Melbourne's independent retail scene is a thriving world of creative young entrepreneurs, selling the things they love in shops with attitude before it becomes fashionable. Former film industry set dresser Lucy Feagins has been documenting this world since 2008 in her blog The Design Files. Melbourne Life asked Feagins to name four of Melbourne's best indie retailers and explain why.
33 Peel Street
MELBOURNE'S newest retail hot spot is Epatant French for "splendid". There's something uniquely Melbourne about its eclectic offerings, slightly random location and the vast industrial space it shares with super-cool new cafe Mina-no-ie.
Many shops claim to curate the best in each category at Epatant you can believe it.
The store showcases an unusual range of products for men across categories such as cycling, grooming, stationery and "seduction". From Cutler and Gross eyewear to leather accessories from cult Spanish label Isaac Reina, to the white T-shirts from Britain and cotton underwear from Germany.
The icing on the cake is when your package is deftly wrapped and respectfully handed to you with both hands in a way familiar to visitors to Japan.
Epatant is a joint venture between Aesop's Dennis Paphitis and Lachlan Smeeton (above).
2/155 Greville Street
EVERY city has those aficionados who, simply by doing what they love and what they know well, seem to create an unlikely cultural hub, dedicated to their passion. This, of course, attracts like-minded people like some kind of electromagnet.
Malachi Moxon is one such character. His beautiful but distinctly unpretentious little store in Prahran has a loyal following among Melbourne cyclists. Here Moxon stocks a serious high-end range of cycling clothes, including cult British cycling label Rapha, accessories, men's skin care and vintage cycling ephemera.
Moxon is a passionate cyclist, having raced at a semi-professional level for most of his life. Born in North Yorkshire, Britain, he got his first bike at age four. "That's where it started," he said. "For me it was freedom. It allowed me to go on adventures, and that's still happening today."
Moxon is still racing at a high level in Melbourne and nationally. He has never driven a car. No great loss, he reckons: "I don't have a licence, and I am 50, so I figure I can get through without one now!"
157 Gertrude Street
DAGMAR Rousset is the alter ego of Melbourne-born French teacher Julia Pound (above). It's also the name of Pound's wonderful shop on Gertrude Street, which opened in December 2010.
By day, the shop sells a quirky collection of riotously colourful knitwear, Japanese socks and handcrafted jewellery and by night becomes a French classroom.
Four nights a week, the store's central table is carefully cleared of product, and here, among the clothing racks, students gather to practise their French.
Much of Pound's collection of goods is unavailable elsewhere in Melbourne. Cult New York label ALL Knitwear is represented, alongside clothing by Eley Kishimoto of London, socks from Japanese brand Ayame, and local handcrafted accessories.
As with so many of Melbourne's most interesting independent retailers, a big part of this store's unique appeal is Pound herself. A self-confessed novice with no previous experience in retail, she says she simply makes it up as she goes along. She could be on to something.
345 Lygon Street
FIVE Boroughs stocks a tightly curated range of beautifully designed and locally made objects. There is a real sense of community and history here. Owner Alasdair MacKinnon (above), also a designer and manufacturing consultant, said: 'The store is sustained by artisans and small manufacturers that epitomise Brunswick's transformation from a hub of textile manufacturing to a creative community."
What Five Boroughs really specialises in is telling stories MacKinnon will passionately talk about the brands he represents: custom storage trunks from Ballarat-based Trunk and Orderly, vintage sunglasses from specialist restorer Jim Spencer, and high-quality handcrafted leather goods by local label Solid Pleasures.
The inevitable chit-chat that ensues isn't a sales pitch it's good old-fashioned product knowledge, and a genuine enthusiasm for the stories behind these locally designed wares.