For decades it was Melbourne's seediest neighbourhood-on-sea, but nowadays St Kilda showcases some of the most unusual bohemian and small-label designer products in Victoria - side by side with a fair dollop of tourist kitsch.
Visit on a Sunday, when the beach and esplanade are buzzing and outdoor tables are packed in the cafes that line Acland and Fitzroy streets, the neighbourhood's liveliest thoroughfares. Sunday is also the only day two markets are set up, both in full swing by 10am and closed at about 5pm. St Kilda Sunday Market runs the length of The Esplanade, a road set back from the beach, and sells everything from craft products to mass-produced boomerangs. Highlights here include Melbourne-made snazzy satchels and handbags, plus photo albums made of plastic billboard posters, tyre inner tubes and obsolete car number plates, all from Urban Boomerang (www.urbanboomerang.com).
Arty black and white prints of St Kilda and Melbourne are all the rage at Matt Irwin Photography (www.mattirwin.com), while you'll find handmade glass pendants (A$50 or $300) at Samantha Abbott's Glass Studio (e-mail: [email protected]) and handmade silver and gold jewellery at Mary Young Jewellery (tel: 61 3 1853 5947). Fun leather pet collars and leads can be found at What's On Necks (16 The Esplanade, tel: 61 3 9459 9458), from A$15.
The Living Art Market (St Kilda Primary School, Brighton Road; www.livingartmarket.com.au) sees local designers showcase their fashion and homeware alongside organic food stalls.
Contrasts abound in this period of gentrification. Dollhouse (23 Carlisle Street, tel: 61 3 9525 3520) hosts up-and-coming Australian fashion designers that might not get into boutiques in other parts of the country. The small shop stocks womenswear and accessories from Victoria, South and Western Australia, including ceramic earrings and broaches depicting traditional European tea sets (A$20), and boldly printed and embroidered Method label T-shirts (A$110). A few doors away, a more permanent memento can be had at Voodoo (27 Carlisle Street, tel: 61 3 9593 9066), which specialises in gothic tattoos and body piercing.
On the edge of St Kilda's northwest periphery is Eclectic (155 Chapel Street, tel: 61 3 9534 1920), which sells new and second-hand records, CDs and music-related paraphernalia from posters to toys.
Back in the thick of things, between Acland Street's bakeries and cafes is a variety of cool vendors. Home & Co (132 Acland Street, tel: 61 3 9534 1244) has a striking range of Australian home accessories, stylish toys and designer babywear, while Origen (72 Acland Street, tel: 61 3 9593 6566) displays Southeast Asian and South American silver jewellery and clothing in handmade fabrics. Follow the scent of incense to one of St Kilda's original hippie outfitters, Chakra (179 Acland Street, tel: 61 3 9521 6322), where Buddhist and Hindu figurines abound and clothing, bags and cushions range from Indonesian batik to Indian mirror and embroidery combos.
Around the corner on the seafront, opposite the amusements of Luna Park, is an unmarked artists' workshop block. From here, Teresa Lane (30 The Esplanade, tel: 61 4 1594 2991; e-mail: [email protected]) sells handmade steel, silver and enamel jewellery (from A$70). She also holds one-day silversmith classes in which, she says, a novice can easily make a ring.
At the end of the day, catch a live band at the raucous Esplanade Hotel (11 Upper Esplanade, tel:
61 3 9534 0211) or watch the sun set behind the many masts moored at the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron from the more sedate
St Moritz Bar at a table on the terrace of Novotel St Kilda (16 The Esplanade, tel: 61 3 9525 5678).