In the leafy south-eastern suburbs, beneath a gym, is Luxe, a business spanning three generations. Specialising in handmade custom leather clothing, it is virtually the only place left of its kind in Melbourne. Here you can get measured up for a leather jacket and have it made right on the premises.
Behind the store and showroom is a four-person workshop for Martin Balsim, his mother Elina, father Roman and designer Lauren Giarusso. Australia’s garment manufacturing has dwindled, and Luxe’s workroom is a relic of its time. Among shelves piled high with multi-coloured leather skins and trimmings, the Balsim family hand-makes each garment that leaves the store.
Martin Balsim’s parents first came to Australia in the early ‘70s with their parents. In Russia, they had two generations of garment manufacturing behind them, primarily in coats and leather. Naturally, the family business began in the back shed of their house in 1976.
“My earliest memory is from when I was about eight years old, looking over my mother’s cutting table as she was crafting away, feeling the leather and being amazed,” Balsim says, recalling how his mum would point to pictures in prestigious fashion magazines that included garments she had made. “That really fuelled my drive to make the best of the best in our sphere,” Balsim says. “To make sure every garment we put out is recognised for quality and point of difference.”
At Luxe, customers can either choose from a selection of ready-to-wear styles on the shop floor or request a custom piece – the fun part, and the store’s biggest drawcard. While some customers simply bring in a reference picture and ask the team for a replica, others have their own ideas. According to Martin, the Fight Club leather jacket is still a popular look. “Everyone wants to look like Tyler Durden!” Either way, customers can be involved in every aspect of the design process.
After getting measured, customers feel and choose from Luxe’s Italian-made leathers, lining and finishes. Then it’s only a week’s wait to see the finished product. There are an overwhelming number of ways to customise a leather garment, but it’s this level of personalised service the family prides itself on.