After more than 16 years working in the fashion industry, designer Anneliese Bridgman felt like she needed to do something more creative, something that was not so “mechanical and consuming”. After 10 months of planning and development, Anneliese launched Asher + Archer in January 2021.
“Through musings with like-minded people, and thoughts to reconcile the negative impacts of the fashion industry, I decided to start my own business,” Anneliese explains.
“With the onset of the pandemic, I was feeling quite unsettled by everything going on in the world and wanted to work in a creative practice in an environment that aligned with my values, where the fashion making process is not only transparent, but also celebrated.
“Since Asher + Archer’s launch I have been creating awareness around sustainable and ethical fashion practices and the impact of consumer choices. I feel working in an industry which contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined, it is my responsibility to practice and educate others on how we can do things differently.
“I hoped for a fashion business that could go against the grain, where items could be made in Australia, that the incredible making process could become part of the brand and customer experience, rather than an invisible or hidden aspect of a fashion brand. So I decided to give it a go, and start my own label.
“Having worked in the industry for over a decade, I was lucky that I had made many friends in different areas, so I didn’t have to start from scratch when looking for fabrics, and to start to get samples made. I did find however that there was not a manufacturing business which was suitable for the kind of product, and size of order that would be sustainable for my business, so I made a big decision to open my own design and manufacturing studio.
“This studio would create Asher + Archer product, but would also be available for like-minded brands to make their production too. While this was not my intention when I started Asher + Archer, [but] on reflection it was in full alignment of my values which motivated me to start the brand, which was to protect artisan skills and nurture and invigorate the Australian fashion Industry.”
Anneliese has always been passionate about sustainable Australian-made fashion but it was her stint in Paris early in her career that gave her an equal passion for couture dressmaking.
“Through an internship with Australian-born designer Martin Grant, I immersed myself in the world of the fashion icons of the 20th century – Chanel, Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy to name a few,” she explains.
“Upon returning to Australia, I was inspired by traditional couture dressmaking techniques, the slow production processes and how these could be incorporated into contemporary design. I have been lucky enough to have designs featured as part of Australian Fashion Week, New York Bridal Fashion Week and Melbourne Fashion. Week on multiple occasions.
The brand’s name translates into ‘happiness and curiosity’ – ‘asher’ means happy in Hebrew and is also the name of Anneliese’s lovely black Scottie dog. The ‘archer’ – another name for the star sign Sagittarius – represents the global wander of the galaxy.
Anneliese is inspired by Australian designers, and loves how they have “courageously made their mark on the global fashion landscape with their own unique signature, and pushed the boundaries of where fashion can go,” she says, “designers like Toni Matecevski, Martin Grant and Dion Lee.”
“My time overseas was extremely influential on my style, designers who were inspired by traditional historical techniques, then incorporated these in their own unique style – Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Karl Largerfeld are great examples of this way of working.”
“The concept behind the brand really is connection. I want my clients to feel embraced by clothing, that they are part of something special, that they are nurturing something historic – in terms of artisan production techniques / innovative design – but also investing in the future of Australian made fashion.”
The aesthetic of Asher + Archer is “minimal, classic pieces, often in a muted palette with versatile end uses”, explains Anneliese. The sharply cut tailored pieces come in subtle stretch fabrics – uniquely produced in Melbourne which is extremely rare. Other looks combine clever soft draping with neat details.
“All our pieces are made in our Collingwood maker space, our clients come to visit the studio often. We design pieces with versatile end uses, so you can wear fewer pieces more often,” says Anneliese when asked about the brand’s sustainable credentials.
“Asher + Archer is primarily a made-to-order label, we only make what we need in our Melbourne studio. One aspect that makes us different from other brands is that our clothing has been designed with a cross-functional sensibility so the wearer can wear fewer clothes, more often.
“As we make garments especially for the wearer we can make specific customisations to our pieces. We also offer an alterations service to existing garments in our client’s wardrobes, to extend the life of a garment which may have otherwise been discarded.
“The custom and bespoke process is one of our favourite parts of our business. If you have an event coming up, or are struggling to find a key piece for your wardrobe, get in touch we would love to meet you!” says Anneliese.
Despite the newness of the brand, Anneliese has big plans for expansion. “We have a few exciting projects on the horizon. I am continuing to explore this concept to engage the wearer in the fashion making process, not just their completed garment.”
“I would love to have a flagship atelier and showroom where all the clients could become a greater part of this process.”
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