When Mario-Luca Carlucci and Peter Strateas launched their gender-fluid fashion label from a Brunswick East warehouse 10 years ago, they expected to be running a shop as well as a studio. But the co-founders and designers of Strateas Carlucci found their time taken up by business demands on top of creative work, and their retail vision fell off the to-do list.
Now it’s back each Thursday and Friday at that same studio site, with a gallery-like retail space fronting the duo’s workshop. “We wanted a bespoke environment where clients could come in, walk through, try things on and see the space where we work,” Carlucci says. “It’s a peek behind the curtain … you get that real sense of ‘This is where it actually happens.’”
Previously open only by appointment, the atelier was already attracting informal shoppers curious about the label that’s featured on Paris runways as well as NGV’s Melbourne Now show and cult retailers like Ssense and Harrolds.
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“Customers would turn up to the door in our studio and be like, ‘Oh, is this a shop?’ And we’ve had that awkward moment where you have to explain that it’s actually not at the moment,” Carlucci says. As visits got more frequent, they decided to officially open two days a week, offering ready-to-wear fashion as well as made-to-measure services.
Out back, Carlucci and Strateas draft designs amid cutting tables, machines and backstock. (“We’re always sticking our heads out and saying hello to people,” Carlucci says.) Up front, garments hang on “spines” – custom modular stainless-steel racks on wheels – that move and evolve over time. Specially made troughs house smaller items, and even the dressing room is made from metal – designed to meld into the minimalist environment as needed.
It’s a fluid way of merchandising that suits the label’s fluid approach to gender. “We are a genderless brand,” Carlucci says. “We do men’s and women’s pieces, but the collections are driven by an idea and a concept rather than by gender.” In store, the approach is clear: crossover pieces are displayed next to garments tailored to male or female forms. Styles are available for “whoever would like to wear them”.
Outerwear, knitwear and tailored separates – all manufactured in Melbourne – form the core of two transeasonal ranges per year (plus the odd capsule collection). It’s an approach that rejects overt trends in favour of long-lasting chic and detailing, with “beautiful fabrications, textures and silhouettes”.
Carlucci insists on “perfectly spaced” displays for the label’s moodily hued coats, blazers, trousers, dresses, tees and knits. Pieces from a recently launched jewellery range dot the space – as do more colourful garments from Strateas Carlucci’s kid’s line, which remixes the brand’s adult silhouettes in mini form, with playful prints and patterns.
He’s also keen to nurture a friendly vibe where fashion-curious types can experience the brand without pressure to purchase. Already the space stocks books and magazines that help build out the Strateas Carlucci universe, and there are plans to host designs from fellow Melbourne creatives.
“Customers come in and interpret the pieces in different ways and dress up according to their personal style,” Carlucci says. “That’s the best thing about fashion, isn’t it?”
2-12 St Phillip Street, Brunswick East
Thu and Fri 10am to 6pm
Or by appointment