The Land Down Under: a recap
It was a lovely month in Australia, if nothing but getting out of a New York winter made it so. This blog is a year overdue, if not more, so I thought this would make a perfect first post as it's more fun than fury. And it's likely to be the longest post I ever do so grab a glass of wine. I have probably forgotten to mention some good spots I went into but here's a start...
Melbourne is famous for its street art, especially that of the many laneways where graffiti perfectly coexists with dumpsters and milk crates. Almost every lane you look down is decorated and the obligatory photo shoots are occurring in front of them. Comical, yet understandable, my hope is only that the photographers are actually looking at the art, and not just snapping more Instagram clutter. That's certainly one thing that's changed since I was in Melbourne last.
As much as I love to see what's on in all the museums, time never allows but i was happy to see the Victor & Rolf exhibit before it closed (pics at top) and the Brook Andrew exhibit as it opened. The NGV Australia is one of my favourite museums- I find it always has exciting things to see and there's always great indigenous art, which I find to be super interesting in its new, modern interpretation. Some highlights above from the exhibit "who's afraid of color" (plus, there's a couple on my Insta.)
Like many cities, Melbourne's grittier neighbourhoods are now getting taken over by hipsters and they bring the boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops that are now safe to walk home in the dark from. I had dinner with fashion aficionado, Karen Webster, at Charcoal Lane , an Aussie-centric cuisine with a social cause kinda place (I had the emu- pic on my Insta). It was excellent and you should go there.
One thing I always love about Melbourne is that the people working in the boutiques are well-informed: not only about their merch but also what's going on in general. I had several lengthy conversations about the collection they're selling, other stores I should visit with similar aesthetics and local designers with the staff with zero snobbiness or pressure to buy. Makes you want to come back.
One of my favourite stops was E.S.S., a store that reminded me of something I might see in Paris, with conceptual pieces in gorgeous fabrics. Not my style but certainly worth appreciating the concept and aesthetic with all of it's old world details. It's a look that always makes me think of Melbourne.
Down the road is Bruce, a consignment store with a NY style; dealing in the mostly-black with touches of white of Ann, Comme, Rick and their gang. Yeah, I'll be back...
Gertrude St in general has loads of little stores & cafes/ restaurants. I was running short of time after all that socializing with the staff so had to run. Next time I'll hit it up right and tell you all about it.
Flinders Lane and other smaller side streets and lanes also have some cute finds and can often be discovered accidentally (get off the main streets!) I was looking for Aussie designers so wanted to stop by a few in the CBD: Lucy Folk for jewelry on Crossley St , Elk on Little Burke St and an old favourite, Assin, which has changed their label profile to include a private label. Note the art in the stores. These are all original pieces integrated into the design (or, in the case of Assin, actually part of the design as the artist painted in situ) and bring an extra level of creativity to the brand- as it makes it more than just branding. another major differentiation to the influx of foreign, major brands coming into the Australian market.
Melbourne's worst kept secret, Curtin House, not only has the old- faithful bar/resto Cookie and Melbourne's best rooftop bar in it, but also some boutiques that are worth looking at for something refreshing after a day of mainstream label 'shopping.' Level Three is the place to be.
Quick trip to Sydney: I hadn't been to Sydney in years (or yonks as we might say in Oz) and I had meetings, catch-ups and a workshop to fit into 2 days so it was a pretty restrained trip. A wander around the Rocks & Miller's Point with some store research (the invasion of foreign brands!) was the extent of touristing and we had amazing weather for it. The thirst quencher above was a notable cider by Young Henry's, brewed locally in Newtown and served at Hotel Palisade . Take note, gluten intolerant people, 'cause lots of ciders are just a sickly sweet mess and this one was not.
Small Australian brands thrive in a mass-market landscape with many having small boutiques that provide personalized service. The beautiful, old arcades like the Strand Arcade make the perfect backdrop for them; just entering them takes the hustle of a city away and allows for a little relax time. At the same time, foreign brands get space to show their whole line: the new Cos store was bright & airy and had space to show each group of the collection- something they would be unlikely have space to do in NYC. I could see the clothes! Made me want to shop.
Another noteworthy stop was Harrold's in Westfield Sydney. A pretty decent mall for a CDB modern mall with a food court that looks like you can eat there and luxury stores for you to spend your bucks at. If I had lotsa bucks, Harrold's would probably get some, just for the shopping experience alone.
Hometown Adelaide....I've heard there's a lot of new places to go and things to see but I had little time and had family to spend time with as well as a guest lecture at TAFE and a workshop so that all has to wait until next year.
On my way to my workshop- held at Australian Fashion Labels' gorgeous head office- I stopped by the studio of jewelry designer Marie-Pier Labelle of Days of August. I met her in NYC and had to see her in action- little old Adelaide is getting some attention on the fashion scene for its emerging talents, and this charming French-Canadian is on her way, having garnered attention from MoMA in NY, along with others. She's charming and her company is sustainability focused so you should check it out and buy her stuff. Hey, I'm trying to keep this brief and to the point here.
YEEEAAAAHHH, it was nice...there were beaches, motorbikes and lots of fresh, fabulous food. It was a successful trip, both for business and for getting back in touch with the market. With plans to visit more regularly I'll be able to keep up with what's new and find more, so feel free to give me tips for my next time- comments are open!