In the sometimes inward-looking and selfishly motivated world of fashion, there are still those that are choosing to take a stand for better things. Two young women based in Melbourne have joined forces to start a new label called Jacob & Esau – with a deliberate focus on the makers of their clothing. I spoke to co-founders Joanne and Esther about their adventures in ethical design!
Q. Where does the name Jacob & Esau come from?
J: This is an interesting one! Right before Esther & I even mentioned the idea of starting our own fashion label to each other, Esther always had this name in mind. She thought it was pretty cool to draw inspiration from the biblical siblings in the creative direction of her designs. Jacob for simple, everyday basics and Esau for the occasional wild pieces! So when the time came to decide on a name for our label, she suggested Jacob & Esau and explained the creative underpinnings of this name. I thought it was a fantastic idea and then only realised it also stood for the initials of our very own names! J & E, Joanne & Esther… there you go!
Q. How would you describe Jacob & Esau in 10 words or less?
E: Easy peasy – “Clothing for the people”
Q. Why is fairness and transparency important to you both personally and professionally?
J: Honest and genuine relationships have become sort of a rare breed. It is much easier to do things which serves one’s self at the expense of another person and has probably become the norm in our culture these days; like the popular saying, “look after number one”. I take it as a personal challenge to dare to be a little different, both in the workplace and beyond!
In the last few years, it has become increasingly obvious to me the need to maintain this stand for fair and honest interactions, be it in everyday choices, my own relationships and business decisions. The J & E initiative was born out of a collective desire to see an option for everyday people to choose clothes which are made fairly by people who are treated respectfully.
Q. How would you describe your design aesthetic?
E: J & E garments are wardrobe staples, think of your favourite white tee, casual men’s shorts or a throw-on summer dress in a cute print! Of course we are all influenced by trends to a certain degree, but J & E takes special care to design styles that can be worn for years to come and can be mixed and matched with an existing wardrobe, adding value to the life of the garment.
We are aware of the stigma that is associated with ‘ethical or sustainable fashion’ and are keen to provide the opposite! In essence, our clothes should look like ‘normal’ clothes, but upon further inspection a real story evolves, revealing the backbone of our label and it’s ethical business decisions.
Q. What made you choose Bali in Indonesia as your manufacturing hub and who are your makers?
J & E: Garment makers Kholil and Wiwik, a husband and wife team, will be producing our first collection! They work from home and are building up their own home business, enabling them to raise their young son, Dafar, in comfort and convenience, as well as earn a living.
As you said, they are based in Bali, Indonesia, and we chose this location due to some contacts we had while researching into our business, which have led to strong relationships and really positive outcomes so far!
It’s a bonus that Indonesia is a neighboring country for us (being based in Melbourne, Australia), so travel is shorter for this initial stage of launching our business and we’re able to learn the ropes quicker! Another important factor is that many Australians are familiar with Bali as a holiday destination so they can relate well to the culture and also the impact we are trying to make!
Q. Who or what is inspiring you right now?
E: People! People always inspire me, whether it’s like-minded creatives who are reaching for the stars, or people like Kholil and Wiwik, who (like many parents!) have the perseverance and the selflessness to work day in and day out to provide for their family. The desire to see J & E make a positive difference to people all around the world is what really gets me going!