Elise Wilkens and Nat Turnbull are the two creative halves behind Witu. Hailing from Melbourne, what started as a creative hobby for Elise and Nat has spiralled into a distinct, curated and fast-growing brand. Through their minimalistic and clean aesthetic, each design has been successfully integrated and championed into their ranges laden with neoprene, thick straps and clean stitching. Right now, minimalism appears to reign supreme in the tumbling world of fast fashion; blogs dedicated to reduction and focus more prevalent than ever before. With a quick scope around Melbourne, glances will reveal a landscape peppered with the essential and signature silhouette of a Witu tote bag.
Championing a vision guided by simplicity; their collections integrate with any outfit and any occasion, defined not only by it’s aesthetic, but also functionality. The practically and durability of the handmade neoprene bags has capitulated the Melbourne brand to international heights; with more people gravitating towards Witu for their everyday accessory needs. Discussing their direction and footing on the Melbourne design ground, I caught up with Witu to discuss their brand, it’s early stages and the direction of Witu.
How did you and Elise meet and what inspired you to start your brand, Witu?
We met about five years ago now working on the door of a nightclub. From there, we became friends and started making things together. Our friends loved these pieces we were making and we were getting a lot of requests from people we didn’t know. That was our main inspiration. We thought, if others love what we are doing, then why not do it?
You’ve revealed that Witu is a fusion of your last names. What’s been the most rewarding thing about working together and sharing responsibilities?
Having someone else to bounce ideas off is definitely the greatest part of working together. We also have quite complimentary skills so we can teach each other new things.
Being creatives with backgrounds in photography and graphic design, where did the inspiration behind Witu arise from in terms of design and aesthetic?
We both have a love of product design and while we are not trained in it, we see it as a natural progression from our backgrounds and joint interests. Nat studied sculpture and Elise studied graphic design. I would say the pieces we make are equally related to sculpture as they are two graphic qualities and design.
“We always keep true to what we like and what we want to wear, and I guess we love something that is clean, simple and can go with everything.”
Many people are beginning to consume handmade goods and favour the minimal. How has keeping it simple guided your brand and vision?
We always keep true to what we like and what we want to wear, and I guess we love something that is clean, simple and can go with everything.
The style, function and direction of Witu has been very successful and has recently broken into the international markets, including Urban Outfitters. Where there any challenges you faced as entrepreneurs getting your ideas off the ground?
Getting your name out there is always difficult but we have been really lucky to have a lot of support from friends, other designers and press. There has been a lot of learning on the job but that has been half the fun. It would be so amazing to start from where we are now and know all that we do, but I think Witu would be very different if that were the case.
Your collections such the Cosmos and Ozone collections have been so diverse, experimenting with different shapes and silhouettes. When designing are you aware of the direction you want the collection to take, or is it something that develops as you’re working on it?
A bit of both. Often we have an idea or concept we are exploring so each piece stems from that. We work very closely in this aspect of our business and there is a lot of trial and error involved. Once we design something we like to trial it out and see if it is perfectly what we are after. If it’s not, we change it and trial it out again. So often each piece develops over the course of a month or so while we are designing the range.
“Make a plan and stick to it. Don’t let anything or anyone change your mind.”
What has been the most rewarding aspect of supporting and pursuing Witu?
Doing something that is completely what we want to do, just for ourselves.
Is there any advice you can give to other upcoming Melbourne creatives, regardless of their field?
Make a plan and stick to it. Don’t let anything or anyone change your mind.
You recently collaborated with the NGV Design Store to create a unique collection. Are there any brands you dream of collaborating with?
Definitely! We are hoping to take Witu onto a more international stage, so we are setting our sights on that.
What’s next for Witu in 2016?
So many exciting things, but you will have to wait and see.