In our Tastemakers series, we talk to Australia's movers and shakers to learn what importance travel has to them.
In 2013, Desley Maidment and Brigitte MacGowan launched State of Escape at home in Sydney. Today, their brand is carried and has earned its place among the greats as an ‘it’ bag. In our exclusive interview, we learned what destinations around the world inspire Maidment and MacGowan, how it feels to represent Australia in the global fashion market, and even how to use Escape bags when we escape on holiday of our own.
7travel: Travel is a never-ending source of inspiration. What destinations have you found are the best for style?
MacGowan: For bohemian style, Morocco wins hands down - and it was my first major trip overseas! It was an assault on the senses. The richness of colours, smells and landscape was so dramatic and foreign to me that I felt transported. I watched a lady in a souk one day hand weave raw silk on a loom and purchased it as a keepsake. Eight years Iater, I used the fabric for my wedding dress.
Maidment: For bohemian style, my travels throughout Africa many years ago stick out in my mind. I discovered tiny markets in Malawi, Kenya and on the island of Zanzibar – I was so drawn to how the colours and richness of African history is so strong in how the women dress and ease of which they carry off this incredible style.
MacGowan: When it comes to practical style, Australia wins! We roll from season to season and our wardrobes roll with us. Maybe with a jumper and occasional coat in the mix! I love our practical approach to living.
Maidment: I agree. We can just move through the seasons in all manner of styles, nothing needs to change dramatically – jeans and tee is me and then a jacket to dress it up or cover up when things get a little chilly.
MacGowan: Then Japan is the tops for avant garde. They have amazing self-expression in the way they dress. It’s sculptural, unapologetic and timeless. I still have pieces of Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garcons from my 20’s that I wear – testament to their enduring style.
Maidment: Travelling is all about having no boundaries and experiencing the newness, no matter the destination.
7travel: How does it feel to represent an Australian brand when you’re travelling abroad for work or pleasure?
MacGowan: We are incredibly proud to be Australian and have designed a unique product that is Australian made (and now stocked globally). It’s a design story we tell from the heart. Then to travel internationally and see our bags on the arms of stylish women gives us such a huge buzz. This was always our dream – to create a product that gave us our own ‘State of Escape’.
Maidment: It still blows us away to see the bags 'out in the wild' - as we say at HQ - when we are travelling across foreign lands. It is immensely rewarding and satisfying to know that people are taking these bags on their journeys, whether near or far from home. Being part of an ever-growing collection of successful Australians making an impact abroad is truly special.
7travel: From gaining inspiration for designs to sourcing materials, does travelling have an impact on your designs?
MacGowan: Hugely. Giving yourself the opportunity to be open to new sites, sounds, cultures and experiences. My mind is never as creatively active than when I travel. Absorbing colour palettes, shapes and seeing how people go about their lives and what bags they are carrying! I believe you can never understand a market unless you immerse yourself in it. In Japan for example we have designed a collection specifically for men - this is something we would never have done had we not immersed ourselves there.
7travel: What is it about State of Escape that stands out as Australian style to the international market?
MacGowan: From the sailing rope that we have custom made in Queensland to the neoprene fabric which was integral to any of our summer holidays. All of the highest quality materials married with our unique design. We live our lives simply, transitioning from season to season with ease and don’t over complicate things. It’s all about finding beauty in simplicity.
7travel: Do you have any packing tips to make the most of your space?
Maidment: For carry on, it’s all about my Guise bag which will have my on board essentials (moisturiser, face wipes, lip balm etc) plus a scarf, magazines and my Festival Crossbody which has my valuables - passport, wallet, phone and sunglasses.
MacGowan: When travelling through the airport I always carry my valuables in my State of Escape Festival cross-body and an Escape carryall bag for my bulky items. This is the perfect partnership and it always looks great to have matching bags. I also love the bag in bag scenario where I use my Petite Escape inside my Escape so I have options at all times.
7travel: State of Escape has an ethos of being “as authentic as you and your adventures.” Tell us about your favourite adventures.
Maidment: Travelling is by far one of the greatest aspects of running this business, getting to Escape and see the world – it’s my motivator… each destination continually offers so much stimulus, not just creatively, but about who our customers are and how they are living their lives in these varied communities, from large scale cities to more remote towns.
MacGowan: Dee and I recently visited Japan for two weeks of trunk shows, media interviews and planning with our distribution partners. It was one of the most amazing trips of my life. Every day and night our partners immersed us in their culture and took us off the beaten track to share what they love about their city. Watching the stone wheel grind the flour for our soba noodle, showing us the order in which we should prepare and eat our meals, walking us through the back streets of Kyoto translating the signs on the Geisha’s homes. It’s all these cultural nuances that they shared that made this travel experience so rich. When we arrived back in Australia and thanked our now friends profusely, they so rightly said ‘it’s all about the people’.
Maidment: For me, I love the variety of going from Asia to Europe and the Americas and beyond… A recent trip to LA with Brig confirmed my love of California. The coast line is vast and the sun is always shining. LA is crazy, gritty, OTT and yet so relaxed – all at the same time. Brig & I have had some of the best meals when we are in LA, from our favourite Italian in Bev Hills to the best rooftop bars watching the sun set. A shopping spree down Abbott Kinney whilst taking at pit stop at Gjelinas for some Modern Cali food was a hot tip and now an essential.