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Pillow talks to local icons

DESIGNER Lisa Poulier always wanted to buy an original tram destination scroll, but she kept missing out when they were listed on eBay. They sell for thousands of dollars.

DESIGNER Lisa Poulier always wanted to buy an original tram destination scroll, but she kept missing out when they were listed on eBay. They sell for thousands of dollars.

So her husband Mark Poulier, a graphic designer, made her a scroll of her own, with his own customised fonts, based on the W-Class tram routes trundling through Kew circa 1960.

"Then he said, hey, why don't we put it on a tea towel?" she remembers.

That was three years ago. Now they print eight different tram scrolls and two bus routes on towels, cards and screen prints. "People want their own route," said Ms Poulier, "they have their own memories attached to it."

Melbourne has proved both home and muse to the city's designers, many of whom are now producing Melbourne-themed products. While the souvenir shops of Swanston Street still sell Arts Centre spire key chains, the new wave of Melbourne design celebrates the city in a more subtle way, using tram lines and bicycles, neon signs and Melway maps as inspiration. Able and Game's stationery celebrates suburban train platforms with references only a local could love: "I'd go to Zone Two for you."

Down a bluestone lane and up a flight of stairs, a pop-up temporary shop at the rear of 126 Franklin Street just launched by local designers celebrates the city's designer mementoes in a Victorian warehouse. Called Melbournalia, it stocks everything from Ink and Spindle tram-print baby clothes to Melway lampshades from Spaced to Mattt's Hoddle city grid laptop bags.

Next week, a second branch opens in a coffee shop/barber down another lane, Somerset Place. The Melbournalia parlour opens in the Nicholas Building on December 1, and the final outlet appears a week later in an Exploration Lane cafe. Then at Christmas, it all disappears.

"We wanted people to have an encounter that speaks of the city," said Alasdair MacKinnon, one of the organisers. He's from Otto and Spike, the Brunswick knitwear company that made its name by weaving Lygon Street signage into the design for an extra-long, footy-style scarf.

Many customers wanted Melbourne-themed Christmas presents for friends and family far away, Mr MacKinnon said. That's why the shop offers Melbourne-themed wrapping and postage. "We just thought we'd put all the products in one place, and then we package it and send it away," said Mr MacKinnon.

"People like to take little bits out of everyday life and make it special," says Jenny Sinclair, author of What We Think About Melbourne, a meditation on the city's x-factor published by local micro-publisher Affirm. "Plus, they're often great artists and they're having fun with it."

In-jokes and local references make products more appealing to locals. "It shows we're in the know, it's like a secret code you can wear on your handbag."


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