Located on the gap between the busy shopping strips of Fitzroy and Carlton, is the tiny retail store on Elgin Street, Milly Sleeping. Opened by mother-daughter team Janette and Leah Muddle in 2005, the store is known today for their strong support of independent clothing and jewellery designers who choose to stay away from the financially attractive option of offshore production. The Muddle’s express that outsourcing production is not necessarily a negative but rather that it is appreciated when a garment hasn’t been shipped across the world a few times before it ends up on the rack.
The store itself has a very comfortably, local feeling, almost as though you’re at a friend’s place trying on clothes. Only this friend’s wardrobe is filled with coveted, Australian designer pieces.
“I think our set-up is pretty Melbourne – quite modest I suppose and low-key but always changing,” says Janette.
The ladies explain how the values of Milly Sleeping are drawn from the awareness to be loyal to the designer, the customer, as well as the independent fashion industry. This sense of care can be quickly forgotten as soon as a business realises it is, well, a business, but Milly Sleeping is still as fond to hold onto their values as they were at the beginning.
The Muddle ladies originally set up the store to create a professional retail environment for new local design. Six years ago Milly Sleeping was the sole stockist of Romance Was Born during their first season and was a proud purveyor of the little known Ess.Laboratory, Lonely Hearts and Limedrop back when they were still immerging fashion labels. The duo are still sourcing labels from small trade shows and by following the work of talented design graduates.
The designers currently stocked at Milly Sleeping range from the immerging, one-person operations like Georgina Thomas, to the more widely recognised MATERIALBYPRODUCT and ffiXXed. Other labels include Alexi Freeman, High Tea with Mrs Woo, Kuwaii, Strange&Strange, Mücke, S!x, Penelope Durston, St. Clements and MAIIKE. A majority of the labels are Melbourne based and over time have gathered a staunch following of regular customers, keen to find limited run signature pieces from the collections of these exciting designers.
The ladies admit that the city aesthetic does have a lot to do with the success of the store.
“I think we’re pretty lucky to be in Melbourne and to attract the kind of clients that we do – who are all clever and doing interesting things and thus drawn to [other] clever and interesting things,” notes Leah.
There are many recoiling aspects of today’s fashion industry, but Milly Sleeping has chosen to highlight a sector that is less about quick turnover and more about independent design by people who simply enjoy what they do. It’s a nice way to be.
Milly Sleeping is currently having a sale with up to 60% off selected current season summer garments.
157 Elgin Street, Carlton
(03) 9347 1333