the wholehearted story on why i designed the pisces collection
Where it started:
Earlier this year in May I forced a week away from the simétrie studio, a time to work from home, away from meetings and emails, to recalibrate in a way, nurture my creative self and get inspired to design the new collection. This time, and the 12-18 months prior was a very reflective time for me.
Rewind a little bit:
You haven’t seen much newness from simétrie in a little while for a number of reasons. All reasons essentially stem from the reality that simétrie is still very much a passion project for me, and I am earning a wage by working on other projects. These projects mean I am often spread too thin, wearing too many hats trying to push my art into the world, leading to overwhelm and the inability to get fresh projects off the ground for simétrie.
One major project I ran during Melbourne’s lockdowns in 2021, was a production run of 1700 products for the Australian brand RM Williams. It was a huge step up of my skills, and scale up for simétrie, (hiring and managing 7 part time staff for a 3 month manufacturing project over Melbourne’s strict lockdowns was one of the most challenging projects I’ve accomplished) with the hope that we would have ongoing work and support for growing our manufacturing capabilities from a well established brand in the Australian leather industry. It was overall a successful project in that we were able to go from making small batches of 20 pieces to 1700 pieces whilst maintaining our high level of artisan craftswomanship. However, we didn’t receive further orders from RM Williams, and we couldn’t keep up that level of production after the project, which meant that the team disbanded, and I had to refocus back to working on a smaller scale. The whole process led to me (and another key team member) to burnout. I was then forced to take it slow, nurture my soul, and heal. I ended a relationship, and started a new one with myself. I spent the subsequent 12-18 months taking it very slow, and learned about myself everyday through podcasts, catching up on lost time with friends, reading, and reflection.
It came to a point where I was somewhat at a crossroads - either give up on the dream, close down simétrie and do something else - or figure out a sustainable way to keep making my art.
The latter would mean putting myself back into the arena (that’s Brene Brown speak for putting myself out there) which was a scary proposition, but something I just had to face as the prospect of not making my art was even scarier! There’s a quote by Howard Thurman that I learned through Brene Brown’s teachings - 'Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.' I felt this quote so deeply at the time, as I am the most alive when I create my art - sculptural handbag forms through leather materials and traditional craftswomanship. I can’t imagine coming ‘alive’ with anything else. And so, in an effort to do the thing that makes me come alive, I decided I had to radically change what I have been doing and start fresh with a new direction.
The problems and solutions:
When I first began simétrie in 2018 with the original kangaroo leather designs, the prices I set were based on only me creating them, with no additional paid help. Kangaroo leather is naturally thin and varying in thickness, so needs the addition of reinforcements and linings to make them structured and durable. This drastically adds time to the creation process so they genuinely take between 5-32 hours to create (from a simple keyring to the backpack design), and even though I believed I was setting fair prices at the time, they still weren’t high enough to be paid a living wage. I learned that there’s not enough hours in a day for me to create the amount of bags I would need to to earn a living wage, and once I realised this and began to pay for the extra help to create more to try to earn more (plus the cost of materials), then all profits were gone. I couldn’t raise prices on these designs any further as they were already on the border of not being accessible enough for you and the simétrie community to afford them. Something seriously had to change. The new Australian Bovine leather I have sourced for the Pisces collection is naturally thicker than kangaroo leather, and so it means less construction is required to make the designs structured and long lasting, and I am able to create the same sculptural shapes with less time and materials, meaning they cost less to create, and are more affordable for you.
One other key piece of feedback I kept hearing from the simétrie community was about function. You love the simétrie ethos, and you love the clean minimal bag shapes, but (for the price) you couldn’t justify the practicality, or lack of. More pockets in the kangaroo leather iterations would’ve been even more expensive, so I could never figure out how to bring this to you in the kangaroo leather. The Pisces collection being made in our Australian Bovine leather means that we can construct the bags with the extra functionality without the extra price tag.
What Pisces is actually about:
Back in May when I was putting pencil to paper for this collection, I was thinking about how the ebbs and flows of life and business had led me to this point. I have always been a sensitive person, a typical Pisces trait (even though I’m a balanced Libra), which society has taught me to be ashamed of and to hide away from. I have slowly been unlearning this, and instead using it as my superpower, and my source of strength.
And so, drawing from the waves of my emotional being, I looked to find inspiration in the water. I looked at water dwelling creatures, the waves and curves of the ocean, the colours of the shells, rocks and sea. I also looked at all the learnings I have from you so far, and I brought functionality and affordability to the forefront of these designs. Even with the updated, more functional shapes, I have stayed true to the simétrie ethos and created designs that are minimal and will be fashionable in your wardrobe for many seasons to come. Artisan craftswomanship, made in Australia, natural materials, and small batch production, are all still main principles of simétrie and the Pisces collection too. Skill sharing through my workshops will come back in 2024 where you’ll be able to make these bags with me in my atelier. We shot the new collection at Cape Banks in Sydney, alongside my sister Candice Agius, and the collaboration of a brilliant creative team, to bring the element of water and the Pisces collection to life. I am so incredibly excited to finally show you what we’ve created.
I hope this journal entry brings you a little closer to me, the nature and complexity of my art, and the ‘why’ behind the Pisces collection. If you have any feedback or questions please feel free to leave a comment below, or email me at email@example.com
Pre-order from the Pisces collection here.