The inspiration for Albus Lumen Société came to owner and style guru Marina Afonina of luxury fashion label Albus Lumen while she was on her annual family holiday in Thailand.
“I realised I had got into a routine that was too fast, it was too much,” Afonina tells Broadsheet over green smoothies at Bondi’s busy Sevenways. “Last year we went to London as finalists in the 2019 International Woolmark Prize; we went to Peru to shoot a collection, launched Albus Lumen Casa ceramics at fashion week, we did a presentation in Paris, and launched a bridal capsule for Matches. Instead of doing the two collections we would normally do, we did five. It was bloody huge. I went on a family holiday and I was so exhausted. Then the fires happened and it made me rethink what’s important in life.”
Throw a global pandemic into the mix, and, for Afonina, what’s important became being more available for her family, and stripping back her brand to the raw, basic elements that have made it so well loved since its inception five years ago. It’s from this pared-back place that she launched her cave-like showroom/office/gallery on Bondi’s Glenayr Avenue.
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The space, which feels like a Grecian grotto, has a strong focus on raw, natural elements. A large sandstone block takes centre stage, and there are whitewashed walls, upcycled linen curtains, and a driftwood bench that Afonina’s mother sourced from Port Stephens, north of Sydney.
There’s no change room, and viewings are by appointment only. Afonina invites people to look, touch and feel her Australian-made products, have a conversation, maybe even a drink. And if they want to buy something, her products are sold exclusively through her website – an approach she says allows her to keep costs down.
Right now at Société you’ll find the Albus Lumen winter capsule release, a range of basics in cream, black and brown. Think tailored tracksuit pants, T-shirts and jumpers made from merino wool. Afonina sources the wool from Anlaby Station, a 180-year old wool station in South Australia.
There are also blankets in the same wool, sustainable palm wax and beeswax candles, artisan soaps, vegan suede handbags, and a line of homewares that showcase the label’s collaborative efforts with local artists. Afonina’s signature jewellery line (featuring her best-selling Keshi pearl earrings) is also on display.
“We might get excited and do other things too. We will just see what the world is doing, keep having conversations.”
Russian-born Afonina imigrated to Australia at age 17. At 25 she became an intern at Harper’s Bazaar and within six years she was the magazine’s fashion editor. A trip to Europe inspired her to start her design career, and the continent continues to influence her classic, refined approach.
“When you go to Paris, even in the airports, people wear basic things and they look so chic: plain cream pants, a cashmere jumper and flats. They look amazing. I love the little stores in Europe where you go in and they’ve been making these little soaps for 100 years. … I want to capture that artisanal experience. I want to bring that sense of escape.”
She founded Albus Lumen in Sydney in November 2015, and since then it’s been accolades and successes. The label has been picked up by British luxury retailer Matches Fashion, online retailer Net-a-Porter, it’s done stacks of fashion weeks and, in 2018, it won one of the fashion industry’s most prestigious honours: Best Emerging Designer at the Australian Fashion Laureate Awards. Afonina counts Elle Macpherson and Lara Worthington among her stylist clients – not that you would hear her boast or drop names.
“At the end of the day, it’s not rocket science,” she says. “It’s not saving lives. I don’t want to be that designer who takes things too seriously.”
Albus Lumen Société
Shop 1/91 Glenayr Avenue, Bondi
0433 063 647
Mon–Fri by appointment