Interview | St. Agni

St. Agni was founded in 2014 by Byron Bay’s Lara and Matt Fells, with the vision of creating quality, simple and luxurious items that reflect the iconic beauty and freedom of the Australian coastal lifestyle. Operating under a ‘less is more’ philosophy, the brand’s design process is infused with integrity and passion to bring versatile, minimalistic and durable everyday pieces to life.
With the arrival of St Agni’s Spring/Summer 18 collection, we grabbed the ever inspirational Lara Fells – Designer & Founding Director, St. Agni for a quick chat to find out what drives the brand, what we can expect from the new season designs and what her plans are for summer.

how did the idea for st. agni come about?

To be honest, I genuinely couldn’t find the items I wanted out there. Anything I liked, I still wanted to refine somehow, so that’s when I began designing things for myself.
The name St. Agni – i.e. ‘Saint Agni’ is for my Nona Agni. She is a saint in my eyes and has always inspired me. Nona grew up in Corfu, Greece and then migrated to Australia with my Mum and Pappoús in the 1960’s.
I’d always wanted to have my own business and so when the timing felt right, I started the label as a passion project. I ran everything out of our apartment for the first couple of years whilst still working full-time elsewhere but eventually we simply ran out of space at home and that’s when we moved into what is now our Byron Bay head office and Boutique showroom.

what was your background before then?

I’m a retail girl at heart! I have always worked in retail and even now spending time on the shop floor in our boutique is one of my favourite things to do!
Nona is a seamstress and growing up I would ask her to make specific things for me. Even my girlfriends and I used to make dresses to wear out on a Saturday night when we were younger just because we wanted to make something of our own.
I love clothes and design, it’s always been a passion of mine and a big part of my life.

what have you learnt through the process of building your brand?

Oh my gosh, I don’t even know where to start answering this question! I honestly feel that we’ve learnt almost everything along the way.
The hardest thing I’ve probably had to learn through building the business is knowing how to overcome rejection. When you’re starting out, it seems like rejection is always knocking on your door one way or another, but finding how to turn this around for myself and ultimately draw motivation from it has paid off.
I’ve learnt to really trust myself - my ideas and instincts.

when creating a new design, what is your starting point?

I’m constantly being inspired by the things around me and that’s how my ideas generate. Homewares and architecture are hugely inspiring for me in particular. Once I have an idea in focus, it will usually blossom in my mind and then I try to get it down on paper!
I don’t think my drawings are great and I don’t have any formal design training, but it helps to get things out of my head because ultimately I’m a visual person. I’m constantly working with visual points of reference. Then we go to the sampling stage and things really start to come to life.

what (or who) are style inspirations for the st. agni look?

It’s constantly changing to be honest, but basically it evolves with my own personal preferences over time.
There is nothing fixed that I fall back on, but I do love vintage clothing and vintage aesthetics. As I said, architecture and design are huge for me, and are probably the most consistent sources of inspiration.
Really though it comes down to what I like and what I’m seeking in my own life that fuels what we produce at the end of the day.

what is the main/most important thing about your product that you would want all customers to know?

Each piece is made completely by hand, by real people. Every section of leather is cut by hand, things are stamped by hand and woven by hand. Every single pair of shoes we create is boxed by our tight-knit team at St. Agni HQ in Byron. There is so much human time and attention going into every single one of our products. I think our process is beautiful in its humanness – a real labour of love. We want all our customers to know this and carry this notion with them when they invest in choosing our products.

tell us about your new collection?

For this season’s footwear range we decided to get back to basics and re-focus on the essential, staple styles and earthy colourways. We know these pieces work seamlessly with people’s existing wardrobes. They’re reliable, refined and provide so much comfort and ease of wear.
For our next winter collection we’re excited to share some new leather weaving techniques that the workshop has been developing – stay tuned!

what’s your favourite st. agni style right now and how do you see women wearing this style?

The Corfu Woven Slide definitely. I have been living in them these past few months and find them so easy to style-up and take me through the entire day and into the evening. I think they’re the perfect ‘go-anywhere’ style.
We spent some time in England and Greece with our family recently and these were the only shoes I wore the entire time. When in England I styled them with some relaxed denim, a basic t-shirt or blouse and my favourite linen coat. In Greece I just threw them on with a silk slip dress and my straw hat. Perfect practise for the southern hemisphere summer we’re about to have!

finish this sentence: 'this summer, you’ll find me…. '

At the beach! It’s my son Jude’s very first summer, so we’re going to be making the most of it together!