Meet the Maker: An interview with Agnes Davis


Meet the Maker: An interview with Agnes Davis


Welcome to Part Two of our #MarchMeetTheMaker interviews. For this one I get to turn the camera round onto the camera woman - my partner in life and work, Agnes Davis. Adding a whole new dimension of professionalism to the business, keeping me on my toes and making me smile when the going gets tough. 

Agnes interviewed by Tovi... 

  1. What were you doing before you joined Tovi Sorga?

Agnes Davis Director of Sales and Marketing at Tovi Sorga

I’ve worked freelance as a copywriter and copy editor for a decade while bringing up my wonderful daughter.

When I met you I’d just finished a Masters in Creative Writing at Oxford University, which had been a dream come true. But there had been a lot of juggling to complete the Masters, and after two years of deadlines, essays and freelancing, I was desperate for a break from words. All I could think about when I handed in my poetry dissertation was painting!

  1. How did you get started with the brand and what have been the highlights?

It was an accident really. Like everyone, I fell in love with your work as soon as I saw it. It was completely different from anything I’d come across, and my mind was flooded with the design potential.

Then there was the fact that you were so busy all the time, juggling the orders, and communicating with customers; I couldn’t resist helping. First it was the website, which I thought I could probably help tidy up a bit, rewrite, and take a few photos for. And then we just kept having so many design conversations. ‘Wouldn’t that be beautiful with this, wrapped round here and with a gold lining...’ and so on...

I first started interfering in the design process properly with the Ferns & Moths range for men in 2015. Sometimes I’d see something in my head and say, ‘Can you just try it this way?’ I couldn’t use Photoshop then, and you’d kindly oblige me and we’d work on something until we were both happy with it.

Leather iPhone case - men's moth print by Tovi Sorga

The biggest problem I had with the website was that all your designs were completely different, because that worked perfectly for Etsy. Each one was amazingly beautiful in its own right, but I couldn’t get them to work side by side on one website page – it was visually too much.

So we embarked on designing our first full collection together, and created Möbius – an exploration of completely new fresh prints created by us, that aimed to create a conversation about how 2D print becomes a 3D object.

Luxury leather accessories by Tovi Sorga

We were so inspired by the process, and had such a strong belief in what we were creating – looking at them now, the pieces were exceptionally beautiful.

After that there was no turning back really.

Designer leather belt, Tovi Sorga

  1. What have been the biggest surprises for you?

Running a business challenges you on every level of your being – not just in terms of honing your professional skills and making good business decisions, but personally too. The business is like a very precious child that is much more important than you, so any issues around feeling unqualified or disorganised or shy have to be put to the side because it needs you to get over all of that. I’ve been challenged and grown so much over the last four years. Every day is an adventure, and I really do love it.

Contactless came to us quite by chance, and I don’t think I could ever have anticipated the exciting new directions it’s taking us in. We now work with banking partners around the world, and I really enjoy the level of professionalism required for that. I have a great respect for the discipline and focus required to run a very tight ship, and am grateful for the people we’re meeting on that journey who work so hard to do a great job for a shared vision.

  1. What are the hardest parts of running the brand?

It’s very hard to stop working! There’s always something that needs doing – accounts to catch up with or the blog you’ve been meaning to write.

Learning to celebrate and love commercialism has been a challenge for me, though I do now. I was a poet, for goodness sake – where you have total control over a tiny magical world. When we designed Möbius it was a very pure quest for beauty. I thought that would speak for and sell itself!

Möbius was really well received by a whole new demographic, but your wonderful core customers, who had supported you for nearly a decade, mostly still wanted the beautiful floral prints they knew you for. So I think one of the hardest parts has been accepting that the needs of the business always come first, though you can infuse that with your passion as much as possible.

I'm really happy with the balance we've struck in our recent collections, bringing a contemporary edge to classical inspiration. It feels like a strong base and our customers seem happy, as they keep coming back!

  1. What top 3 sources do you turn to for inspiration?
  • I’m ashamed to say that Instagram and Pinterest probably come top these days. There’s so much to discover. I love coming across true individuals doing their crazy thing. Teatumi Jones, Alexander McQueen, the weavers Mimi Jung and Ann Sun, potter Ruan Hoffman, artist Than Hussein Clark.
  • The World of Interiors with a cup of tea in bed of a morning weekend.
  • Great art, of any genre. Mathew Bourne's Swan Lake recently was just waaaah, and Anni Albers at the Tate Modern totally rewired my way of looking at the world. Now all I keep thinking about is getting my hands on some beautiful fabric scraps and a few spare hours.
    Mimi Jung
    1. What’s on your playlist this month?

    I’m always racking up a playlist of favourites on Spotify and currently can’t stop playing on repeat:

    • Paul Simon, Hearts & Bones
    • Stevie Wonder, For Once In My Life
    • Van Morrison, Sweet Thing
    • XTC, Making Plans for Nigel
    • Sun Kil Moon, Ben’s My Friend

    ... It's a long list. I think you're a bit done with Stevie Wonder. 

    1. Favourite ways to relax?

    Being in the garden, wild walks with the kids, my own hybrid dancey yoga that gets into all the knotty places, drawing with colour, catching up with best friends... Dancing!

    1. Best and worst things about working with Tovi?

    Ahem...! We’d both admit to being very bad at not discussing work when we should be off duty.

    And we take it in turns to have frazzled days – so managing each others’ stress levels can be tough.

    But there are so many bonuses. There’s literally always something to talk about and share, and we get inspired by very similar things – from music to plants to art and design.

    I don’t think we could do this without having a very strong, clear, shared vision of what we want for the brand. And it’s a joy to be on this extraordinary ride, creating a world together.

    Agnes and Tovi Sorga

    1. What do you compromise on, and what will you never compromise on? 

    Every day is full of compromises. The lists never quite get finished, so I’m trying really hard to manage my expectations of how much can actually be achieved in any given day, week, month... Tidiness is definitely compromised, and there’s a lot more I’d love to do in terms of creative marketing, designing, collaborations, that we rarely have time for.

    I never compromise on customer service. We literally couldn’t do what we do without our incredibly supportive and enthusiastic customers, so top of the list for me is making sure everyone is looked after and has what they need.

    And aesthetically I try not to compromise when it comes to website and social media photography. We’re selling something very beautiful, and it’s important to convey that wherever possible.

    1. What’s on your creative wishlist?

    So much! Short-term, we’re working on some lovely new bags, expanding our successful PóP collection for retailers, much contactless fantabulousness coming, and some fun collaborations in totally different areas coming up.

    I’m longing to make cushions. Just imagine... huge metallic leather botanical print animal cushions...

    And in the long term I really would love to create clothing collections. I was brought up on the mantra ‘Dream and dream extravagantly...!’ And am a firm believer in miracles. So I just need to learn to sew, learn how to print on silk, and then come to a deal with Time!

    Next Steps...

    Did you catch Tovi's interview here?

    Follow our #MarchMeetTheMaker journey over on Instagram here, and also on Facebook or Twitter, wherever you like to hang out online.

    Don't forget to ask any burning questions or leave us comments below, we love hearing from you.

    And you can view our latest work here... 

    6 Responses

    Charlotte Carver
    Charlotte Carver

    26 March 2019

    Fascinating and fabulous as ever. Keep up the good work Tovi and Agnes!

    Leo Davis
    Leo Davis

    21 March 2019

    Great Job – I love your work.

    lone krag-jensen
    lone krag-jensen

    21 March 2019

    What an improvement BRAVO

    Claire Devas
    Claire Devas

    21 March 2019

    What a treat! So interesting, I loved reading about your creativity and how you keep that so vibrant and alive while balancing it with the very different space the commercial side of business demands. So multi-talented!

    Joan Darbyshire
    Joan Darbyshire

    21 March 2019

    Loved reading both of the interviews with Tovi and Agnes, so interesting to hear what goes on behind the scenes of that wonderful website, those pictures of the products are heart lifting, so beautiful! Can’t wait to see the cushions, good luck with all your future endeavours.

    Caroline Davis
    Caroline Davis

    21 March 2019

    Wonderful interview, so enlightening, I learnt a lot, keep it up!

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