Over the past few years Armadale’s High Street precinct has transformed from a pretty main road peppered with low-key cafes and bridal boutiques into one of the best places to shop in Melbourne.
Its Victorian-era terraces house a plethora of local designer fashion and jewellery labels, as well as sleek emporiums filled with international eyewear, skincare and makeup brands. (Not to mention the growing list of outstanding providores where you can shop blue-ribbon goods for your pantry and kitchen – plus some of the city’s best cafes, wine bars and delis.)
These are some of my favourite shops and boutiques.
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Lee Mathews was an art director and illustrator for Vogue before she started her eponymous label 16 years ago. Her clothes get better every year. She’s the best in the business for effortlessly stylish everyday pieces, alongside special occasion ensembles (that work especially well in spring and summer).
Mathews is one of High Street’s longest designer residents, having opened a store in 2005 before moving into its current space in 2015. On its racks you’ll find clothes made with the most sublime fabrics – luxurious georgette, cotton poplin, lightweight merino wool – in silhouettes that are structured but relaxed: cashmere shirt jackets with felled seams and rounded hems; tank dresses made from silky viscose milled in Italy. You can also shop accessories and homewares by local and international labels including Faris, Maison Louis Marie Perfume and Baina.
Le Salon Aux Fleurs
Kings Arcade, with its leadlight windows and vintage ironwork, dates to 1893. It’s filled with compact, gorgeous shops including Le Salon Aux Fleurs, an ornate florist and perfumery belonging to Steven Gabriel Maccora that’s impossible to pass by without stopping. Shelves are lined with candles, fragrances and soaps by the finest international makers, including Cire Trudon, Floris London and Santa Maria Novella. The walls are dark teal and inky, silk drapes are fuchsia. Maccora had 1930s Paris, New York and London in mind when he designed the store, specifically thinking of bygone salons and pharmacies.
L’Eclisse is a footwear boutique a couple of shops down from Le Salon Aux Fleurs that feels less like a shoe store and more like a gallery. Owner and designer John Rizzo’s elegant leather footwear is handmade in Italy and pairs are made in small runs. Mint green loafers, minimalist white sneakers, metallic slingbacks, woven pastel lemon sandals – no matter the style, fans secure them swiftly so if you see something you like, don’t sleep on it. (I count a pair of pastel turquoise heels among my prized footwear possessions.) Alongside shoes, you’ll find clutches in buttery leather.
Eye Street is owned by Lucille Gergis, an optometrist who also happens to have exceptional taste in eyewear. Her new-ish boutique and optometry practice (it opened late last year) is a jewel-box of a store, and stocks some of my favourite international glasses brands like Cutler & Gross and Garret Light. Stores with a luxury offering often feel cold on the service front but that’s not the case here – Gergis and optical dispenser Angela Dexter are so welcoming and warm. The selection of premium frames from Japan, Italy, France, the UK and Australia is impressive, with handcrafted acetate beauties from Thierry Lasry and Vaanyard, and limited-run styles from Linda Farrow.
I love Assembly Label’s linen shirts, and the Australian brand does great denim too – especially in light washes. The Armadale store was the Sydney-based label’s first Melbourne boutique and espouses the coastal vibe that the brand’s known for. It’s airy, white-washed and light-filled, with racks full of the label’s minimalist staples in natural fabrics. It’s also a one-stop shop for gifts, with hand-poured candles by Byron Bay-based Posie, fragrances by Melbourne’s Mihan Aromatics and glassware by Copenhagen-based Ferm Living.
Venroy’s another Sydney label that made its Melbourne debut in Armadale, opening on High Street last year. When in need of a specific piece for a holiday or summertime event, there’s nowhere better. Knitted linen pants and polo dresses, crochet mini-skirts, panelled silk dresses – Venroy is unrivalled at offering timeless classics perfect for pool and beach time, as well as sets in bold patterns and vibrant colour for party time. The store itself is a beauty, wrapped in limestone and inspired by the Mallorca holiday home of Sydney Opera House architect Jorn Utzon.
Many head to Scanlan Theodore for special occasion dressing, but my favourite Scanlan purchases have always been everyday staples: cropped wide leg trousers in a navy-black check perfect for work; sharp, superlative knitwear that lasts. These pieces have remained wardrobe go-tos for years. The Armadale store is spacious and grand, with a generous, almost residential space for changing (and parading in front of the mirror).
Kinderplay is the kind of toy shop that rarely exists today: family-owned and operated for decades; gorgeous handmade toys that didn’t come off an industrial production line. It kind of reminds me of Kathleen Kelly’s bookshop, The Shop Around the Corner, in You’ve Got Mail: a charming neighbourhood store, passionately curated, offering something distinct from its big-box retail competitors.
Yes, you can get stuff that did come off one of the aforementioned production lines (Lego, Playmobil, Sylvanian Families) but you’ll also find sequinned crowns and wands by Alimrose, a local family-owned doll and toy maker, handcrafted wooden music boxes by Wooderful Life and vintage-inspired metal vespa scooters by Amboss Toys.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with High Street Armadale Business Association and City of Stonnington.