We speak with Agora co-founder Daniela Agnelli, to find out why education is key to saving the planet, and why 21st century fashion is less about trends and more about legacy.
Agora: the newly opened unique shopping destination on the shore of Northern Ibiza’s Xarraca Bay. It’s also the Greek word for market place, a humble description for such an incredibly polished concept store. It’s co-run by two fashion editors, Daniela Agnelli and Tiffanie Darke – a pair with an impressive roll call of magazine titles under their belts including Vogue and Harpers Bazaar. The store sits within Six Senses Ibiza, a luxury resort that opened to much fanfare earlier this year. With a lens trained on ecological preservation, it’s the first sustainable BREEAM certified resort in the Balearics – a sensibility that chimes with the island’s growing collective focus on the environment and sustainability. But how exactly does fashion fit into that?
Described by the pair as a “live magazine concept” with an aim to educate customers, Agora spotlights brands that favour mindful manufacturing and slower production, as well those that support the artisanal craft community so integral to keeping the fashion industry on its feet. It’s very much a hands-on approach, Agnelli explains. “We decided to do something more positive in fashion and everything you see here has been selected and edited by myself and Tiffanie, my partner,” she says. “We like to offer customers an experience. Not just shopping, but also an education, learning about all the brands we have – and that’s why we tell their stories.” The store acts as a stage for their immersive experiences and pop-up events to bring these stories to life. “I’ve been coming to Ibiza for so many years and there has always been this sort of creativity on the island. What Tiffanie and I wanted to do was something different to the hippy-chic printed stuff you see so much of. We wanted to really edit it, for it to work as a live magazine. It could be divided into themes, sometimes in colours, sometimes in stories – so that’s the way we wanted to present it to the customers.”
It’s an ever revolving roster of fashion and accessory brands – local and international, fledgling designers and established luxury labels – the one common thread being their eco-friendly credentials. “We have four brands of jewellery that are all eco-based. Makal, for instance, uses an an old fashioned technique to extract gold from the river without any chemical processes. It’s interesting to learn about, and that for me is the most important part – the educational side.” Some of the brands receive an education in sustainability themselves, a case in point being Milanese brand La Double J, who visited the resort with a three-day workshop and pop-up collaboration.“Because she [J.J. Martin, owner of La Double J] is very into meditation and yoga, we organised some workshops and connected with a wellness centre at Six Senses. It wasn’t just fashion, it was the whole experience of what the designer wanted to create. And she’s always used vintage fabrics but we pushed her to only use upcycled fabrics for Agora.” These upcycled fabrics were then fashioned into bathrobes for all of the guest rooms, made with 100% sustainable materials and techniques. “JJ was really pleased. She was like: ‘finally I’ve really been pushed to do something that is totally sustainable.’”
Six Senses guests are also treated to slippers in their rooms – a genderless design from the label of the late Camilla Skovgaard. “She used to be the accessory designer for Marc Jacobs. She moved to Ibiza to design her own collection of shoes but then she fell ill and died of cancer. Her two best friends kept the collection going for her and these are the only shoes that I have in Agora. I asked them to produce these flip flops for the room, for men and women, and they made the sole from cork. And they are totally sustainable,” Agnelli says.
Even luxury labels are clamouring to get involved. “We have a lot of interest from luxury brands because we’re bringing luxury and sustainability together. In the store we have one of the couture dresses designed by Iris van Herpen, from her couture collection inspired by Merlin Sheldrake’s book about mushrooms, Entangled Life. The dress is made of recycled plastic, so it’s kind of interesting to see how you can bring even couture into sustainability.”
Daniela and Tiffanie are also weaving in alternative solutions to the consumerist conundrum with clothing rentals – now a big part of their business model. “The Cinderella Project is part of our sustainable chapter that we have in the Agora concept. So you can rent the big dress of your dreams for one night only. And we do this lovely, beautiful event, partnering with the charity of the Ibiza Preservation, but it’s also a moment with art, fashion, cinema, photography. All the guests can pre-book and rent their dress before they come to Six Senses and have it already in their room. And people from the island can book their dress with their ticket for the night.”
Agnelli acknowledges there is still some way for the fashion industry to go, however: “The fashion industry still has far to go because most of the big brands are not structured in a sustainable way, but I’ve seen corporate brands caring to start moving forward.” It’s a responsibility she willingly shoulders with her business partner, to pave the way for a more sustainable way of life for Ibiza and beyond. “Every retail space has the responsibility to educate their customer and this is exactly what we try to do at Agora. It’s been an amazing and interesting journey so far.”