We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. Accept | Find out more


July 2010

Funky Town

Fill your basket with the best buys from indie boutiques, artisan markets and unique local labels as we forge a new shopping trail in Newcastle

Funky Town



Once known simply as “Steel City”, Newcastle has undergone a metamorphosis over the past decade. It’s gone from being an industrial town to a buzzing and highly livable city — the second largest in New South Wales — with its own food scene, surf culture, and local designers and artists.

According to Louise Mackay, the director and founder of Newcastle Fashion Week (NFW), Newcastle is fast becoming a unique hub for fashion and culture. “There are so many outlets for finding an amazing fashion piece or a whole outfit. From Darby Street, The Junction and the CBD through to Newcastle’s east end, there’s so much for everybody, every style and every age,” she says.


Skip Hunter Street’s retail strip and head for the city’s east end, where you’ll find a bunch of innovative operators rejuvenating this once-grand end of town. Many of the interesting stores cropping up are part of the Renew Newcastle project (featured in Jetstar Magazine, August 2009), which places local artists and designers in formerly derelict and abandoned shopfronts.

It’s here you’ll find Make Space, a co-operative retail space featuring the talented works of six local women. Their store, one of the first Renew Newcastle projects to get off the ground, features whimsical art, beautiful quilts, cushions and a colourful clothing line for women, children and more. Two other local women have recently joined the creative co-op, including self-confessed fabric addict Suzie Bailey from Once Was, who creates beautiful clothing, hats, bags and blankets by using recycled fabric.

Before It Began, meanwhile, is a new fashion, art and studio space run by Jzhonnie Bezhet Holloway, Bonnie-Grace Dwyer and Rhea Newton-Brooke — three young women who participated in the inaugural NFW last year. The store, also a Renew Newcastle project, features a number of labels, including their own collaborative vintage label Junkie Collective and Bezhet Holloway’s label that turns denim into couture dresses, quirky shorts and even swimwear. Within the all-white space, you can see the designers at work and view exhibitions featuring local artists.


Darby Street in inner-city Cooks Hill is perhaps Newcastle’s most happening strip with great boutiques and bustling cafés, pubs and restaurants. Here, you can visit the flagship stores of two of Newcastle’s biggest fashion success stories.

High Tea with Mrs Woo is a collaboration between the Chinese-Malaysian Foong sisters: Rowena, Juliana and Angela. The three sisters migrated to Newcastle with their family in 1988 and launched their womenswear label in 2004. They catapulted into the world of fashion design by winning the 2005 NSW Mercedes Start-Up Awards and the Austrade-Powerhouse Market Development Award. This led to them hitting runways in Shanghai, Sydney and Melbourne, and exhibitions in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, Adelaide’s Anne and Gordon Samstag Museum of Art and Sydney’s Object Gallery. Their range consists of a signature series of reversible wrap tops, highly detailed wrap skirts and seasonal collections.

Across the road is Guanabana, which made its debut at this year’s Australian Fashion Week with a dreamy collection inspired by the ocean. The brainchild of resident Norwegian designer Linda Bergskas, the avant-garde label is making waves on the Australian fashion scene with its mix of relaxed glamour and bohemian style.

Bergskas, who started the NFW, says Newcastle’s fashion scene has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. “I have found Novocastrians to be very supportive of their local designers. I love the beach, the relaxed vibe and the creative environment Newcastle has to offer,” she says.

Louise Mackay agrees. “The community really gets behind young men and women who aspire to make something of themselves. There’s a lot of support — education, government and community backing, spaces to show their talents and of course, some amazing people to look up to, including the High Tea With Mrs Woo sisters, Linda Bergskas from Guanabana and the Romance Was Born duo, who hail from Newcastle”.

Along Darby Street, you’ll also find the eclectic Blackbird Corner, which makes its own pieces and showcases local designers, while Flash Heart off Darby Street specialises in handmade corsetry and beautiful lingerie.

Overt stocks a unique mix of urban apparel for men and women, with half the labels exclusive to Newcastle. Similarly, Abicus has a great range of urban street labels, while Ramjet has funky threads and accessories for both sexes.


To meet and buy from upcoming local designers, visit the wonderful The Olive Tree Market on the first Saturday of every month.

It showcases Newcastle’s contemporary art, craft and fashion directly from the craftspeople themselves, and every item on sale is handmade. There you’ll find local gal Brianna Brent, the owner and designer of Miss Lulu, a ’50s-inspired label. “I only use small runs of fabric to ensure my customers look like no one else around,” she says.

You’ll also find Trish Stenzel from Miss Fancypants (part of the Make Space cooperative) who specialises in vintage-inspired underwear and swimwear; Sketch & Jones’ eclectic hand-printed cushion covers, kids’ toys and clothing; and Little Buddha’s vintage children’s clothing, mostly made from recycled fabrics. Afterwards, wander over to The Junction, Newcastle’s seaside shopping village, for designer labels, jewellery and hip homeware and local art. Pop into Silver Spoon for a latte and shop for more local treasures in their terrace store cum café.

And for designer baby and children’s wear, director and mum Annette Francis is behind the highly successful Gaia Clearance Studio organic cotton label. Gaia has a clearance outlet a short distance away in Newcastle West open to the public Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, so grab yourself a bargain.

Mark Your Diary

Newcastle Fashion Week

12–18 September 2010 The Store, 854 Hunter St, Newcastle West, www.newcastlefashionweek.net.au

Take Me There

19 Wolfe St, Newcastle

78 Darby St, Cooks Hill, tel: +61 (2) 4926 2839

70 Darby St, Cooks Hill, tel: +61 (2) 4929 4350

Shop 5/115 Darby St, Cooks Hill, tel: +61 (2) 4023 3712

89 Darby St, Cooks Hill, tel: +61 (2) 4926 1704

124 Darby St, Cooks Hill, tel: +61 (2) 4929 7278

Shop 2, 111 Hunter St Mall, Newcastle

The Junction Public School, Union St, tel: +61 (0) 439 649 058

74 Darby St, Cooks Hill, tel: +61 (2) 4926 4883

98 Glebe Rd, The Junction

144 Parry St, Newcastle West, tel: +61 (2) 4962 3996

Jetstar flies direct to Newcastle from Melbourne, the Gold Coast and Brisbane. JetSaver Light fares from AU$59 one way. Book online at www.Jetstar.com


There are no comments posted yet. Be the first one!

Post a new comment

Your name
Your comment