ESEMBLĒ: The bag architect

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Vintage with a modern aesthetic and an emphasis on structure give ESEMBLĒ a unique identity and special place in the Instagram-led accessories market

Founded in 2016 by designer Alex Jiaravanont and his business partner Amy Ho, ESEMBLĒ is the brainchild of a team that represents a melange of backgrounds and expertise that makes it uniquely contemporary and Hong Kong.

Jiaravanont, a Thai Chinese who grew up in Hong Kong & the US, trained as an architect and works for his family’s diverse business conglomerate. Lawyer Ho, meanwhile, was looking for opportunities to open her own business. Having spent time in Hong Kong and New York, they bonded and ESEMBLĒ was born. 

“My husband Marco, who is also a partner of ESEMBLĒ, has invested in fashion businesses before so we have experience in sales and marketing. Each of us brings our own expertise to the company while allowing Alex to design freely,” explains Ho.

Alex Jiaravanont and Amy Ho, Founder of ESEMBLĒ

Inspired by New York’s vintage shops and Hong Kong’s penchant for the new, ESEMBLĒ gravitates towards a vintage-inspired aesthetic, with a twist to make the bags thoroughly modern.

For Jiaravanont, ESEMBLĒ is one of his many creative outlets. “Bags are really fun to design because while they have to be functional, the possibilities are endless. Compared to architecture, bags of course have a much quicker turnaround time but there is a still a lot of R&D that goes into the creative process,” he says.

To ensure that he has a structure that he is happy with, the designer makes intricate paper models for each bag he designs before going to the factory for prototyping.

ESEMBLĒ’s first bag, the Bell Shoulder Bag, is now of the brand’s signature styles. Launched in Spring/Summer 2016, it’s made from one whole piece of leather, and the design required lots of research before Jiaravanont had structure he was satisfied with.

The Bell packs a punch with a completely original design and eye-catching vintage shape, while being light, roomy and practical. For greater customisation, the straps and dangling charms are removable. It retails at around HK$2,000, which offers good value for money and puts it at an advantageous position in the market.

ESEMBLĒ’s business model centres around online sales using social media marketing so most of their budget is spent on the products rather than retail rental or marketing. “We want to see our bags on someone’s shoulder rather than on a shelf hence the affordable pricing. Many customers are very impressed with our quality given our price points,” says Ho.
Eva Chen

ESEMBLĒ can be seen on the Instagram pages of global fashionistas such as Eva Chen, the director of fashion partnerships at Instagram. She once included ESEMBLĒ in one of her Insta-famous daily posts of shoes, accessories and fruit at the back of a New York taxi. 

“To get the attention of the fashionistas the bags have to be photogenic, and that’s the key to marketing today,” Ho says. However, she stressed that quality is their top priority and there are no short cuts. In addition to using quality materials, ESEMBLĒ is made in a factory that has produced for top brands like CÉLINE and Michael Kors.

Sporting geometric shapes that remind you of something you may stumble upon in New York’s second hand stores, ESEMBLĒ bags are offered in a range of sizes, materials and colours. The bags are constantly reworked and reinterpreted with new details and materials to keep them fresh and surprising. For the upcoming season, ESEMBLĒ is going “ultra-vintage” with designs that pay tribute to vintage cars.

ESEMBLĒ has a global outlook but is proud to be a Hong Kong brand. The team is in talks with e-tailer Net-a-Porter to bring the brand to the platform in the near future.

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