It all began with a black linen apron-dress. When Emma Cutri and Alice McIntosh started selling one-size-fits-all pinafores to friends on Facebook in 2015, they had no idea the simple design would quickly become a daily uniform for women across Melbourne.
“It was just a fun way to hang out together and do something creative,” says Cutri of the shared hobby that became the label Sister Studios. “We didn't expect it to be going for three years.”
Help from a seamstress and a salesperson – and Brunswick studio space – eventually led to six seasonal collections and a range of year-round staples, including that indispensable apron dress in two colours. Now, after selling almost exclusively online (with the exception of two pop-ups), Sister has opened its first store, in North Fitzroy.
The pop-ups let the pair show off their bright, breezy clothes in an environment that matched; the stark white, borrowed spaces were decked out with colourful sculptures, paintings and decorations made by Cutri, McIntosh and their friends.
“[It] was the first time we were getting to really connect with our customers … we learned so much about what people were liking about our clothes and seeing how they fit on people,” says McIntosh of the short-term shops.
Part European summer fling, part Californian beach getaway, the new permanent store is a fitting canvas for the natural fibres – linens, cottons and silks – of the Sister garments.
Visitors are greeted by romantic arches, terracotta-painted tiled floors, terrazzo finishes and marble stone-slab benches.
The store will stock current-season garments, classics, small runs made with deadstock fabrics (at the moment there are some eye-catching red-and-blue gingham numbers) and a curated selection of smaller items such as prints, jewellery, ceramics and scents that align with the brand.
“It felt really important to make the store and present the clothes in a context of how we see them – so surrounded by floral arrangements that we do or certain artworks that have been made by our friends,” says McIntosh.
The inspiration for the space – and new collection, Sunkissed – came from the landscapes, Spanish architecture and small boutiques they encountered on a recent trip to meet stockists in Pasadena and Laguna Beach, California. Overall, the fit-out is more stripped back than the pop-ups, but the pair has plans to constantly change it up as the collections evolve.
“We wanted it to feel like an outdoor-indoor space, like a patio vibe. And we just wanted it to be a really nice shell to show our clothes in, that would also complement the seasons as they change,” says McIntosh.
Sunkissed will feature green, purple and yellow linens, as well as Sister’s first print (designed by one of their friends, of course) made up of grapes and cherries.
“It's beee-autiful – it's our best collection yet,” says Cutri, laughing.
The store occupies the corner spot just by Dench Bakers in that reliable, locals-first Scotchmer Street hub where you can stock up on groceries from Piedmonte’s, grab a quarter-chicken and chips from Super Tasty Rooster and wash it down with a bottle of cloudy natural wine from the brother-sister team at Blackhearts & Sparrows.
The name, Sister, was once used by Cutri and McIntosh as an endearing term for each other and their pals. Now, it welcomes you in off the street in large friendly red letters. “Like, ‘Hello sister!’” says Cutri.
105 Scotchmer Street, Fitzroy North
Thu & Fri 11am–6pm