Upcycled: A renewed approach to ‘new’

For our team, this year has marked a time for conversations and development around longevity, recycling, redesigning and upcycling as a way of creating ‘new’ from the renewed. Hayley delves into why we turned to upcycling and what this concept means within our design methodology.

The dilemma of combining creativity and consumption challenges designers to retain outlets of creative expression, such as fashion design, in such a way that they also function and flourish within boundaries that restrict overproduction and overconsumption. This is one of the numerous themes that our Founder and Creative Director Amanda Briskin-Rettig and I have dived deeper into in discussions over recent months, igniting the beginnings of an A-ESQUE take on the concept of upcycling.

2021 has given us the time to slow down and consider perceptions of newness in design and our design intent to make greater use of our existing materials, emphasise resourcefulness and make available to our members a selection of upcycled pieces reworked from our significant private collection.

Bucket Bag

Amanda made a choice from the brand’s outset to never go on sale. With such a philosophy, the brand inevitably had remaining pieces that transitioned into our Archive collection. Further to this, our approach to sampling in our evolutionary design process necessitates a sample archive; a broad collection of pieces we keep on hand at our Melbourne Atelier as a design reference and catalogue in physical form of our evolving design process over the years across various styles.

As a collaborative team, we are adapting to a new perspective on the pieces we hold in our private Archive and Sample Room collections. We've questioned: Can we transform the existing design into a fresh style? Could the pieces be resolved, shared with our loyal client community and made available to purchase? How might we integrate a new process into how we make?

Bucket Bag making

Upcycling feels like a natural extension of how we have always designed: developing an evolution of patterns that form an iterative approach to design. However, instead of referencing a particular pattern, redesigning and making new, we are reworking existing, finished pieces to transform their design into a new style. This enhances the current appeal and/or functionality for the express purpose of achieving greater utility from what exists, at no lower a price, rather than creating new or re-valuing the original piece down to enable a sale. The process is slower and intentional, whilst maintaining the same care and precision applied to the making of all A-ESQUE pieces

Our private Sample Room holds pieces across a myriad of development stages. There are pieces that have been reworked, unpicked, restitched and re-trialled across iterations of strap styles, hardware features or closure configurations. A selection of pieces are partially complete, paused mid-development to revisit in future, while others are fully resolved bags that signpost our design history. 

Each sample or archive piece we select stands as a redesign opportunity to challenge our creativity within the constraints of an existing piece. While some upcycled styles will feature hints of new hardware or leather additions as they develop through our upcycle process, evidence of past reworking also become features in the final outcomes. The leathers might be imprinted with details such as stitching lines, unpicked pockets, or original stud placements, which are carefully considered in the redesign.

Bucket Bag materials

We see the value in upcycled styles in finding a second life for pieces that we would rather see in use and loved by our clients than remain in our private collection. While we are in the midst of developing our own methodology around upcycling and progressively releasing renewed pieces, we welcome you to share in our experience and follow the making of one of a kind styles. 

Written by Hayley Thompson 


Read the first in a series of personal creative insights from Amanda on the discipline of upcycled design 


View the entire Collection or discover our latest pieces