Meet AFC Member Simone Agius founder of Simétrie, one of the many amazing Australian labels to join our AFC Directory. Learn more about who Simone is and how she has pivoted her business model to be a bespoke leather atelier.
How did you get into ‘Fashion’?
I am the sole founder and operator of Simétrie – I started the brand in December 2018, which commenced as creative workshops where I began teaching students to make the crescent moon pouch, then the brand website launched a month later in January 2019 with our made to order collections.
I was drawn to fashion from a young age and picked it up as a subject in high school. Since I was a child, I have always loved making things - learning to sew, knit and crochet from my mumma. Creating things from scratch always felt like a personal achievement that encouraged me to keep on challenging myself with new creative projects. Mum was also very encouraging of my creative projects, and still is today. I did very well in my fashion subjects in high school and then went on to complete a Bachelor in Fashion Design at RMIT. Leathercraft and handbags piqued my interest in my final year of study, which led me onto further study at RMIT where I completed the short course in Bag Making.
I landed my dream job a year after as a Design Assistant at a leading Australian accessories brand. It was here I gained a great foundation of experience into the commercial retail industry and grew as a designer. It was also here that I started questioning the ethics of our offshore supply chains, and I longed for the days of being back at the workbench where I was also making the bags I was designing. This combination is what urged me to leave an otherwise comfortable job, then I started my career as a freelance bag designer. I gained a wealth of experience as a freelance bag designer, which helped to further define my personal ethics and my personal style.
After a short volunteer role where I helped set up a sewing program in a local asylum seeker resource centre, I yearned to combine all these values and into one brand, and so Simétrie was born.
Where do you fit into the TCF Value Chain?
Simétrie is first and foremost a manufacturer of bags and small accessories with sustainable and ethical values. We make the leathergoods in-house, and work with local manufacturing partners for our canvas goods. These include social enterprise SisterWorks, and a sole trader based in Ballarat who makes for other brands, Kim Ryan. All of our in-house makers are contractors, so are paid an hourly rate for the skilled artisan work they do for us. Currently our bags are primarily made to order whilst the demand is growing. I plan to grow the brand slowly and to commence making in small batches once the demand is there. Our workforce is made up of a diverse group of women, something I am proud of and celebrate, as we are operating in an area of the industry that is mostly male-dominated in Australia.
I also teach leathercraft in the atelier to share the craft and skills through bag making workshops. Through the workshops students learn to create one of our signature bags and discover what it takes to create a bag with ethical and sustainable values. We talk about the reasons why we use vegetable tanned kangaroo leather and share our values around local manufacturing, use of durable materials that are repairable and why we prioritise the use of natural materials to have as little impact on the environment as possible.
What is next?
The future for growing the Simétrie brand goes hand in hand with growing and optimising our manufacturing. We have recently opened up our atelier to take on manufacturing for other brands to help grow our team of craftswomen and cement our purpose as a manufacturer.
With my design skills and our manufacturing capabilities we are now working with multiple brands to bring their collections to life. This is a really exciting area at the moment as demand for Australian made goods is growing and it perfectly aligns with our mission of creating a local community of women empowered by craft and creativity.
What does ‘Australian’ Fashion/Style/Design mean to you?
I am mostly interested in local craft and makers and am especially inspired by First Nations artists and groups that operate in this space. I see fashion as a combination of craft and art, and both are very personal to the maker and the wearer. The connection between the maker and the wearer is inspiring, and without this connection the meaning of the craft is lost, which unfortunately is what has happened with the uptake of fast fashion.
Australian fashion paints a picture of who we are as a society at a point in time – this notion motivates me to push my own craft towards a future narrative that I want to be told – one of a thriving local community of artisans and makers.
Recommend 5! Who/What/Where are your local Textile & Fashion Go-Tos?
1. All the craftswomen and creatives who share in the Simétrie vision – my sister Candice Agius, artisans Clémence Lebec, Amy Franz, Sharifa, Cécile Jeannin, Kim Ryan, the team and members Amira and Farah from SisterWorks, and creative Imogen Kerr.
2. The teams at Austanners and Birdsall Leather – both family-owned business and craftspeople in their own right that help us bring our leather creations to life.
3. Busyman Bicycles by Mick Peel – the master craftsman who let me in on his craft. His slow practice and his connection to his craft massively inspired me to create my own practice.
4. Post Sole Studio & Nelson Made – ladies also operating in the leather space who make shoes here in Melbourne.
5. The Wardrobe Crisis by Clare Press – a great podcast and book to learn about ethical fashion.
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