Footwear designer Christian Kimber first played shopkeeper at a stall outside his childhood home in England. On offer was his brother’s Star Wars memorabilia.
Sub out Darth Vader dolls for luxurious leather shoes, and a fold-out table on the street curb for a fancy Fitzroy boutique, and you’ve arrived at the adult realisation of Kimber’s retail dreams.
This week he launched his first flagship boutique on Johnston Street. Kimber started designing his footwear in 2011 and stocked it in stores such as Harrolds in Melbourne and Sydney; Barneys in New York; and a handful of stores across Scandinavia in 2013. So a physical retail space of his own was the next big step.
“I think men hate shopping,” Kimber says. “They feel bored and stressed, so I wanted to change retail a bit and create a space that feels calm and like a home. I want people to feel comfortable touching items.” Which is not the case in many luxury stores.
Kimber’s new shop is a cross between a clubhouse and a lounge room. There’s a couch, two armchairs and a rug around a coffee table topped with books and an Italian-made chessboard. Scattered pot plants complement the light-green walls that are decorated with quirky art. Old-school cartoon figurines are carefully placed in different nooks and crannies. There’s a fireplace in the back that will light up in October. Even movie nights featuring Back To The Future are in the works.
The footwear is showcased on wooden stumps and polished shelves. The range blends classic menswear sensibilities (a mark of his training on London’s Savile Row) with Australia’s casual lifestyle. Architecture is often his design reference; the last collection was inspired by Federation Square.
The sneakers are handmade in Italy and the dress shoes are made in Spain. Each style is made in limited quantities (often no more than 30 pairs per style) and prices range from $300 to $500.
“We sell sneakers for $500 that [Maison] Margiela sell for $1000,” says Kimber. “I want to create a beautiful sneaker that’s value for money and quality, but that’s attainable.”
Kimber plans to slowly expand into clothing, wallets and accessories, too.
“I see myself as a hybrid of menswear, streetwear and high fashion,” he says. “Blended together, it feels like something new.”
264 Johnston Street, Fitzroy
Tue to Thurs 11am–6pm