11 March, 2020 In conversation with Lara and Matt Fells, founders of Australian lifestyle brand St. Agni Discover more about the handcrafted world of St. Agni in an exclusive Q&A with the brands founders, Lara and Matt Fells.

mode sportif st agni

DSO: How did St. Agni come to fruition? What inspired you to begin your own lifestyle brand?


LF & MF: My Husband Matt and I started the business in 2014 from humble beginnings. We didn’t have a business plan, any experience or much money to invest, but we did see a gap in the market for simple leather goods – well-made pieces without the fuss!  


Our first collection launched in June 2014, I think we had designed 4 different styles of leather tote bags and we had about 3 pieces in each style. My friend made us a website and I started an Instagram and we just went for it. I think about a month in we got our first stockist who purchased all of our stock and that’s where it all started. 


Our first 2 years we worked in our full-time jobs managing retail stores and would reply to emails and post orders in our lunch breaks or stay up late working on our little side hustle.  Then in 2016 we found a warehouse in the Byron Bay industrial estate and opened our first bricks and mortar store – this came so naturally to us both as Matt and I both had retail backgrounds. Since then our business has grown to two retail stores and over 100 stockists. 


DSO: What is it like designing and working as husband and wife duo? How do you complement each other as business partners and creatives?


LF & MF: I love working with Matt, I can't imagine working with anyone else. Generally speaking, I work on all the creative aspects of the business and Matt works on the logistical side of the business, with lots of crossovers. The only negative would be that we can never switch off really, business is a part of life - its lucky we enjoy it! 


DSO: In what ways do you feel that being based in the coastal town of Byron Bay, a place so rich in incredible nature, has impacted the way you view fashion production and the importance of the quality of raw materials used?


LF & MF: Byron is so forward with sustainability! We are surrounded with so many likeminded people that are all so passionate about keeping our earth clean, so it becomes ingrained in everything you do and it's not until you travel outside of our little bubble that you see everyone else isn't doing the same. We are also really lucky to live within this little hub of small creative business that all collaborate and help each other – it’s a very unique place.


DSO: Can you tell us a bit about the “less is more” philosophy St. Agni abides by? How is this concept practiced in your everyday business activities?


LF & MF: ‘Less is more’ has been St. Agni's philosophy since the start and something I have always lived by. I believe that one small piece of good quality furniture, clothing or even food is so much more than a large quantity of bad quality. I was actually having a conversation with our head designer this afternoon about jewellery and I was saying that, much like art, if it isn't a stunning piece the walls are better left blank.  


DSO: Can you pinpoint a moment where your passion and drive for sustainability in fashion stemmed from? Or was it more of a natural progression for you to turn towards slow, handmade processes?


LF & MF: It's been a natural progression; I have always loved natural fabrics for how they feel on your skin and how they wear and age so gracefully. There are a variety of reasons why I love the handmade process. The art and creation, the love that goes into each pair and the personal element that is involved with creating something from scratch is really special. I love that we are supporting so many craftspeople in their craft and keeping this beautiful process alive amongst their community. Handmade is a slow process, each item is a unique display of craftsmanship and when you buy handmade, you are buying a commitment of authenticity, a guarantee that no other piece will ever be the same.


DSO: Your woven leather footwear has garnered global cult status. Can you tell us a bit about the handcrafted leather you are known for and its craftsmanship?


LF & MF: The original woven style was inspired by the traditional Indian Kolhapuri Bunto’s. We wanted to create a design based on a contemporary take of this classic style shoe and make them accessible for the modern woman. Our knitted leather styles are an extension of this, I love working with leather and exploring different techniques that are not commonly used to create footwear. 


DSO: Where do you seek inspiration when designing each collection? Were there any architects, artists or places that particularly important in the La Forme collection?


LF & MF: The La Forme collection was inspired by the earth and its natural formations. We wanted to create pieces that transpired structural elements while still keeping them soft and feminine. The colour palate comprises of very earthy tones, we chose tactile fabrics that feel beautiful to the touch. 


DSO: How would you describe your personal style? How is it reflected in your designs?


LF & MF: I'm am a uniform dresser, I know what I like and I don't really stray from that. I like wearing neutral colours and a little bit of black. The pieces I invest in will stay in my wardrobe for years. I design the collections with our head designer Erika Toscano and we completely balance each other out. Where I am safe, she is daring - I can see each of us in every piece from the collection. 


DSO: In your opinion, what is the hero piece of the La Forme collection and how would you style it?


LF & MF: I would have to say the Taille Blazer & Amo Trousers worn with a classic white shirt untucked and the Ines Sandals. I’m loving tailoring at the moment, and I feel like you could really wear this outfit anywhere.


DSO: Can you tell us a bit about your collaborations with En Gold? How did you come to join forces?


LF & MF: We are such big fans and supporters of local, small business, so when we had the chance to work with En Gold we jumped at it. Based in Melbourne, En Gold designs and produces some incredible natural stone pieces, using Travertine, Limestone and Marble. Not only are each of their pieces completely unique and original (much like ours) but they are also a husband and wife duo, and not to forget their daughter Daisy.


En Gold helped us pull together our incredible La Forme window display for Mode Sportif, which features curated found objects and travertine plinths. We couldn’t think of anyone better to help us bring our La Forme collection to life.

mode sportif st agni

mode sportif st agni

mode sportif st agni

mode sportif st agni

Photography: Blake Heywood

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