uninhibited, peppy, feel-good fun, through reliving memorable moments of the Spice Girls era with our retro pieces. The 90s comeback has been a long time coming. This season, we took our classics and embellished them with canvas galore to channel the spirit of the iconic era.
The collection represents an effortless style sought after by those who carry their life in their bags 9-to-5 and beyond – a canvas bag that’s elevated with fine leather, a unique but classic statement piece that will complement any ensemble. This liberating collection allows each girl to switch up her look and dress it up or down at the snap of a finger.
What aspect do you find most iconic about the Bell Shoulder Bag, Demi Moon Bag, and Park Shoulder Bag?
The Bell Shoulder Bag and Demi Moon Bag were inspired by vintage bags you can occasionally spot in New York flea markets and second-hand stores. They often sport some whacky but simple symmetrical shapes that are usually not in the repertoire of a person’s wardrobe. But more importantly, vintage bags have qualities that surpass their approachable price point. These bags are made with love, and we believe that even with an affordable price the wearers deserve to enjoy the same level of quality as a designer handbag.
As for the Park shoulder bag, it is a classic, simple, and easy-to-work-with style. It stresses functionality and is designed to be compact and around-the-clock versatile, as it can can convert from a shoulder bag to clutch. It addresses a healthy work/life balance, where the user can transit seamlessly from work to evening wear. Many of our brand followers tell us this is their favourite go-to bag.
What was the main inspiration behind the new Drift Lady Bag?
The newly introduced Drift Lady Bag is inspired by ocean-side drives and cruising with the top down. The curvature on Drift takes its cue from those of a streamlined convertible. This style is a shoutout to all the ladies who love cruising down a freeway by the ocean with the top down and want to feel that inspiration wherever they go; be that the office or brunch with the girls.
ESEMBLE prides itself in “inspiring kindness”. What are some of the ways the brand does this?
We believe in supporting our community and giving back. Part of our brand philosophy is to inspire kindness and spread good vibes to those around us. We have partnered with a few local charities over the years such as Mother’s Choice, a local charity serving many children without families and pregnant teenagers in Hong Kong, and Watchdog, an organization in Hong Kong providing intensive and well-rounded early intervention and therapy programmes for children with special educational needs, from newborn to six years old.
We believe that even the smallest acts of kindness can radiate happiness and positivity around us, and it is so important in our modern world to keep each other smiling.
What else can we expect from the brand for next season?
We are playing with some variants on our well-loved style, the Bell Shoulder Bag, with different materials, such as the ultra iridescent PVC and faux fur. We are also introducing some new styles into our family, with a couple that experiment with forms that slightly depart from our vintage aesthetic, adding further depth to our collection.