When it comes to fashion shopping, Melbourne takes no prisoners.
From glitzy city department stores, mega-malls and fashionable strips, to second-hand stores, vintage salons and outlet malls, the city offers an exciting, and at times bewildering array of retail therapy options. While the locals may be renowned for their love of wearing black, nowhere else in the country comes close to offering the same on-trend gamut of cutting-edge design and colour.
Shop ’til you drop with our Ultimate Melbourne Shopping Guide.
The Melbourne CBD has several swish fashion hubs that bring many of your favourite labels and designers together in one convenient location. The glittering multi-level Emporium is one of the newest options and with more than 200 boutiques to browse in, it will keep you busy for hours.
Other options of note include the slightly ‘streetier’ Melbourne Central (which has the added convenience of a railway station beneath it), and Melbourne’s GPO — home to major tenant H&M and a select line-up of satellite retailers. The 19th century building itself is stunning. Seek coffee sustenance down Postal Lane.
Melbourne’s GPO is located on the largely pedestrianised (but shared with the city’s trams, so remember to look left, right, and left again!) Bourke Street Mall. While they’ve downsized in recent years, Myer’s and David Jones’ flagship stores are located here and continue to jostle with each other for retail relevance.
A five-minute meander from the mall will bring you to Collins Street. North of Swanston Street is known as the ‘Paris End’ of Collins — and the prices may well have you uttering sacré bleu. Uber-exclusive fashion brands, jewellers, watchmakers and everything fancy-schmancy has a presence here.
Strip shopping doesn’t end in the city. Suburbs Malvern and Toorak are renowned for high end independent designers, and Brunswick and Fitzroy for eclectic streetwear and vintage. Village shopping precincts like Yarraville and Williamstown also have something special to offer the intrepid shopper.
We’ve talked malls, but this one is in a league of its own. Fashionistas flock to Chadstone (‘Chaddy’, as the locals call it) in Melbourne’s southeast. It’s the largest shopping centre in the entire country, possibly the Southern Hemisphere, and a veritable smorgasbord of retail resplendence. Chadstone bills itself as ‘The Fashion Capital’ and is home to bag loads of big-name fashion labels and chain stores. There’s a free shuttle bus from Federation Square to get you there and back.
Next to Chadstone, a visit to Chapel Street is another rite of passage for shopaholics visiting Melbourne. It’s roughly 3.5 kilometres long and separated into distinct precincts — starting with the vintage sprawl of Windsor at one end, and the high-end boutiques of South Yarra at the other. If your Melbourne fashion enlightenment doesn’t happen here, it won’t happen anywhere!
Encompassing the effortless creative vibe of Gertrude Street, the super-grunge of Smith Street, and the ‘bitza’ that is Brunswick Street (you’ll find a bit of everything here), Fitzroy is the kingdom of cool when it comes to pre-loved treasures, cutting edge local designers, art and homewares. It’s also home to Rose Street Market, which showcases the city’s emerging makers-by-hand, artisans and left-of-centre creatives.
We touched on vintage, but it deserves a more than fleeting mention. The fact is Melbourne is a fashion time capsule for those who know where to look. Whether your passion is glam 1920s frocks or funky 1970s flares, you’ll find them in spades in Windsor, Smith Street (Fitzroy/Collingwood), Sydney Road in Brunswick, and even in the city. Must-visit stores include fabulous RetroStar Vintage Clothing in the CBD and psychedelic stalwart Shag in Windsor.
If you happen to be in town on a Sunday, it’s also worth pulling on your platform sneakers and trekking out to the Camberwell Sunday Market to rummage for designer pieces from yesteryear.
Speaking of markets — she’s no high fashion plate, but the Queen Victoria Market has been an indelible and much-loved feature of Melbourne’s retail landscape since 1878. Referred to locally as simply the ‘Vic Markets’, you’ll find fresh produce, smallgoods, homewares, casual wear, shoes, jewellery and souvenirs on offer. Slam down a legendary hot jam donut from The American Doughnut Kitchen if you feel your energy flagging.
Outlet shopping (where one-offs, end of season lines, and odds and sods are sold off by retailers at big discounts) is huge in Melbourne, but there’s outlet shopping — and there’s outlet shopping. For many it begins and ends at the city’s three DFOs, but you may get the feeling that you’re actually just being marketed to with slightly cheaper standard stock. Hidden down nondescript laneways and behind random garage doors in the inner-city suburbs is where you’ll snare the really juicy buys.
For the visiting bargain hunter, finding some of these outlets is nigh on impossible on your own, so book an outlet shopping tour and let an expert lead you to retail nirvana. Fashion, accessories, jewellery, leather, and of course, shoes, shoes and more shoes are all on offer.
While a personal stylist is regarded as standard issue for celebs, many of us mere mortals are now turning to a professional to transform our weary wardrobes. And a stylist can help you get much more from your time in Melbourne. Chat to head stylist Simone Thorpe at Style with Soul. From hip hop to high couture, you’ll be matched up with a professional stylist proficient in your chosen look and introduced to a hand-picked selection of boutiques and salons.
What’s a good list of tips without at least one semi-secret? No Order Market in the CBD is a magnet for those in the know who don’t mind shelling out for first go at the latest avant-garde designer wear. The fact that this design hub really is a bit of a secret (it’s hidden away up a flight of stairs off Elizabeth Street) just adds to the experience!
Do you have any tips to add to our Ultimate Melbourne Shopping Guide? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
Julietta Henderson is a Melbourne-based travel and feature writer. Originally planning to visit London for six months, she ended up staying for ten years and now divides her time between her home in Australia and several months of the year in the UK, Italy and France. Julietta has travelled extensively through Europe, North America, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia and Russia, and believes the keys to a great travel experience are an open heart, an open mind and an open-ended ticket.
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.