Let’s face it, we’re all culprits of dashing into a fast fashion chain to grab the latest trending item, or a department store for the basics. Yes, this is acceptable at times—but in a city brimming with independent boutiques, it would be a crime not to head off the beaten track. You just need to know where to find them… and this is where we are here to help.
We’ve sniffed out Melbourne’s best hidden retail gems and pinpointed their locations—and we urge you to step off the high street and explore these independent boutiques who are pioneering slow fashion, innovation and superior quality. Hint: the CBD’s laneways and hidden buildings are where it’s all happening.
For the laneway trawlers
Many Melburnians associate Rankins Lane with wicked street art and Manchester Press’s loaded bagels, but few would identify it as a fashion destination. For us, it definitely is—boasting local favourite Bassike, and bespoke menswear tailoring experts, Saibu no Akuma. Even if you are not in the mood to buy, we suggest that you at least have a browse amongst the cutting-edge interior design of Bassike's converted warehouse space. Or head up to Saibu no Akuma’s New York style loft for a customised suit like no other, and chill with a beer and a chat to the friendly boys behind the brand. With no discernible shop signs or logos on Rankins Lane, the stores are difficult to find—but now that you know, you have to go.
Once you’ve done Rankins, its neighbour Somerset Place is a must-go. Cult Japanese label, Comme des Garçons, has recently relocated their new store here—and word on the street is that its freakin’ awesome. There’s more than the infamous play line and small leather goods collection… folks, the highly sought-after CDG raincoats are up for grabs. Meanwhile, Captains of Industry have the fellas of Melbourne sorted with their offering of grooming, bespoke footwear, made-to-measure suiting, and dining services all in the one venue.
Crossley Street—the city’s quiet achiever—is home to two unique boutiques that are well worth the walk from the centre. The first is Lucy Folk, an innovative local jewellery designer who is known for her edible-inspired collections. Yes, her jewellery is made to look (and I repeat look) like food, such as anchovy cuff bracelets and coconut palm earrings. These are statement-making accessories and are perfect as gifts. Madam Virtue & Co is another Crossley gem, where duo JC and Dean Hewitt sell their own bespoke designs alongside a selection of French and international brands. Think original Chanel handbags, Hermes and Gucci accessories, and Alexander McQueen couture. For hard-to-find pieces and one-offs, Madam Virtue is your gal.
Up in the hidden buildings
No Order Market
Up a flight of stairs opposite H&M on Elizabeth Street, the juxtaposition between No Order Market’s edgy retail space and the chain stores down Bourke Street is very real. Three stores—Archive, Slow Waves and Shifting Worlds—exist under the one roof to supply coveted international labels and local talent to Melbourne’s most trendy. Have you been wondering where all the Pleats Please you’ve been spotting across the city are from? Shifting Worlds is the answer. They also stock the sought-after Maryam Nassir Zadeh suede mules—but when I say stock, I mean they’ll only be there for about a day because Shifting Worlds' loyalists waste no time snapping them up. Youthful, fashion-forward labels like MM6, Maison Margiela, Filles a Papa and Common Projects (whose sneakers sell out in lightening speed) are Slow Waves’ jam. Luxury consignment store, Archive, completes the trio. For second-hand Comme des Garçons, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto, Archive is your go-to.
When you hear Curtain House, you probably think of a memorable dinner at Cookie or a not so memorable descent down six flights of stairs after a night of drinking at Rooftop. You’d bypass Level 3 without even thinking. Well folks, now that we tell you that Melbourne-born labels P.A.M. and Búl have boutiques there, you won’t again. You may confuse P.A.M.’s store with a gallery, with its whitewashed floor and flickering projections on the wall. Its minimalist men’s and women’s streetwear is so-Melbourne-it-hurts. Meanwhile, Búl’s timeless womenswear pieces are no less quintessentially Melbourne in their style, but certainly less hipster than P.A.M.
Nicholas Building and Cathedral Arcade
Located on Level 5, Distal Phalanx, is probably the CBD's most hidden fashion gem. Locals like Limedrop and Kuwaii take residence in the stunning Cathedral Arcade (look up!), and Retrostar Vintage delivers affordable retro threads upstairs. Meanwhile, the Nicholas Building's range of international subversive labels, like New York’s Moses Gauntless Cheng and London’s MEAT, cannot be found anywhere else in Melbourne. The style is dark and outlandish with latex, mesh and cyberpunk graphics all the rage. Dare to be different, Melburnians.
For the Couch Shoppers
Height of Fashion
We love stories like this one—finding new little online boutiques that are championing Melbourne designers. This one's called Height of Fashion, a new range, specifically designed by owner Natalie Matthews to suit taller ladies (gotta love the pun in that name). Heigh of Fashion sells a range of on-trend pieces, from swimwear and gym gear to dresses and full-on playsuits. They're running a sweet 30-day returns policy, and even do FREE delivery in Aus. Finally—no more hunting around for an extra tall pair of pants.
Want some more great local style inspo? Check out 180 (yep, 180) street style looks from MBFWA here!
Image Credit: Saibu no Akuma