Made For Walking
There is a luxurious ease to every pair of shoes from Australian clothing and accessories brand St. Agni that we can’t get enough of
Lara and Matt Fells have been making simple things – sandals, slides, the perfect pair of woven mules – from their Byron Bay studio since 2014. Everything that comes under the umbrella of the clothing and accessories brand St. Agni is laidback and easy, all earthy tones and worn-in leather.
It’s no wonder that Lara says the message she has picked up since starting St. Agni, and something she passes onto other women looking to start their own businesses, is “please don’t overthink things.” “Trust yourself and don’t complicate things unnecessarily before you’ve even started,” she adds.
You can see this unfussy, unstudied effortlessness sewn into the very DNA of the brand. Not just in the footwear line that St. Agni started with and is now a huge hit on international retailer Net-A-Porter, but also in the breezy linen separates in terracotta and stone colours, or the jewel-toned bodysuits, or even the curated extras (pearl earrings, straw hats, a Maison Balzac candle) they sell through their online boutique. It’s a business built on a quiet elegance, a brand made for Sunday afternoons and longterm love affairs.
We caught up with Lara to learn more about her daily routine, the best and worst things about being her own boss, and her proudest career moment thus far.
What was the lightbulb moment for starting St. Agni?
I had a genuine and unfulfilled desire for minimal, good quality pieces that I just couldn’t find. This was combined with a long-standing ambition to start my own business, and reaching a point in my life where I was ready to give things a go. I’m perpetually looking for gaps in the market, it’s a habit of mine now! I just really love figuring out solutions for things, especially in a business nature.
What has been the steepest learning curve when it comes to St. Agni and running your own business?
I find this such a hard question to answer because it feels like the entire journey has been one steep learning curve! In all honesty, we’ve learnt (almost) everything we know along the way. I think the greatest challenge I had to overcome personally was the rejection in the beginning. When you’re putting yourself out there and you’re unknown in the industry, there are a lot of set-backs and people don’t give you the time of day. But learning to get on with things and not letting that stuff stop you from seeing the big picture has been most valuable. For work and in life.
How would you describe the St. Agni aesthetic?
The St. Agni aesthetic is refined, relaxed and timeless.
What’s the secret to working with your partner? (Is there one?) How do you deal with conflict or tension? How do you separate work and life?
Matt and I work quite well together and the business is a shared passion of ours, so we’re lucky. I see the business as being something that helps bind us together, and because we enjoy it so much we never really experience conflict. We are unable to separate life and work though – they flow as one for us.
How has life changed since having your baby? Has your perspective on work and St. Agni changed at all?
Life has changed so much since welcoming our son Jude! Our approach to business has remained much the same though. I think the biggest shift is that I have been forced to slow down and find a way to create more balance.
I’m learning to be much better at being single focused with my time. I’ll either be with Jude or I’ll come into work for a few short periods. Either way my intention is to be present where I am/ with what I am doing at the time.
What’s the best and worst thing about running your own business?
The hardest thing would be that we never really have any time off. Even when we go on ‘holiday’ we’re constantly in-touch and need to be available. I think when it’s your own thing, even though you don’t mind, you just never actually switch off.
The best thing is having the level of flexibility that we do now. I’m so grateful for it and it’s been incredible for us since having Jude. It means we can adapt as need be and juggle things more effectively depending on our family needs as well as the business needs. I also love the sense of fulfilment I get from having my own business because it’s given me a really focused sense of purpose. The fact that it’s self-generated is a bonus.
What has been your proudest moment on the St. Agni journey? What’s been the biggest pinch me moment?
The proudest moment for me personally was seeing our product go live on Net-A-Porter earlier this year. That was huge for me. It’s something that completely exceeded any expectations I had for the business when I set out, and is a dream come true.
For us to be represented with a global retailer on that scale was the ‘pinch me’ moment I didn’t see coming. It’s a huge testament to the perseverance and hard work we’ve put in this last 4.5 years.
Could you describe your daily routine?
I wake up quite early with Jude and we get ready for the day together. Then I like to get out of the house as soon as possible to make the most of the morning. We’ll walk to one of my favourite local cafes, the Road House or General Store (I love an iced latte and croissant to start my day).
Then depending on the day, either Matt or I will come into work whilst the other stays home to be with Jude. Some days I try to get to a Pilates class with the girls from work, or at least do a beach walk with our puppy Harper.
Matt and I are constantly taking things in turn, so one of us will prepare dinner and then we eat together and take it easy at home in the evening. We’re currently sleep training with Jude as he is 8 months old now, so routine at night is so important to us at the moment!
What’s your message to all women who are thinking of starting a brand or business of their own?
Please don’t overthink things. Trust yourself and don’t complicate things unnecessarily before you’ve even started. That is actually my approach to life in general – don’t overthink it!