Over the past decade, South Yarra’s beautiful, historical Como House has played host to annual vintage-clothing sales of epic proportions, curated by the National Trust of Australia. Jam-packed with hard-to-find fabrics and haberdashery, they’ve become a treasure trove for donated items, many from since-lost designer collections dating as far back as the late 1800s.
But now, the National Trust has dipped into the archives to open its own dedicated boutique – called Vault – in the CBD’s iconic Block Arcade, so you can shop its collection year-round. (Though the pop-up sales aren’t going anywhere.)
“The National Trust has had the idea for a while now,” says retail coordinator Jack Fordham. “This is really a transition from [the sales] to a space where we can really show the heritage of the garments … it’s been a long process, especially with Covid delaying the opening.” What’s more, all proceeds go towards supporting the National Trust’s efforts to protect the state’s natural, cultural and built heritage.
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The store itself is airy, with soaring ceilings within the richly decorated arcade, which has been a fixture of Melbourne’s shopping scene since the late-Victorian era.
As far as what hangs on the racks, “It’s really about picking pieces that cross a broad range of designers, decades and price ranges,” says Fordham. “There are some really beautiful high-end pieces in here, but there are also some more affordable pieces.”
You’ll find some real gems among the constantly rotating stock – there’s another collection kept upstairs, so new stock swaps in regularly. From local vintage finds (like retro pieces from ’60s favourite Prue Acton and early Carla Zampatti) to international brands (including the odd YSL or McQueen piece), it’s a large and varied selection.
And there’s a healthy balance between out-there and everyday designs. “Just because it’s not from the ’60s and hundreds of dollars doesn’t mean it’s not interesting to someone,” he adds. You can also shop vintage footwear, jewellery and accessories.
While buying vintage and preloved has always been popular. Not only because of the obvious sustainability benefits, but also because – in an often homogeneous fast-fashion environment – vintage usually means more unique.
It can also mean better quality, with garments made in an era when consumers bought clothing to last generations, rather than to be thrown out when the trend cycle turns. Fordham says, “We should get back to that mentality of keeping clothes for longer.”
Tue to Sat 10am–5pm