I did let slip at the Portable talk in Melbourne that I openly preferred Melbourne to Sydney. It was an admission that wasn't intended to butter up the audience but in fact as soon as I landed, it just felt gooooood to be able to put feet to ground, walk around for fifteen minutes and get a proper sense of where I was. To be fair, perhaps I wasn't best positioned in Sydney (The Rocks) to do that and also in the context of MBFWA, it doesn't leave much room for actual exploring. I may reassess my views over time.
For now though, Melbourne's pavements have given me retail gold - a veritable awesome trio of shops that I'd happily teleport to London if I invented one of some kind of location transplant machines. Except of course in the context of Melbourne, they feel even more special. Alice Euphemia is the established model student store that has recently undergone an interiors make-over. Dagmar Rousset is bringing a touch of internationally-sourced rainbow to a city that seems to have a penchant for everything draped, black and Rick Owens-esque. Finally, Pet Shop Girls is a fresh newcomer beaming Tokyo fashion into a city where citizens may have been hankering after the likes of Tsumori Chisato and mercibeaucoup after experiencing their cheap Jetstar getaways to Japan (it's insane that you can fly to Tokyo from Aus for less than AUD300). All three have something stellar to say and when there are fears in Australia (and everywhere else) amidst bricks and mortar stores going up against the online beasts, it seems key to highlight what's good about putting foot to ground and walking into a place and getting an experience out of a place, rather than an email invoice.
Alice Euphemia - This store hardly needs an introduction by myself. The first time I came to Melbourne, it was the store on everybody's lips, introduced to me with gushing sparkly eyes and rapturous praise. Indeed, Alice Euphemia as a store in the context of Australia, not just Melbourne deserves respect for a) being in the business for fifteen years (they're celebrating their birthday in a big way later on in the year) and b) steadfast dedication to solely buying in Australian labels, with the exception of perhaps a few Kiwi designers or two. They're the good guys going to all the New Gen and Innovators shows at MBFWA and actually sniffing out young uns', in addition to supporting longtime established Australian labels such as Lover and Romance was Born.
I have some vague reason to write up Alice Euphemia though because it has recently had a dramatic refit, giving their space within the tradtitional Cathedral Arcade an ambitious uplift. Design firm Edwards Moore was tasked to install a set of stairs intended to resemble the cave of a mountain, that you're confronted with as soon as you enter the shop. It engulfs the store and makes you think the space is never ending. Then on a practical level it encourages people to look up and go up the stairs on to the newly installed second level and it also creates an instant stage/platform to install special displays.
Alice Euphemia continues to buy in the best of Australian fashion, supporting people for a continued period of time, rather than adopting the fleeting buy n' drop approach. Right now, aerial or landscape prints courtesy of Sara Phillips and Batson are taking over the store. Upstairs, Romance was Born rules the upper level along with a vintage rail by one of my designer vintage faves Claire Inc. Romance was Born will be taking over the store in June/July to coincide with the store's birthday bash celebrations. On the accessories front, I was intrigued by Melbourne-based Kuwaii, with thirty years of traditional shoe making experience as well as Colony sunglasses, whose designer came to my talk to show me her beautifully made frames. As always, I love Anna Darwen's trompe l'oeil paper print gem jewellery and Deadly Ponies (one of the few Kiwi designers in store) and their slouch-friendly bags. Buyer Victoria Gordon also introduced me to Diaz, a Brisbane-based label, as one of their newest newbies in store. Rest assured, Alice Euphemia may have fifteen years under their belt but they're not resting on their well-established boutique laurels and continue to fulfill their remit of bringing the best of Australian labels to their legendary store and to their soon-to-be-revamped website.
Dagmar Rousset - Shop owner Julia Pound invented Dagmar Rousset an alter ego, when she was chatting to peeps in bars. The Swedish-French hybrid name doesn't really relate to the happy la-la land that Julia has created in her store in Fitzroy. This is a haven of off beat labels that were found through Julia's obsessive web browsing. She's definitely queen of the underground fashion interwebs as the brands at Dagmar Rousset are ones that even I've had to Google-up. I concede defeat. Julia has successfully unearthed the likes of ALL Knitwear, Strathcona Stockings and Howitzweissbach and has unleashed all of their rainbow delights into her store. On a stretch of Gertrude Street in Fitzroy, that largely has a lot of muted clothing, Dagmar Rousset is a breath of fresh air.
It's easy to see why this is a happy place for me. Neon splattered canvases complement the rails of bright knits and tables of Ayame socks and Julia has plans for even more of a rainbow mayhem in the store. As you can see, Julia has a bit of a fetish for patterned and unconventional socks, which instantly endears me to her store. Julia is also part French and offers French lessons at the store but thankfully, there's no twee Francophilia going on in her store and long may that continue. Embarrassingly, I had all the intentions of going in to get myself some ALL knitwear action but the night before, my sole debit card got frauded (who the fuck spanked AUD1,000 on booze in Dan Murphy's?!?) so I was left fundless. I will be back for my rainbow fix soon enough.
Pet Shop Girls - This last shop is in so central, iconic and well-known a place that I'd be shocked if anybody visiting Melbourne didn't hap upon it. Pet Shop Girls is only two months old but it's nestled within Curtin House, a handy hipster (with the best meaning possible) one-stop-drop, on the same floor as another Melbourne shop stalwart, Someday - which means it will be rammed in no time. Chiara Ippoliti is quite possibly one of the most Tokyo-crazed fashion person I've met outside of Japan. Her knowledge and hankering for all things Tokyo led her to set up Pet Shop Girls, with the sole goal of bringing the likes of Tsumori Chisato, Mercibeaucoup and Belly Button shoes to Melbourne. These are of course well-established Japanese labels but it still boggles me how little stocked and to find they are, outside of the shores of Japan. This is slooooowwwly being rectified elsewhere, but Pet Shop Girls is definitely a place I could do with in London where clothes that are wholly unsexed and gratuitously cute are severely lacking. Like Julia at Dagmar Rousset, Chiara also knows the value of cute socks and currently has some lovely ones in by Tsumori Chisato and Frapbois. Better yet are the awesome flatform shoes by Belly Button that Pet Shop Girls have been getting interest from overseas customers, because of their Harajuku conotations. Read, animal motifs, cute socks and flatform shoes - a trio worth trekking out for.
On an unrelated note, I have to thank Chiara and her boyfriend Brad of Good Time Studios for taking us around Melbourne for a bit and breaking cheesy feta-ed bread with us at A-1 Lebanese bakery. Now that I'm in Tokyo, I'm also carrying a few of Chiara's words of shopping wisdom.