Most of us grow up with photographs, videos or tales from friends, family and colleagues as milestone markers for how much we have grown, interests evolved and values matured. Lara Fells, Co-founder and Designer of Byron Bay label St Agni, has her beloved fashion brand as a momentous indicator – a brand which has grown alongside her since it was founded six years ago at the age of 24 with husband Matt Fells.
Influenced by fine lines and nonchalance, Lara’s vision is to create minimalist timeless pieces, ensuring less is more without compromising on comfort and quality. Following the arrival of St Agni’s latest collection UKIYO, which honours Japanese workwear utilitarianism, we chatted with Lara about everything St Agni. Discover more about the label’s evolution, commitment to hand-made craftsmanship, community and hopes for the future…
St Agni epitomises Australian coastal wear and is very much grounded in the spirit of Byron Bay, where the label was created in 2014 with your husband, Matt. How has St Agni evolved over the last six years?
When we started St. Agni I was 24, as I have matured the brand has matured alongside me. As our team has grown the brand has become more refined, we still have that ease that comes with coastal dressing but our pieces have an elegance that can carry you to the city also.
A one-of-a-kind work of art for the feet, every piece of St Agni footwear is an example of hand-made craftsmanship almost 10 hours in the making. Tell us about this process and what is your favourite part of seeing your creations come to life?
The process of creating our footwear is really special. Each pair of shoes passes through the hands of many skilled artisans, all working on different elements of the shoes; whether that be cutting the leather, stitching the sole, weaving the uppers or dying and treating the pieces. 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.
We love that you chose our James St neighbourhood for the location of St Agni’s second boutique nationally. What was it about our community that drew you here?
James Street has always held a special place in my heart. Matt and I have been visiting James Street for years, there really is no other street – it’s so beautiful. I love the selection of boutiques and restaurants and to have a St. Agni store in such a beautiful neighbourhood is a dream.
A self-described “retail girl at heart” what is exceptional customer service to you?
I was once told that when a customer enters your store it is as if they are entering your home, your main objective is to make your customer feel welcome.
What does support local mean to you?
Supporting local is making the conscious decision to support stores or brands in your local area. We hold so much power with where we spend our money, it’s so important to think about the practises a business holds when you choose to support them.
Admirably, St Agni is transparent about its product, from how it’s manufactured, the materials, the environment, to the label’s objective of becoming 90% plastic-free by 2021 – why is St Agni’s legacy beyond fashion important to you?
For us it’s about being responsible, we have options to use natural fabrications or compostable packaging and we try to choose the responsible option. We have so many areas we can improve in, it’s a topic we are constantly learning more about – and, as we continue to learn we make better choices.
Tell us what a day in the life of Lara is like?
On an average day Matt and I wake up at 6.30am, we have breakfast at the table as a family and then get ready for our day. We drop Jude to day care on our way to the St. Agni HQ, and grab a quick coffee from our local café, Daily Counter. Once at work my days change depending on the time of the season. It can vary from working on design to doing the payroll to meeting with the marketing team or developing new packaging with a graphic designer. We head home around 4pm and have an early dinner with Jude, before tucking him into bed at 7.30pm and relaxing for an hour or two before we go to bed.
What is one of your most treasured pieces of clothing, accessory or footwear?
I’m actually not a very sentimental person. My mum gave me a beautiful gold ring she bought in Greece, my sister has a matching necklace. It reminds me of my family and my Greek heritage.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
I listen to the podcast Mamamia Out Loud in the car on my way to work. We always have music playing in the office, but I’m not allowed to choose it – apparently, I have terrible taste in music.
September 10, 2020