The detail in retail: in praise of bricks and mortar shops. By Lara Picone
Is the specialty shop back in style? For Lara Picone, the high street retains endless appeal. Here she delves into the philosophy of shopping and shares some of her favourite local stores
Despite our comprehensive addiction to convenience at the tap of a screen, deep down we humans are tactile creatures. We enjoy running our fingers along fabrics and holding a garment up against ourselves as we contemplate its ability to enhance our style. We relish the interaction with fellow humans as we browse for nothing in particular. Sure, we’re also deer in the blue-hued headlights of online shopping binges and perpetually on-sale chains, but bricks-and-mortar stores still hold an undeniable allure.
Since its rather clunky inception in the early ’90s, e-commerce has swiftly become retail's sophisticated, indispensable revenue stream, and it’s set to become the biggest retail channel in the world by 2021, according to Forbes. If you’re not online, you’re not anybody, goes the sales pitch. Many have decried the rise of e-tail as the harbinger of doom for IRL (in-real-life) shops.
But rather than signalling the end, e-commerce, malls, and fast-fashion stores in fact heralded a period of (sometimes shaky) transformation for the local shop. Stores had to up their games. And now we’re seeing boutiques that are as experiential as they are beautiful. Retail interior design and styling has become a source of inspiration, not merely function, and the collections are superbly curated to catch even the most sales-weary eye.
“There is amazing power in merchandising and keeping your store looking fresh. We spend a lot of time ensuring our store is constantly evolving,” says Jennifer Jones of Bondi’s Jones & Co, which sells upbeat homewares made by skilled artisans from its atelier-style shop. “Customers love to hold and feel the product,” she adds. “We encourage everyone to pick up every piece that speaks to them.”
Ainslie Curran, owner of Paddington’s eclectic LoveDuck, says it’s her deliberate selection of unique products and a high level of service that keeps customers coming back. “It’s about surprising and delighting, and unique service. You don’t find that at many malls,” says Curran, adding that LoveDuck is growing every month and she can’t wait to expand.
Jennifer Jones agrees that service is what makes traditional retail standout, “You need to provide more than just the products. It goes down to the minute details. We go the extra mile in creating the best customer experience. We know most of our customers by name and we also know their kids and their dogs, too.”
Echoing Curran’s assertion that a unique offering is key, elegant, tailored boutiques have been flourishing once again. Some are new, and some have surfed the tidal wave of malls and e-tail to glide ashore intact, but all offer a refreshingly edited alternative to the exhaustive scrolling through the infinite options online. We check out a few in our neighbourhoods.
If it’s on-trend, it’s at Tuchuzy. This Bondi stalwart is a one-stop shop for cool-girl essentials, dressing the fashion-forward for years with labels such as Rag & Bone, Bassike, Faithfull, and their own brand of current staples, Chosen. tuchuzy.com
Playa by Lucy Folk
With its musk stick-pink interiors, this Bondi store could pass as a sweet shop at first glance. But inside you’ll find treats in the form of its namesake designer’s whimsical and playful pieces in both jewellery and accessories. lucyfolk.com
Ainslie Curran applies her stylists’ eye when selecting an eclectic range of fashions for her curated collections in two locations — Bronte and Paddington. Find luxe an quirky brands ranging from Miss June Paris to Spell & the Gypsy Collective and a lineup of gorgeous and whimsical pieces that you won’t find together in one place anywhere else in the world. loveduck.com.au
Bondi Wash, based on Australia’s native botanicals, is free from nasties, beautifully packaged, and affordable enough for a bit of everyday luxury. The bottle-lined retails stores in Bondi and Paddington are fragrant, serene nods to the ritual of self care. bondiwash.com.au
Parlour X’s home in an historic gothic-style sandstone church is indeed a place of worship for fashion fans who come to pay homage to high-end designers such as Isabel Marant, Chloé, Loewe, Celine and Valentino. Keep an eye out for their sales, when you can pick up a very good buy. parlourx.com
The original Surry Hills boutique now has outposts at both Paddington and Barangaroo featuring everything from fashion to bedding, homewares and skincare. Be warned: it’s hard to leave this elegantly curated store empty-handed. collectorstore.com.au
The muted tones, natural textures, and minimal embellishment of MCM House’s collection encapsulates the type of laidback luxe style we all hope to emulate in our own homes. Come for a standout piece to finish a room or deck out your whole abode in MCM’s cool, casual aesthetic. mcmhouse.com
Take Scandinavian minimalism to the next level and admire the Danes’ exquisite craftsmanship at this inspiring Paddington store. The classic Nordic silhouettes and materials that inform the furniture, lighting, and homewares here bring a sense of calm and order. It’s all very hygge. greatdanefurniture.com
This beautiful little store dedicated to all things paper — from print magazines to journals, greeting cards and notebooks — is an open invitation to browsing and reconnecting with a pre-digital life. journals.net.au
The floristry talents of Saskia Havekes has made this diminutive Potts Point boutique a cult favourite for artisan bouquets. Blooms spill out onto the Macleay Street footpath in what is always a pretty evocation of Paris. grandiflora.net
Shipments of antiques arrive regularly from France, making Parterre is the place to go for covetable one-off pieces, but also for the contemporary furnishings with which to style them. This Woollahra icon of three decades standing proves the immersive experience of a bricks-and-mortar store is still sought-after. parterre.com.au
Jones & Co
Jennifer Jones does a great line in gorgeous at this cute-as-a button Jacques Avenue, Bondi, outlet. Pop in for conversation or the occasional class and pick up some feel-good ceramics and other homewares you won’t find elsewhere.
Beware of stepping into this cosily lit Bondi Junction bookstore, for it may be a few hours before you emerge. Harry Hartog’s beautiful selection of books will ignite a love of reading in anyone. The scent of paper promises adventures untold, all awaiting discovery. harryhartog.com.au