by Jasmine

Esse, a conscious fashion brand, is the labor and fruits of Alicia Tsi. In a bid to educate the everyday consumer about their purchase decisions, she took up the role and calling to stand up for a cause close to her heart.

November 18, 2019

The philosophy of Esse is to support fair wage, no child labour and gender equality. 

The truth is, one conscious fashion brand cannot change the industry. Each garment is hand-sewn, taken into the hands of a seamstress and woven thread by thread, the minutes ticking away behind closed doors. In contrast, the mass production for fast fashion clothes churns out many times the quantity of that one brand. Consumer behaviour won’t change because there is no physical store for them to ascertain the quality of it. The brand cannot reduce unemployment by huge margins nor ensure that the billions of waste materials entering the sea can be reversed.

But the truth is, one conscious fashion brand can inspire. It can give one seamstress a future of financial stability, a hope that her work matters in the grand scheme of environmental protection, a stability that her work is valued. The power of one brand, one ethos, and one vision has changed and empowered the lives of small communities of women in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Perhaps it is because it is so against the norm that it shines. The founder of Esse (the Latin translation of ‘to be’), Alicia Tsi, is reimagining the vision for the fashion industry, and challenging the cost of clothes.

Stemmed from a vision to reduce environmental pollution through clothes, and a love for people, she quit her full-time job two years back and dived into the business of fashion, aspiring to do fashion, just better. A fashion lover herself, Alicia founded Esse that brings a chic, minimal and simple modern-day take on clothes, with transparency being a core aspect of her business. Quoting the Fashion Revolution, transparency is a tool for change, not the goal itself. It was after watching The True Cost, a documentary about the environmental and social effects of the fast fashion industry, that she decided to change things around. Esse is the union of two dreams — to minimise one’s carbon footprint and support communities in the Southeast Asia region simultaneously. 

What that means is that her clothes are made from specific materials like lyocell, cupro, linen, organic cotton, if not rescued fabrics. It also means that the workers under her are hand-sewing each piece and given fair wages. It also means, for the consumer, that the price range is set at slightly above the average, ranging from $80 to $200 per item. This is a brand with meaning, fashion with ethos, a culture with style.

The garments are made close to home to reduce the travel distance, thereby lowering Esse's carbon footprint.

Founder of Esse, Alicia Tsi.

'Even if it is just one person, she hopes that consumers understand how every individual and every action can contribute to this movement.'

To succeed, for Alicia, is to chase something bigger beyond herself. The stewardship of her resources — from design to business management to the information she is aware of — is inspiring. Alicia hopes she brings an alternative voice to the saturated fast fashion industry — which is the second largest polluter in the world, consuming an equivalent of 32 million Olympic swimming pools of water each year. Although she understands that she is only one person with limited resources and abilities to fight against the bigger market players, she remains positive. Everything she does now with her resources has to be thought out of the box. And indeed, Esse is showing how the movement championing conscious fashion can carry on. Even if it is just one person, she hopes that consumers understand how every individual and every action can contribute to this movement.

Instead of simply chasing aesthetics and minimalism, she is reaching for perspective. It is not that the fashion industry is bad, for it is with the production of clothes that many around the world is employed. But she wants people to see the statistics, the people, the materials and leave the decision in their hands. She knows that pushing this dream of hers has to work to effect changes, and she is wanting to change perspectives of the everyday consumer. For now, she is contented with the integrity she has upheld thus far. Her plans to grow this vision among like-minded communities are in the pipeline.

Truth is never subjective. The truth that the fashion industry is contributing negatively will not change unless actions are taken, and the truth that rising conscious businesses are inspiring others still holds. Till then, the work of this one-woman business inspires. 

Alicia Tsi shares her vision about her brand, Esse.