The concept of designers selling merchandise to consumers straight off the catwalk has fascinated the fashion industry for the past three years. Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger are among many brands to have tried the idea, with mixed results. Melbourne was 23 years ahead of the curve on the idea, which is often referred to as “see now, buy now”. Australian Vogue fashion editor shares her must-have outfits and jewellery After Australian Fashion Week launched in Sydney in May 1996 as a trade showcase of Australian Spring collections, the country’s second biggest city fired back in March the following year with an in-season winter merchandise event called the Melbourne Fashion Festival. Now the largest consumer fashion festival in Australia, attracting over 100,000 people each year, the 2019 edition of the festival runs from March 1-10 and will showcase the work of 147 fashion designers. The event consists of a core programme of 12 ticketed catwalk shows at the event’s central hub – currently the historic Royal Exhibition Building – alongside a plethora of other events across the city, showcasing Australian and international brands. Highlights for 2019 include the opening Gala Runway show on March 4 that is dedicated to veteran Australian designer Carla Zampatti and the inaugural Australian Fashion Summit on March 8. Guest speakers for the latter include Global Fashion Exchange founder Patrick Duffy, American plus-size supermodel Ashley Graham and blogger Peter Xu. Beyond the festival’s various experiments with shop-the-runway e-commerce apps and an on-site pop-up boutique, retailers across the city have reported significant sales spikes throughout the festival. Like Sydney, Brisbane and Perth , Melbourne has also been undergoing a multibillion-dollar development boom, which has seen a plethora of new retail developments that have been snapped up by the international fashion brands who have arrived in Australian since 2011. Here’s a quick guide to Melbourne’s can’t-miss retail locations. Collins Street “The Paris end of Collins Street” is Australian code for the major Melbourne city artery that stretches 3km (2 miles) east from the Docklands industrial redevelopment all the way up to Parliament House. The name originally stemmed from the once vibrant artist community that congregated there in the first half of the 20th century. Today Collins Street is Melbourne’s most sought-after retail location. Its leafy top end, lined with heritage buildings, is home to large flagship stores of, among others, Louis Vuitton (139), Prada (77), Tiffany & Co (267), Versace (2/161), Gucci (1/161), Cartier (90), Burberry (257), Bottega Veneta (161), Longines (256) and Fendi (85). Also there are local luxury purveyors such as Hardy Brothers Jewellers (338) and the Harrolds emporium (101), which sells some 70 brands, including Tom Ford, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Balmain, Brioni, Alexander McQueen and Thom Browne. At No. 14 you’ll find the latest incarnation of Melbourne accessories buyer Christine Barro’s iconic accessories boutique Christine. The wider Collins Street Precinct includes historic arcades and new developments, including the 127-year-old Block Arcade (282), Collins234 (234) and St Collins Lane (260), the latter home to the first Australian flagship outlet of UK department store chain Debenhams, plus French brands The Kooples and Zadig & Voltaire, TAG Heuer, Coach and Lacoste. Then there is Flinders Lane. Boutiques of note that are nestled among the strip’s hip bars and restaurants include Chanel’s Melbourne flagship (140) and one of Australian beauty retailer Aesop’s most photogenic stores (1c/268). City centre Linking Swanston and Elizabeth Streets and anchored by the Melbourne flagship stores of Australian department stores David Jones and Myer, Bourke Street Mall is the beating heart of Melbourne shopping. Its many retailers include Zara (284-292), Australian fast fashion chain Sportsgirl (283), Pandora (280-282), Swarovski (276-278) and Australian pharmacy chain Priceline (Shop 108-112 & 125 Centrepoint Building), a treasure trove of niche beauty brands which has become a go-to for beauty junkies. Nearby malls include Melbourne’s GPO (corner of Bourke Street Mall and Elizabeth Street), a former post office, which is now home to one of H&M’s largest global stores. There is also Melbourne Central (corner of Latrobe and Swanston), whose retailers include Sephora, Innisfree and Australia’s 2XU, Cotton On, Country Road, sass & bide and Scanlan Theodore. Head to QV Melbourne (corner of Lonsdale and Swanston) for Aesop, Zimmerman, Hype DC for sneakers, Incu and Off-White. The new Emporium Melbourne (287 Lonsdale), meanwhile, has stores for Mulberry, Uniqlo and a score of Australian brands, including Alice McCall, Bassike, Calibre, Camilla, camilla + marc, Dion Lee, Jac + Jack, RM Williams, Scanlan Theodore, sass & bide, Zimmermann and beauty emporium Mecca Cosmetica. Mega malls Already home to Australia’s largest shopping mall – Chadstone – Melbourne will be home to to five of the country’s six biggest shopping malls, once planned upgrades to Westfields Knox and Doncaster and GPT Group’s Highpoint are completed. Located 17km southeast of the city centre, the 190,000 square metre (2 million square foot) Chadstone Shopping Centre claims to be the largest shopping centre in the southern hemisphere. Following a spectacular A$660 million (US$467 million) upgrade, which was completed in 2016, the centre also boasts one of the highest concentrations of luxury brands in Australia, after Sydney’s Castlereagh Street. Among its 550 stores are David Jones and Myer department stores, a score of Australian designer labels, and 35 luxury brands. The latter include Balenciaga, Burberry, Chanel, Celine, Dior, Fendi, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent, Valentino and Australian luxury sneaker emporium Sneakerboy . The centre’s extensive beauty offer includes Innisfree, Sephora and Australia’s Aesop, Jurlique, Mecca Cosmetic and Mecca Maxima. Why Kanye West, Virgil Abloh work with these Australian fashion creatives Chapel Street Once one of the trendiest shopping strips in Australia, Chapel Street fell from grace in the 1990s after large retailers moved in, prompting rent rises and the inevitable exodus of many small independents. A renaissance looks to be under way for this shopping strip in the Melbourne suburb of South Yarra. Canadian beauty company Deciem opened its first Australian boutique on Chapel Street in 2016 (513) and Melbourne brand Nique, now under new management by Hong Kong-based L Industries Ltd, with a new creative director, Nadia Jones – sister of Dior men’s artistic director Kim Jones – opened its first new-look store there, the brand’s ninth store, in October (201). Nique joins other top Australian fashion and accessories brands such as Scanlan Theodore (566), Gorman (561) and Dinosaur Designs (562). Other key destinations include the fabulous Chapel Street Bazaar (217), for vintage clothing, jewellery, furniture, books and toys, stationer Handworks Nouveau Paperie (244) and homewares store Lounge Lovers (507). At the Prahran end of Chapel Street, adjacent Greville Street is home to quirky indie boutiques such as FOOL Clothing (118), which is known for its psychedelic hand knits, Das T-shirt Automat (127) and Lunar Store for homewares and accessories (2/127). Fitzroy, Collingwood, and Brunswick Melbourne’s very first suburb, established in 1839, Fitzroy and the adjacent Collingwood are the city’s alternative-fashion epicentre. Head there for ultra cool cafes, op shops, art galleries, vintage stores, and second-hand bookshops. The many fashion boutiques of the suburb’s main drag of Brunswick Street include Arnsdorf (229), Hunter Gatherer (274), Kloke (270) and Doomsday streetwear (195A). Stores on neighbouring Gertrude Street include Mud Australia homewares (181), Pickings & Parry workwear (3/166), Obus (226), Cottage Industry (67), Rose Chong Costumiers (218) and Aesop (242). The latter’s global headquarters are in Collingwood, on Smith Street (25), where you will also find homewares and accessories store Happy Valley Shop (294), Vintage Garage (318) and Double Monk men’s shoes (53). Not to be confused with Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, the suburb of Brunswick, around 4km away, is another indie retail mecca, notably Sydney Road, whose many stores include consignment stores and op shops such as Recycle Boutique (127), Savers (330) and The Salvation Army (828), along with fashion boutiques such as Kinki Gerlinki (250), Tiny Dancer (56), Chitra’s Closet (97), Vicious Venus (155), Dejour Jeans (542) and jewellery and accessories boutique Arbor Brunswick (12/459). High Street, Armadale Located 7km southeast of Melbourne’s central business district and once a quiet retail strip lined with cafes, antique stores and bridal boutiques, High Street Armadale has blossomed into a bustling new Melbourne fashion mecca. Lured initially by attractive rents, Australian designers have flocked to the strip in recent years, and have latterly been joined by international brands such as Acne Studios (1065), Canada’s The New Trend (1038) and COS (1055). Asian Australians’ personalised leather accessories start-up a huge hit High Street’s roll-call of independent Australian fashion retail includes Dion Lee (1052), Carla Zampatti (1106), Camilla and Marc (1067), Ginger & Smart (1041), Jac + Jack (1021), Lee Matthews (1046), Leona Edmiston (1091), Scanlan Theodore (1063), Zimmermann (1027–1029) and Thurley (1080). The strip’s beauty offerings include Mecca Cosmetica (1048–1050), the Paragon Studio barber shop (911) and Missy Lui’s Nail Salon (1/1161), which specialises in organic products. Homewares stores include Charlie & Fenton (7/974-98) and Rose St Trading Co. (1036).