“As a couple, we end up sharing the same accessories every now and then,” explains Gus Agra, one half of the design-brain behind Australian accessory label, Von-Röutte. “We used to borrow each other’s backpacks all the time but they were either too small, or too big, too sporty or too feminine.”
What started as a hobby for Brazilian-born Gus and his partner Marina Tokarski soon became a business once they met at University here in Australia. “We both came to Australia to do a Master’s Degree and that’s how we met. I had always had a dream to open my own business, and Marina had always been interested in the whole process of designing right through to the final product.”
In 2015, they launched their Scandinavian-inspired range of leather accessories and not only did it become a successful brand amongst minimalists, the burgeoning business also happened to become a gateway to the Australian lifestyle for the young couple.
“Before starting our business, we were both working in different jobs and we needed our employers to be able to sponsor us to get a permanent visa,” explains Marina. “It’s a very difficult process, and it didn’t look like a feasible opportunity for either of us, so we decided to look for an immigration lawyer to advise us on the best pathway. Opening the business was a great opportunity.” Not without its challenges, four years after their enquiry, the couple were finally granted permanent residency and continue to see the business flourish. “The whole process was actually a way to make two dreams come true.”
Joining the growing movement of gender-neutral design, the brand differentiates itself through the careful selection of quality materials and textures; a sophisticated yet simple aesthetic with a focus on high functionality. “The name Von-Röutte was our sincere way to pay homage to the style that always inspired us,” explains Marina. A pointer to “on a route”, the name and brand is a tribute to their love of Scandinavian design. “We were both fascinated by interior design, architecture and art,” describes Gus. “The way Nordic design combines simplicity and minimal aesthetic with high functionality was an ideal source of inspiration for us.”
The biggest challenge for the young designers was finding the best sources for their raw materials. “It has been a long journey to find suppliers that follow certain quality and ethical standards,” reveals Gus. “It took us almost two years to find materials with certifications and a unique feel to use for our products.”
“For us, it’s crucial to know the origin of our materials and the standards they follow,” Marina adds. “We are always looking for suppliers that adopt ethical and sustainable practices.”
Despite early hurdles, the two fashion entrepreneurs see bigger and bolder horizons in their future too. “We have so many ideas to be accomplished. In 10 years, we’d love to look into having more categories in our range,” says Gus.
“It would be great to have a ‘Von-Röutte’ bricks-and-mortar store to give our customers an in-store experience,” adds Marina. “The ultimate goal is to build a community that is engaged on the cause. Customers that would help us break gender stereotypes.”