Coco is a new, tightly curated vintage clothing store in Fitzroy. Owner Ellie King is a part-time graphic designer who, prior to opening Coco, had been selling second-hand clothing on eBay and Facebook as a side gig for as long as she can remember.
King opened Coco at the beginning of August, uploading detailed daily Instagram stories to show off her selection of pre-owned European designer labels including Issey Miyake, D&G, Sonia Rykiel and Prada.
“I think there’s still light in retail, even if it’s more of a showroom experience,” King says. Whereas online-only stores are all “just emails" and questions about size and history, she adds, at Coco customers "can see the fabric and see the fit”.
Typical vintage stores can overwhelm, with wall-to-wall racks packed to the point of bursting. The experience at Coco is more akin to a boutique, with just three racks of women’s clothing, a sunglasses wall and a soon-to-launch men’s offering. Other than that, it’s sparse white walls, and an imposing front counter that reaches chest height.
By the end of the year, King will also reveal a small collaboration of new clothing with local label Sister Studios, and she’s working on another project with jeweller Seb Brown in 2018.
King’s stock is highly specific, much like the second-hand stores in Japan that cater to a particular style or subculture, from which King took inspiration. Curated second-hand clothing is not a new concept for Melbourne, but it’s an expanding category.
The mysterious Aoyama Archive sells sought-after Japanese designers during sporadic pop-up events, and dot Comme in Curtin House specialises in archival pieces from designers such as Comme des Garcons and Junya Watanabe, and then there’s Melbourne’s growing crop of consignment stores. Even non-vintage stores are getting involved: last year Carlton boutique Milly Sleeping introduced a rack of second-hand clothing.
Coco’s niche is designer clothing and accessories from the 1990s to mid-2000s, plus a smattering of well-made non-designer pieces. This is a place where D&G velour sweat pants hang next to ’90s Pleats Please. Melbourne’s young and unashamedly ironic will have the audacity to wear multiple pieces off the rack here at once. For everyone else, it’s finding that single rare and unexpectedly beautiful item that will excite.
“Lots of people come in and say, ‘Oh is this all second-hand?’” King says. “I think I buy things that look like they could be made today. I think it’s about feeding second-hand to people who don’t necessarily want to buy second-hand but they might have to be shown it in a different setting.”
In between twice-yearly buying trips, King sources pieces from contacts in the US and Japan. At this point, she’s putting 15 to 30 new pieces on the racks each week, aiming to rotate the stock enough that customers could stop by twice a week and not see the same thing.
“I love the idea of having a minimal collection,” King says. “If there’s something for you then it’s meant to be. If not, come back next time and we’ll have something else.”
Tues to Sun 11am–6pm