Vintage-inspired combined with touches of modern minimalism, Byron-based label St. Agni offer refined clothing and leather accessories for women. Founded by husband and wife Matt and Lara Fells, the brand is known for their timeless designs and signature woven leather footwear which have resulted in a strong following for St. Agni across Australia and overseas.
Named after Lara’s Nona Agni, St. Agni’s “less is more” approach to design is reflected across their minimalist clothing, footwear and accessories. Working with high-quality materials, their pieces are made to stand the test of time and are characterised by soft, muted colour palettes and fine detailing.
As a brand synonymous with Assembly Label, St. Agni have been a part of our in-store offering since our early years. Their newest styles the Desi and Mae loafers present a unique, hand-knitted leather technique exclusive to the brand that has been 18 months in the making. Alongside the release of these designs, we spent some time with Matt and Lara to speak about their creative process and the pleasures and challenges of running their own business.
What were your backgrounds before St. Agni?
We had both worked in the retail industry for quite some time prior to St. Agni, so we had experience in this world and how it functions. This helped us to understand what is needed to establish a retail business, to know what customers were seeking and where gaps were in the market.
How did the brand start, and what were the first pieces you created?
Initially, we remained working full time in our jobs and St. Agni was a side project that we started with a small budget. We began by creating leather goods, predominately accessories such as bags, clutches, belts and so forth. We gradually began to expand our offerings and delved into footwear.
Where do you source your materials and where are your products made?
To begin, we sourced all of our materials from Indonesia, which is also where we created all of our products. However, as the business has expanded, we have also started to work with manufacturers in India, and these artisans use leather sourced within India. It’s wonderful having the opportunity to work with a variety of artisans as each has a unique and individualised touch to the creation of our footwear.
Where do you find your inspiration when designing collections?
We are devoted to timeless fashion; pieces that stand the test of time as
minimal statements. Inspiration is drawn from vintage design with a touch on contemporary elements of minimalism. The name St. Agni was inspired by one of our greatest influences, Lara's Nona Agni. Saint refers to a very virtuous, kind, or patient person and the name Agni comes from the Greek adjective agnos, which means pure, clean, chaste, unspoilt - this meaning encapsulates the essence of Nona Agni.
Can you give us a snapshot of your creative process?
The creative process begins with a desire to create something that we sense is lacking and it is often something quite simple. We then think of ways we can be innovative and begin the process of creating designs. We start with a variety of designs and many we soon find aren’t quite right, or we will alter certain aspects until we feel like the style is truly resonating with our overall vision. It can be a tedious and timely process and there are various obstacles in the production process that we often face.
What are some of the highlights and challenges you have experienced in creating your own business?
Where do we begin? We have experienced so many highlights and challenges, but you need to experience the challenges to really appreciate the high points. A key challenge that we have been faced with is the rapid growth we experienced with the launch of our woven styles. Keeping up with the demand was quite difficult in terms of production, space and staffing. To add, being in the midst of all of this rapid change has made it challenging remaining true to our core values while managing everything else, however we remain focused on this as a priority. In regards to the highlights we have experienced, a major one is the numerous relationships we have formed through St. Agni. We have been blessed with the honour of having worked alongside so many incredibly talented individuals.
Have you always lived in Byron Bay? If not, what led you to move to the town and building St. Agni here?
We decided to move to Byron Bay after having a stint in Tasmania and the UK. Byron really resonated with the two of us and we found it felt like home almost instantaneously. Byron has a creative energy and is filled with many like-minded individuals and there is a strong sense of communal support, which ultimately led to the natural creation of St. Agni.
Where are some of your favourite places to eat, drink and visit in Byron?
For food, we love the Harvest Newry Bar, Sourdough Sunday at the Bay Leaf Café, and the Road House Barrio. If you’re a lover of natural wines, Supernatural is a must as they offer so many delicious local wines; and for coffee you can’t go past The Farm for a great brew and the atmosphere. A visit to Watego’s beach and the lighthouse walk are beautiful when coming to Byron, complete with a stop at Little Company for a chance to indulge in either a massage or facial.
Photography and video by St. Agni.