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The Melbourne guide on where to find minimalist cool style

  • The Australian city is a street-style hot-spot and home to some of the country’s more original fashion labels
  • Discover how brands such as Alpha60, Et Al, Bassike and more are bringing emerging designers to the fore

The interiors of the Chapter House outpost of Alpha60; and an outfit by Alpha60.
The interiors of the Chapter House outpost of Alpha60; and an outfit by Alpha60.

Can shopping be a spiritual experience? You might come close at Melbourne-based fashion brand Alpha60’s Chapter House outpost, a store inside a 19th century parish hall. Located in Flinders Lane, one of the city’s buzziest neighbourhoods, the store is a stylish reinvention of the historical building’s second-level loft. Rows of mannequins clad in the season’s chic separates offset the vaulted ceilings, stained-glass windows, and an unmissable holographic goldfish swimming across the panelled walls. This is a place to shop, but designed as a concept store to browse and admire. Alex Cleary, co-founder of the store, says, “It feels like a luxury store, but we wanted to make it an experience."

Founded by Alex and his sister Georgie in 2005, Alpha60 is one of the most prominent labels to have emerged in Melbourne. The Chapter House store, one of many sprinkled across the city, is a showstopper in itself but the clothes live up to the setting. Bringing together diverse aesthetics, the boxy dresses and blouses, roomy yet structured trousers and culottes, cosy outerwear and a small selection of accessories are distinctive in cut and tailoring. The colour palette is understated—shades of grey, black, navy, olive, white—punctuated with an occasional bright hue, stripes, checks, a hint of print and delicate detail. Every item can be worn on its own or paired in various ways and the inspirations are diverse, from athleisure and loungewear to back-to-school and anti-fit.

Every item at The Chapter House can be worn on its own or paired in various ways
Every item at The Chapter House can be worn on its own or paired in various ways

According to Georgie, it is a deliberate strategy reflective of the city and its lifestyle choices. “We are having a conversation with Melbourne," she says. “I think people here love getting up in the morning and going for a look for the whole day and into the night. They might have a dinner or an opening, and they just have one outfit. It’s a practical way of dressing, and you are prepared for anything."

Melbourne is often hailed as Australia’s fashion capital, and a week in the city shows me why. There are clusters of luxury ateliers—such as Gucci and Chanel—situated minutes away from a local indie store or the famed historical arcades. Black is perennially trending in Melbourne, and you see the colour in every avatar—sporty, punk, preppy and ladylike. There’s an abiding love for monochrome and minimalist patterns—elevated with accessories—and the Melbournian flair for layering brings to mind the Scandinavian aesthetic.

Try the online stores of these Australian brands
Try the online stores of these Australian brands

Home-grown fashion labels reflect this distinctive minimalist flair. Apart from Alpha60, Flinders Lane is also home to labels like Et Al, known for its amorphous, draped tailoring, and Incu, which offers a mix of international brands and in-house designs. A few minutes’ walk from Flinders Lane will take you to the popular Emporium Melbourne mall, where you will find Australian brands like Bassike, Somedays, Skin & Threads and the cult favourite beauty label Aesop. Monk House Design is tucked away in a corner of Driver Lane outside the mall, offering an edit of local labels. A guided walk is a great way to find these retail destinations—try tour agency Hidden Secrets’ Lanes and Arcades walk, which highlights local designers and speciality stores across the central business district.

Not far from the main business district, Fitzroy is another charming neighbourhood dotted with stellar fashion stores such as Assembly Label, Kloke, Arnsdorf and Handsom. You will also find a number of vintage stores across the area, none more prominent than Hunter Gatherer.

On weekends, Fitzroy also hosts The Rose St. Artists’ Market, a pop-up space for local artisans and designers to showcase their handmade creations. Expect to see a mix of vacation-ready and avant-garde clothing, jewellery made from metals, ceramics, wood and other alternative material as well as decorative items, edibles and other knick-knacks. It’s a great spot to visit and discover indie brands, even if you astoundingly manage to leave without buying a thing.

Melbourne, say the Cleary siblings, is a thriving incubator for emerging designers. “It’s a place that encourages creativity and has opportunities for people to start up," says Alex. These brands may be rooted in Australia, and still flying under the radar in global fashion, but their design sensibilities could work anywhere in the world, from Sweden to India.

The writer was in Melbourne at the invitation of Tourism Australia.

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