From the strange to the sublime, the ocker to the outlandish, fashion in Melbourne has a daring, edgy diversity not found in other parts of Australia.
Whether you’re on the market for designs by fresh young talent or established designers, there’s a shopping experience in this pulsing city to suit (and seduce) your very own sartorial senses.
If you can wrangle it, schedule your visit to coincide with the heady glamour of the annual Melbourne Fashion Festival, which features up-and-comers as well as internationally renowned Australian designers. It’s the ultimate catwalk couture event.
Get your credit card ready for the shopping experience of your life. Here are some funky places to check out quintessentially home-grown designs.
Flinders Lane is arguably one of Melbourne’s coolest fashion laneways. Not far from the hustle and bustle of the Flinders Street train station, it’s home to an impressive cluster of local boutique designers as well as more established clothing brands. It’s no surprise given that the laneway has long been an Australian institution. The city’s garment and fashion manufacturing trade began here more than 100 years ago. Since then, Flinders Lane has witnessed the rise and fall of various fashion houses and been at the heart of a flamboyant and vibrant fashion community. Today, fashionistas will revel in the choice of avant-garde boutiques featuring awesome local designs (look out for the heavenly off-beat garments in Alice Euphemia).
The south side of the Yarra River
In one of Melbourne’s swishier areas, Chapel and Greville Streets teem with stylish shops and boutiques boasting local designer gear. Limber up to ‘shop till you drop’, though cafes and restaurants will provide much-needed refreshments along the way. Chapel Street is the seemingly endless main shopping strip that snakes through the area while Greville is a small side street jam-packed with impossibly cool shops. Make sure to drop into Ellin Ambe, Fat 272 and the plethora of vintage and retro shops. Still on the south side of the Yarra River, you’ll love the shopping treasures to be found in the popular beachside suburb of St Kilda. Ackland, Fitzroy and Carlisle Streets attract great local designers. From urban streetware to vintage chic, don’t miss out on a chance to explore this buzzy shopping precinct while catching the salty sea breezes.
R.M. Williams is an international label synonymous with quality Australian outback clothing. While the R.M. Williams name is widely known, the story behind the man who founded the fashion outfit is less so. The life and times of the South-Australian born Reginald Murray Williams is legendary. As the story goes, the Australian bushman and businessman rose from a ‘swagman to a millionaire’. His distinct range of bush wear includes everything from handcrafted riding boots (usually using a single piece of leather and stitched up the back) to clothing and accessories for men and women. If you’re into the Outback look (Driza-Bone coat, Akubra hat, etc), head to one of the many R.M. Williams’ retail stores or factory outlets across Melbourne.
Queen Victoria Markets
Still on the ‘Australiana’ theme but certainly a step away from the ‘high end’, the much-loved Queen Victoria Markets on Elizabeth Street is the perfect place for picking up distinctive fashion items and souvenirs. For example, you’re sure to be able to get a bargain here on ugg boots (if blonde bombshell Pamela Anderson can wear them out of the house, why can’t you?), garments made from luxurious Australian merino wool and even football gear (think scarves, sweaters, socks and anything else in between).
Melbourne Fashion Incubator
There’s nothing like throwing your support behind emerging Australian design talent. And there’s no better place to do so than at the Melbourne Fashion Incubator in La Trobe Street. The not-for-profit organisation mentors young designers, giving them a helping hand in the tough world of business – especially during the start-up phase. Both a retail and working space for young designers to create, manufacture, exhibit and sell their designs, the Melbourne Fashion Incubator is well worth a visit.