After working as a showroom model for 12 years, Inge Onsea teamed up with her husband to launch the casualwear brand Essentiel Antwerp from her native Belgium
Inge Onsea and her husband Esfan Eghtessadi
Inge Onsea worked as a model for brands such as Max Mara and Thierry Mugler, before founding the Belgian brand, Essentiel Antwerp, with her husband, Esfan Eghtessadi, in 1999. What started as a T-shirt collection soon became a full ready-to-wear range, designed from the couple’s home town, which also gave the brand its name. It now has stores in countries as far reaching as South Korea and the United Arab Emirates, and is stocked by Asos, Anthropologie and Harvey Nichols.
How do you describe the brand?
We are a playful, colourful, young brand for women who like to have fun with their fashion.
What do you love most about your job?
Creating things together with a top team. Every morning, I walk into the office with a big smile on my face. I love – and am obsessed with – my job.
Why did you decide to found your own label?
Essential Antwerp spring 17
I met my husband in 1999 and we had no clue what we wanted to do professionally. I guess this was the only thing we were good at. Esfan had the business sense and I had the fashion sense – so it was the perfect combination.
What country do you think is the most stylish?
I like Italian women because they go so far with their style. Classic women in Italy are extremely classic, but when they are tacky, they also go all the way. I like that about them.
How involved are you in the design process?
Together with my team, I design the whole women’s collection and the accessories collection. I ultimately decide on all the colours, prints and styles.
The Essentiel Antwerp mission values say you want to ”dress people’s emotions”. Why do you think this is important?
It is all about feeling good in your skin.
You work on the brand with your husband, how do you find that? Does it make it difficult to leave your work in the office?
Essential Antwerp spring 17
In the beginning, we did everything together. It was our big success. But we are also both very passionate and have strong characters – we could fight over a colour! I think we have found our place now though: Esfan takes care of the business side and all the shops [41 worldwide], and I do the creative development. We are very good at leaving our work at the office.
What’s your favourite thing about living in Antwerp?
Antwerp is a very cool, laid-back city. There are so many different nationalities living here. I love the mix of cultures.
How would you describe the Belgian aesthetic?
Belgians (especially the Antwerp Six [Belgian designers who found fame in the 1980s, including Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten and Walter Van Beirendonck]) have very different styles and collections. It would be impossible to put Demeulemeester, Van Noten and Martin Margiela on the same line. I certainly do not put Essentiel Antwerp on that level. They are the masters, especially Dries. But I am very proud to come from the same country.
Favourite clothing brand
It changes each season. I like No 21 very much now
Last fashion purchase
A floral dress from Vetements
Biggest fashion splurge
A feather coat from Fendi
The desert in Marrakech in an eco-hotel without electricity – it was the perfect way to disconnect
Last book you read
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It made me cry
Last film you watched
The new Jungle Book, with our kids
I worked for 12 years as a showroom model for Max Mara and Thierry Mugler