Lara Fells is the woman behind the Byron Bay-based, successful apparel label St. Agni which she co-founded with husband Matt Fells in 2014. IMBIBE was lucky enough to be able to partner with St. Agni for their hugely successful Resort 23’ runway show (read more about it in this article), and we have sat down to speak to Lara about her journey in the fashion industry thus far, what to expect next from her brand, and of course, talk all things beauty.
Tell us about you and your journey to date - have you always wanted to become a designer?
When I left college I wanted to study design and had my heart set on studying at the White House in Melbourne. I wasn't the studious type and my mum didn't think it was worth the investment and instead encouraged me to study Business at the University of Tasmania. I had received quite good marks in business at college, so it felt like a natural progression.
I absolutely despised studying and finished my first year and decided to seek full-time employment. Little did I know, many of the things I had learned in that year at University would come in very handy in the future. After working full-time for a few years my husband and I decided to start St. Agni. In the beginning, the design aspect of the business was very small - we were probably doing 15 styles a year.
We would travel to Indonesia to work through the designs in person as I knew what I wanted but didn't have the technical skills to communicate it. Those early years of building the business were so fun. We had no expectations, we were young, naive, and ready to work hard. My role now in the business is technically Creative Director, but I dabble in payroll, packing orders, and just about anything.
As an innate creative, where and how do you feel your most creative self coming out?
I feel most creative when I make time for myself to just let my thoughts be free. It's tricky with a nine-month-old and a 4-year-old to find little gaps of time to do this, so often it will be at 3 am when I’ve been woken up and can’t get back to sleep.
What’s the most challenging lesson learned so far in your career?
We have learned so many lessons along the way and I try not to think of them as challenging and instead of a journey of learning. I take everything quite lightly, as at the end of the day it's fashion and it should be fun. Of course, there are stressful times but you can't let them get to you.
I feel most creative when I make time for myself to just let my thoughts be free.
St. Agni’s collections are following a ‘less is more’ approach with a focus on longevity and sustainability; can you tell us a little bit about this philosophy and how this translates into your business?
As a brand, we recognise and understand our responsibility to make decisions with people and the environment at the forefront. Our core values are underpinned by creating quality and timeless pieces that stand the test of time, designing with longevity in mind, and using considered materials that are gentle on the environment.
We have made a commitment to continue to refine and rebuild by developing the best practices in everything that we do, acknowledging that it is something to be revisited frequently. We want to be transparent and honest in communicating our journey and provide our customers with facts, to share knowledge on where we stand and where we want to be.
Showing the Resort ’23 collection at AAFW22 was a huge success, solidifying St. Agni’s foothold in the Australian fashion landscape. What is next for the brand?
We would love to focus on opening more stores and creating an experience for our customers. We are always trying to improve what we do and how we can improve our pieces and the experience for customers.
The hardest part is knowing what you want - once you figure that out the rest is easy.
What do you do to support your personal wellness?
I try to work out a few times a week, but with the business and two kids, it's so easy to put it off. I feel like my mind is stronger and my mental health is better if I make that time for myself.
This series is called ‘Inner Beauty’: What does (inner) beauty mean to you?
For me, inner beauty is kindness. Also, when someone is at a place where they are comfortable with who they are and where they are in life - I find this sense of authenticity beautiful.
What does your skincare routine look like, and has it changed since having your little one? What products/treatments can’t you live without?
My skincare is very simple, I always cleanse and use the Collagen Restore Serum morning and night, and I try to drink lots of water.
Inner beauty is kindness.
What do you and your husband Matt do for yourselves when you feel like life is just getting a little bit too much?
Matt and I work really well together. We work in different areas of the business so often if I’m stressed, Matt's ok and vice versa. We're grateful for everything we have so it helps to just reflect on that when it all gets too much.
Lastly, what advice do you live by, and who gave it to you?
My Mum once told me,"the hardest part is knowing what you want - once you figure that out the rest is easy."It's true. When you focus on something it always works out.