Simone Agius, Artisan bag maker and founder of simetrie
Like Louise, who you met a few Mondays ago, I met Simone at my studio. She moved in to her's a couple of weeks after I moved into mine and I am so happy she did. Not only is she incredibly talented, she is also a dedicated designer and maker as well as extremely passionate about sustainability. She launched her accessories brand, Simetrie, late last year and it has been so inspiring watching it grow and develop as well as watching sim dedicate everything she has to it. Sim makes some of the most beautiful bags I have ever seen, and her quality is and attention to detail is so inspiring. I'm so excited to share her journey with you and hope you find some inspiration from it just like I have.
I would love to know the story behind Simétrie and what inspired you to leave your full-time job and jump into working for yourself?
Initially, when I left my full-time job, I didn’t have the intention to start my own brand. I left my job in 2016 and worked as a freelance bag designer to brands in Melbourne, which I still continue today. When I jumped into freelance, it was enticing to me because I liked the idea of working for myself, and I keep at it because I really enjoy the variety it brings to my day-to-day [and it pays the bills!]. I didn’t register the business name for Simétrie until Jan 2018 [new year’s resolution!], then I started with my first workshop in December 2018 and launched the website selling the made-to-order goods in Jan 2019.
Why did you choose to call your brand Simétrie? Is there a meaning behind it?
Simétrie is a take on my first name, Simone, and the French translation of the word ‘symmetry’. This was the perfect word to describe the brand, as it is about striking the perfect balance between aesthetics and ethics. In creating a business that has products to sell, it is nearly impossible to call yourself 100% perfect when it comes to ethics & sustainability [does today’s world really need more products?] so my aim was to promote a balance between the two. My main values are to be responsible when it comes to fair trade, so having production local ensures my craftspeople are paid fairly, use environmentally responsible materials, which are primarily natural to ensure they will biodegrade at the end of their lifecycle, and to make long lasting beautiful products [so they are not destined for landfill in the first place!].
I know running a small business can be hard, stressful, painful and extremely scary, but it can also be incredibly rewarding, exciting and fill you with such proud moments. Could you share some of these moments you have experienced through your journey with Simétrie?
I have to agree with all those statements! Running a business is definitely not for the faint hearted! The most exciting moments have been launching the brand, and also launching the second collection. It’s a great feeling putting something new out into the world [which can be equally nerve-wracking]. I also feel extremely rewarded when I’m meeting and teaching new people at my workshops. The workshops have that effect especially [compared to online sales] as I can see firsthand that people are really engaging and valuing the meaning and purpose behind Simétrie.
What or who inspires you to do what you do on a daily basis?
My vision for Simétrie is to offer responsible quality goods made in-house in Australia, so that I can teach others how responsible quality goods are made, not only to consumers but also to provide skills and ongoing work to people in the community who need it the most. I haven’t quite made this whole statement a reality yet, so I am still working towards this goal each and every day. My current focus is to grow the made-to-order side of the business so that I can employ makers from marginalised backgrounds, specifically women in the asylum seeker & refugee community, and provide them with ongoing and fulfilling work.
I love how you are so open about your processes, to the point that you actually offer to teach people how to make your bags themselves through your workshops. Why did you decide to offer this? Especially in an industry that is often so closed off about processes, where they get pieces made and the different techniques that go into making.
I began Simétrie with workshops first, and I am open about how the products are made in this format in an effort to revive appreciation for quality craftsmanship, helping to steer consumer attitudes away from fast fashion. But more than that, the workshops are a way to discover a new skill and creative outlet for individuals. I believe there’s an inner creative in everyone, and it’s about freeing your mind and letting your hands make something wonderful. To me, that is one of the best feelings, and has formed a sense of therapy for me, so I wanted to pass that feeling and sense of accomplishment onto others too.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
This is really a tricky one! I tend to poll many friends/colleagues and research when I feel stuck and need advice. The most recent bit that resonated with me is ‘not to follow your passion for your career in a bid to fulfil yourself’ [controversial, I know]. The reason for this is that a person’s passion often changes, which would then affect your ability to do your job, or happiness levels with your career. It’s much more fulfilling to choose a career based on helping others, because providing value where it is needed the most will be the bottomless well of fulfillment!
Speaking of advice, what advice would you give someone who is wanting to leave their full-time role to pursue their own business ventures?
I would suggest having a clear business plan in front of you, with enough money saved to last you a year before heading out on your own. If you can get a business partner alongside you that has skills in areas you don’t, that will save you having to hire those skills from consultants in your start-up phase, and also help push you along. Be sure that you have a product that is actually viable, test it and show as many people as you can to validate it before investing in it. And above all, aim to contribute to something larger than yourself alongside your business model. Look into practicing as a B-corporation, even if you’re not certified as one, which means you’re in business for the good of people and the planet.
What is one thing you would like to see more of in the fashion industry today and why?
I think there are a lot of brands working hard in the fashion industry, trying to make an impact when it comes to sustainable/responsible materials, ethical sourcing and slow consumption. However, what I’d really like to see, is this kind of hard work coming from more big brands where they could make a real difference. Consumers are used to paying low prices for fast fashion and to ask people to pay higher prices for a similar alternative [even though it’s good quality and responsibly sourced] is sometimes not an option for people. If brands with more buying power concentrated their efforts into responsible materials and factory practices that were ethical and better for the environment, and open about it, then it makes those resources more easily accessible for start-up brands too. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of care from the bigger brands, as it would hurt the bottom dollar, so until there is a high consumer demand for responsible fashion, they will keep churning out the bad stuff as long as it makes them money. Ultimately, we need more awareness about the benefits of slow, quality fashion so that consumers can make better choices.
What do you love about running Simétrie?
I love working on Simétrie as I’m doing something different every day. Being the founder and sole employee, I wear many hats, so there’s always new challenges and exciting things to work on. It’s also nice seeing so many people engaging with the brand online and also meeting new people that have come to see me at workshops, open studios, and markets. There’s a lot of positive feedback online, but it’s especially great to meet people who appreciate it in person too. I’ll be at the December Big Design Market
– so if you’re there – be sure to say hello!
I would love to know what your favourite piece from my new range is and where would you see yourself wearing it?
I love the Fold Shirt
. I tend to dress in pants mostly these days [for practicality] and I think that the Fold Shirt has the perfect combination of feminine and man style to go with my usual silhouettes. I would make it my weekly staple!
Make sure you follow sim's journey via her Instagram HERE
and also check out her incredible range HERE
. You can also sign up to one of her amazing workshops via her website too, find more info HERE
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