There’s the giant window displays of Collins Street’s Paris End, and then there’s the tiny cobbled back alley’s where local artisans sit in studios plying centuries-old crafts for modern Melburnians.
They may garner international acclaim and clientele to match, yet in many ways, remain the city’s best-kept secrets.
Read on to delve into the world of the bespoke and custom designed, at Melbourne’s best by-appointment-only businesses:
A visit to vegan taxidermist and jeweller Julia deVille’s private studio and showroom, or “Subaqueous Locutorium”, is a surreal experience in itself. You’ll feel like you’ve gone down the rabbit hole and emerged in a darkly wondrous, antiquated realm where horses heads jut from walls, stuffed birds and animals stand eerily lifelike, and chain-mail armour and jewels gleam from nooks and shelves.
Julia draws upon Renaissance, Baroque, and Victorian art ideals to create contemporary memento mori. All of the creatures used in her taxidermy work have died a natural death, and have appeared in exhibitions internationally and in Australia.
Trained in traditional gold and silversmithing techniques, Julia’s timeless and striking designs are increasingly in demand by those looking for bespoke wedding and engagement rings.
“My engagement rings are miniature sculptures, intended to last the test of time. I craft them from enduring materials, balancing physical hardness with fluxing asymmetrical forms,” she says.
She’s designed headwear for everyone from Kate Upton to Liza Minnelli, and milliner Melissa Jackson has built an international reputation thanks to her distinctively modern and colourful style.
A graduate of London’s renowned Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, Melissa’s pieces can be seen atop Melbourne’s most fashionable racegoers come spring.
Her work can also be viewed in the textile collection at the National Gallery of Victoria.
- 1st Floor, 195 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
- 9415 8836
From BBC television’s beloved Pride and Prejudice series to the Melbourne Cup, milliner Louise Macdonald’s hats have adorned many a fabulous face. A stalwart of the Melbourne millinery scene, Louise has built a reputation for her free-form sculptural style, quality and fine finish.
Make an appointment to visit Louise at her studio in the Nicholas Building, where she first opened her business in 1995. She also runs regular short courses for those wishing to learn how to make their own one-of-a-kind headpiece. Louise’s ready-to-wear collection can be bought online.
Carl Nave – Individually Tailored
Carl Nave has built a reputation among Melbourne gentlemen-about-town for his well-cut suits. It’s all about catering to individual needs, from the first consultation where Carl will discuss different styles to the seasonal collection of fabrics that are handpicked from only the most reputable textile mills.
The fitting takes about 30 to 45 minutes, and the suit will be completed after about four to six weeks.
- Suite 2B, 190 Bourke Street, Melbourne.
- 9972 3173
Ross Wootten began making bespoke footwear in the early 1970s, and 40 years on the family trade is carried on by his son, Wootten head-cordwainer Jess Cameron-Wootten.
While Wootten also offer a range of ready-to-wear handmade footwear and leathergoods, it’s their bespoke service that adds a sprinkling of magic to your step. Clientele must come into the Wootten Workshop for measuring and a one-on-one consultation with Jess, and custom shoes start at $750 and boots $900.
- 20 Grattan Street, Prahran.
- 9510 6503
Brendan Dwyer Custom
Master shoemaker Brendan Dwyer has built a dedicated and loyal fanbase, taking care of the bespoke footwear needs of Melburnians for more than two decades. Brendan operates out of Melbourne artists’ warren the Nicholas Building, and it’s not unusual for the craftsman to spend up to four months on a pair of shoes, using an eclectic variety of leathers, from kangaroo to ostrich.
- Room 307, Nicholas Building, 37 Swanston Street, Melbourne.
- 0411 676 572
A commitment to individuality and classic design principles is foremost for Melbourne fashion designer Kara Baker, who creates each and every garment at her salon on Bourke Street. Her couture collections are available to view by appointment only, and each piece is made to measure for individual clients using specially sourced fabrics. Prices start from $295.
- Floor 1, 414 Bourke Street, Melbourne.
- 9670 7787