Until last week, Henry Bucks wasn’t what you’d call contemporary. It may have stocked brands that were, but to the uninitiated, it was stuffy, conservative and, well, a shop for your dad. No longer. New brands that were once the domain of fashionable parts of London, Milan and Tokyo have dropped. Henry Bucks now offers Sealup’s 100 per cent silk raincoats, the best pair of pants you’ll ever own from Slowear and Buttero sneakers from Italy. For those unfamiliar with Buttero, it is to sneakers what truffles are to mushrooms: in the same family, just on another level altogether.
The class, the quality and the historical significance of the store remains, it just wears a new suit. Darren Hose, design principal at Red Design Group (which was responsible for the new look) says he had an easy brief, along the lines of: just do what you did at the airport. In 2012, Red reset the brand’s aesthetic at its Tullamarine outpost near the entrance to the Qantas Club. It cleaned it up, made it modern, but didn’t scare anyone in the process.
At ground level, a slatted timber installation floats between the laneway and the racking display of the younger, newer clothes in stock. In the front windows, more formal Canali suits and Richard James jackets demonstrate the seamless transition such classics can make.
Ask Tim Cecil, managing director of Henry Bucks, what makes a good suit and he’ll tell you it’s cut, cloth, make and service. He knows the first three are already hanging on the racks, but he’ll go out of his way to give you the fourth. With nigh-on 120 years of service, Cecil’s family business has lasted the test of time, but this upgrade significantly marks Henry Bucks’ step into the 21st century.
The final sign the store has departed from its past is its staff. Slim, suit-wearing young men and women roam the space offering assistance where needed. This is super important in selling the message to loyal clients that Cecil and Henry Bucks mean business; that the staff includes women and know Arcade Fire is not going to change the quality you can expect from Henry Bucks.
“We can still get you triple pleats,” Cecil laughs, and downstairs, rack after rack of cords, chinos and flannels are available in a spectrum of colours. Down here, you can still get a close shave and a Dormeuil suit from the custom-made program via experienced, long-time employees.
Having descended the store’s signature central staircase, it’s not until you look back that you notice the store is more modernist and less men’s club, even down to the famous – or infamous – patterned carpet, now replaced by oak-coloured sisal flooring. Lighting downstairs has made a world of difference to the weight of stock and the once dark corners.
There’s no need to change your ways and drop the formula that’s been working for you all this time, and there is no reason to write-off Henry Bucks for being stuffy, either.
320 Collins Street, Melbourne
(03) 8102 4700