Boutiques may come and go, but Fitzroy’s Gertrude Street is set to lose one of its enduring icons in 2024: an outfitter to rockstars, burlesque performers, drag queens and mistresses of chaos alike.

For the past 13 years, performance artist, musician and fashion designer Alice Edgeley’s eponymous boutique has held court alongside Rose Chong’s leopard-printed costume hire shop. A match made in heaven, really, when it comes to purveying the kind of goods the neighbourhood’s characterful clientele seeks.

Edgeley’s window displays have become spectacles of note, designed to catch the eye of people with a certain disdain for the rules of safe, minimal dressing. Incorporating elements of masquerade or S&M with clashing prints and lush textures, it’s Vivienne Westwood meets Richard Quinn at a drag club, on acid. And while all are welcome, you have to be a certain type of person to push open the doors to this boudoir-styled palace of extra, presided over by the formerly flame-haired (newly silvered) designer, her sister Bella Edgeley and Rupert the toy poodle.

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Don’t let the bold patterns and plush velvet turbans fool you; her work is grounded in a sharp eye for pattern-making and fit. Cutting her teeth here and in the UK, the designer worked with luminaries including Christopher Kane and Richard Nicoll in London before returning home to open her own label in 2010. The foundations of her career began much earlier, though; she’s the latest in a family of dressmakers and tailors, and learnt to sew dresses for her dolls as a child. At 16 she began working as an apprentice costumier – a grounding in theatricality that continues to run through her dramatic dresses, skin-tight catsuits and penchant for headwear.

From her Fitzroy boutique, which also serves as her design studio, Edgeley produces two collections a year, spurning trends and fast fashion in favour of singular, boisterous pieces designed to be worn for a lifetime. Every garment is made in-house, mostly from reclaimed or vintage fabrics, and bespoke sizing is available – an acknowledgment that no body is the same. She offers an alteration service to ensure her pieces still fit throughout a lifetime of changing body shape and size.

Peruse the racks of personality-fuelled clothing for long enough, and you’ll be drawn into conversations with a cast of regulars about Edgeley’s misspent youth as a wild bohemian waif running around Europe, whose days might include parties with rockstars and fashion icons, petty crime, or hitchhiking to Amsterdam on a whim.

“I really created a little haven for myself [in this boutique], and I feel so happy here. It’s such a beautiful little shop, and I’ve been careful to keep it a place for really kind and interesting people,” she tells me.

Edgeley’s client list reads as eclectic as her aesthetic. She’s dressed musicians and performers like Cyndi Lauper, Jimmy and Jane Barnes, electroclash icon Peaches, Kate Ceberano, Ella Hooper, DJ Tanzer and yes, even me.

To Edgeley, it’s more than just a boutique – she’s proud of the community that’s grown out of her shop. “So many people have met here: lots and lots of women. It’s been a nice, safe space, particularly for female creatives to have a little place to meet each other and dream up wacky shit that nobody else will let us do,” she says, laughing.

That community spirit has taken the form of semi-regular salons, affectionately known as “Hate Club”, where ideas and grievances alike can be aired over champagne, drum kits and pizza.

On her decision to close this chapter of Gertrude Street history, she says, “Fashion is relentless. I love that about it because it doesn’t wait for you.”

“There have been no backers. I’ve completely self-funded this dream. So I need to step off the carousel for a moment [before deciding what comes next].”

Edgeley plans to shut her doors for the last time in April: “Just in time for one last Hate Club!”

edgeley.com.au