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November 2008

Cool Cult Clothing

Stand out from the crowd in unique designs found in these secret Melbourne shopping spots

Found at Fashion Incubator:
a Ryan Whelan design for the
House of Burlesque dance team

The best clothes come with stories: a jacket bought for a song in a downtown market, or shoes discovered in a second-hand store with an eccentric owner. If you’re looking for fashion that is innovative, curious or rare, there’s no better place to shop than Melbourne – a city brimming with one-of-a-kind shops and well-kept designer secrets where you might just pick up your very own fashion gem.

Gertrude Street

Forget the hallowed pavements of Brunswick and Chapel Streets – true fashionistas know the best shops are a little further off the beaten track. Gertrude Street in Fitzroy has been transformed from an edgy backstreet into one of Melbourne’s leading fashion haunts. You’ll find Melissa Jackson’s boutique at number 195, selling unique knitwear and accessories, “It’s far more eclectic than a standard store,” says Jackson, who’s also a milliner and can make hats to order.

Melissa Jackson’s store is a
bowerbird’s nest of covetable items
At 201 you’ll find Bistrin’s Emporium, opened seven years ago with an intriguing mix of vintage and new clothes, and even a few flamenco costumes and piano accordions on sale, just for kicks. At 226 there’s Obüs, a Melbourne-based women’s fashion label by Kylie Zerbst using light, travel-ready fabrics.

Across the road at 227 is Shop Sui, stocked with Asian-inspired clothes and unique print T-shirts for both men and women. Down on the corner of Smith Street there’s Frederick Gugenberg, a menswear label stocking classic shirts, jackets and sportswear. And if all that’s worn you out, head to Birdman Eating café at number 238 for a latte, or grab a beer at the cheerful Builder’s Arms across the street.

Find flirty frocks at Bistrin’s Emporium; Asian funkadelia at Shop Sui

The Fashion Incubator

Individualists are addressed
at The Fashion Incubator
Put the words “emerging Melbourne designer” together in a sentence and people sit up and take notice, says Cindee Smith, the CEO of Melbourne’s Fashion Incubator. “Everywhere around the world people know Melbourne for our fashion,” she says. “People come to the Fashion Incubator to buy a little piece of Melbourne.”

The Fashion Incubator is a non-profit, volunteer-run store in Melbourne Central shopping mall where young designers can learn the ropes and sell clothes direct to the public. Here, you can find everything from dresses made from vintage Japanese kimonos, off- beat screen-printed T- shirts, handmade leather jackets, vegetable-dyed Indian-influenced skirts, and one-of-a-kind hats adorned with lace and feathers made by the Incubator’s resident milliner. “You can also have clothes created for you – a different size, colour or specific details,” says Smith.

A fashionista’s treasure trove
Smith began the project eight years ago when she kept meeting talented young designers struggling to get a foothold in the industry. Now the Incubator has eight resident designers and ran three shows at this year’s Melbourne Spring Fashion Week. The store also caught the attention of actress Kerry Armstrong, who wore an Incubator- made yellow silk and black lace dress to this year’s Logie Awards.

Some Incubator graduates have started their own stand-alone stores on the upper levels of Melbourne Central. Dana Lenko’s flagship store is stocked with her idiosyncratic T-shirts and jumpers with titles such as “doomed romance” and “your bear reads your diary”, as well as an unlucky dip for curious kids. Joshua Andreas also launched his own store this year, stocked with glamorous dresses for ladies and menswear influenced by Melbourne’s street culture. “If someone comes in and buys a dress, they know that there’s only two or three of those dresses made,” says Andreas’ partner Trevor Brennan. “Everything is limited edition.”

Smith adds, “Who knows where these designers will be in 10 or 20 years’ time? This is your chance to get in first.”

ML Vintage

Mary the maverick
Photo: Robin Lowe
Hidden away behind Chapel Street, in an upstairs office space, lies what may be one of the world’s best-kept vintage fashion secrets. ML Vintage has a unique collection of designer pieces from the 1960s and ’70s, an era that owner Mary Lipshut credits as the golden age of fashion. “People liked quality, and elegance – it’s hard to find elegance today,” she says.

This charming store, which is appointment- only, is a treasure trove of beautifully designed unworn pieces, many still with their tags attached. There are Missoni ties, Pucci print dresses, and exclusive pieces like a 1970s Walter Albini white satin trenchcoat. Lipshut has even seen some of her best pieces accepted by the National Gallery of Victoria.

Vintage Missoni lies in waiting
Photo: Robin Lowe
Lipshut regales visitors with fascinating stories about the fashion industry – in the ’70s she bought pieces directly from Tai Missoni himself, which she sold through her own boutiques in Melbourne. Her vintage collection is the result of boxes of clothes left forgotten in warehouses, delayed shipments that arrived too late, unclaimed lay-bys and returns. These are genuine rare designer pieces, something you would buy as a family heirloom. You could pay just AU$69 for a fishbowl ring, but some items cost several thousand dollars – the price you pay to get your hands on a real piece of fashion history.

The Rose St. Artists’ Market

Meet the makers of cool indie
fashion and accessories at Rose
Street market
Photo: Robin Lowe
On a bright and bustling Saturday morning, The Rose St. Artists’ Market in Fitzroy hums with activity as the crowd strolls among the artists’ stalls. Adam Ferrante started the market in 2002, transforming his family’s junkyard into a space where he and his artist friends could sell their creations to the public. “It’s a maker’s market, so everything here is made by the person behind the stall,” he says. Prices begin at AU$10 and rarely reach beyond AU$100.

There’s an excellent range of accessories, such as cufflinks made from old Scrabble pieces, hand-sewn bird brooches and bone china jewellery from designers Angus & Celeste. “We started selling here about four years ago,” says designer Asha. “Now we’ve grown and we sell in several stores.” There are also recycled clothes and bags made from leather car seats. “Our philosophy is to recycle and shop local,” says stallholder Adam.

Find It:

The Fashion Incubator
Shop 238, Level 2, Melbourne Central, 211 LaTrobe St
tel: +61 (3) 9671 4522

ML Vintage
Suite 3, 7 Almeida Cres, South Yarra
tel: +61 (3) 9826 6789
By appointment only.

The Rose St. Artists’ Market
60 Rose St, Fitzroy
tel: +61 (3) 9419 5529


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