Recently Tourism Victoria asked me to take a journalist on a personal tour of vintage shops in Fitzroy, so of course, I was very pleased to comply! It was an incredibly enjoyable day, helped in no small part by the fact that Christine McCabe is a darling.
We started with breakfast at my favourite cafe, Mario’s on Brunswick Street – where we were served by one of the Marios at my favourite table (where almost five years before I had proposed to my husband Tim) and the tour got off to a good start with a skip around the corner on Johnston Street to see Guy Matthews and his furniture.
Guy Matthews Industrial is one of those shops that I pass frequently and never find the time to go in, so it was great to remedy it, and like a few of the shops we went to that day, the inside is not what you expect – what we found was lots of French and European antiques and posters. I could quite happily furnish my house with his beautiful things. He also had a ginger cat: always a good sign.
We could have wandered up Johnston to Nook Vintage but instead we walked back down Brunswick, taking in vintage and vintage-style shops as we went – Mozi was the first one, full of glorious stock with a vintage eye. I liked a vintage chair freshly covered in William Morris printed cotton.
Then we crossed the road and went into Out of the Closet, where we found a good selection of modern vintage (’70s-90s) with nice prices. I particularly liked their range of mens waistcoats. Nearby was Kami, another shop I had always wanted to go to but hadn’t – it’s full of beautiful stationery, many of it from Japan. Here’s a book I picked up for my notes…there were others with ladies on them, but the gentlemen were too hard to resist.
Continuing down Brunswick, we popped into Harry Wragg. Now I must admit to being put off HW due to the bold yellow and black crime scene tape. I wasn’t sure what we’d find inside so was pleasantly surprised to meet the friendly and glamourous Chelsea and a smallish array of well presented vintage and new accessories.
HW is positioned at the popular younger end of the vintage market and the shop had a good feel, once you got past that crime scene look. I also liked the neckaces they’d made out of old ties.
As a retailer, I love going into other shops and experiencing it as a customer: what do they get right, what can be improved on? My analytical approach means that sometimes I get treated like a mystery shopper (as happened in Karen Millen recently).
Chelsea at HW reminded me of what a difference a friendly face can make – as we went through all the shops, I realised that the ones I liked best were the ones where we were engaged by the sales staff. No one likes to feel like they’re being judged wanting by people who really, are there to help you buy things.
We couldn’t walk past one of my favourite shops, Zetta Florence (now that I had established that Christine liked nice stationery too). We were looking for rubber stamps, but couldn’t find the acorn design that was sought. The range of greeting cards and gift wrapping paper is exceptional and the shop is just a pleasure to be in.
A few doors down we found Vintage Sole that seem to specialise in shoes and the requisite cowboy boots – most of the shop was taken up by footwear. Like the other “modern vintage” shops, it had racks of cute ’80s and ’90s dresses.
Needing a little refreshment, Christine and I stopped for Italian mineral water at one of Melbourne’s best kept secrets: Sila Espresso Bar. Sila is run by Dom, the son of the original owner who opened it in 1959 and the decor hasn’t changed one bit. It’s like stepping back into old Fitzroy and I love it. The toasted sandwiches are great too, with lots of vegetarian options.
As we went down the street we came across a couple of shops that I haven’t managed to visit before: Alice and Co and Magic Lantern. Alice’s was a mystery but found to be full of beautiful prints from vintage childrens books. I rather liked the small fluffy white dog stretched out on a love seat with his tongue hanging out: life is hard for the puppy, apparently.
Magic Lantern was a treat: a wonderful and beautiful shop and I rather fancied the nice chap who ran it (good thing I’m married). I really liked his glasses too – his shop is like stepping into a mini-theatre with puppets and all kinds of visual treats.
A word about photography in shops: although we’re encouraged to view shops as public spaces, they’re actually private spaces created for the public to engage in and if you wish to take photos, it’s best to always ask permission first. Some shops are happy (like I am) but many prefer you not to, and this should be respected. The exterior is fair game of course.
Next stop was the biggest vintage clothing shop in the street – American Vintage, who have recently relocated from further up the road. Their new space is packed with well priced stock, especially cute ’80s dresses and menswear.
We waved at Meet Me at Mike’s (recently closed) and hit Gertrude Street at last – around to the right we visited Amor y Locura, full of colourful Mexican stock. I really love the gates and would like some for my home.
Oh dear, this post is getting quite long! It gives you an idea of how much we covered though: after Mandy’s shop we went to see Pene Durston at Cottage Industry – and then my little shop, Circa Vintage Clothing! Where we timed our visit exactly right to meet visiting Sydney Glamourpusses Michelle, Jesse and Tim.
I think it’s the first time I’ve properly appreciated the differences between my shop and most vintage clothing shops and why people say we have “real vintage” – you won’t find cut-down ’80s dresses or cowboy boots at Circa, but that’s okay – I’m very happy for the other shops to do their thing. That’s what I love about vintage clothing shops, we all reflect our personalities into our shops and you find some very interesting people running and owning vintage clothing shops.
You can imagine by this time we were running out of time – trawling Fitzroy shops is a very pleasant way to spend time – so we hurried down to Third Drawer Down and Industria and caught a tram into the city for afternoon tea at the Windsor and more shops, including the thriving and exciting hub of Curtin House (Bul and Metropolis were my favourites) and the Nicholas Building with l’Uccello (a must if you love beautiful things) and the incredible Anno Domini where we had a bit of mutual shop appreciation.
Next up…part two of our fabulous day when we were in the front row for Dita von Teese’s Von Follies parade at the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival!