Chris Pickings’s small but grand space is a walk back in time. Having just celebrated its third birthday, Pickings and Parry on Gertrude Street has undergone a minor refurbishment and has some new additions to its catalogue of heritage, hard-to-find men’s workwear.
There’s a new denim service room where longevity is the name of the game. “We’re using an original Union Special machine for our alterations,” Pickings says. The Union Special is an old and rare sewing machine, not made since 1989, which provides a direct link to the way things were. Any maker worth their salt will have one in their possession because of the distinct “roping” effect it gives your hems. “Making these jeans last and letting them tell a story is the point; a hole or two shouldn’t stop them,” Pickings says. “Darn, repair, tailor and embroidery, we now have all the machines to do the job right.”
So often new retailers call upon “olde-timey” values and aesthetics to distract from mundane products. What Pickings has collected at his store is a range of clothing built to survive. He’s super enthusiastic about it all, explaining processes and details. Some of the labels have been at it for decades; Buzz Rickson and Sugar Cane could claim the title of the original authentic brand, setting a trend for all to follow. As for the newer crop of makers, see Indigofera or new addition, Runabout, which are so committed to the authentic movement that sometimes their versions are as good or better than the originals. But it’s not all about the re-creation; Pickings makes an effort to distinguish brands such as Blue Blue that brings an expertise of working with indigo, which demonstrates techniques and skills Japan kept to itself for hundreds of years.
Pickings and Parry is now a few seasons in, featuring work from Nigel Cabourn – a tailor of 40 years from Newcastle in the UK – who has collected and researched thousands of military, workwear and expedition pieces. His commitment to the authentic is extreme in the least. With a cult following and stores and stockists in all the right places, you could write him off as a fashion designer, but Cabourn’s work is more than that; it is genuinely historical. He uses textile manufacturers and button and fastening makers who supplied kits for George Mallory’s Everest climb and uniforms for the British Army when it was stationed in Burma – so his work doesn’t just imitate the classics. To hold his Everest parka in your hands is to not just understand the difficulty and ambition of Mallory’s undertaking, but to also ponder your own adventure.
Pickings and Parry
126 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9417 3390
Mon to Wed 10am–6pm
Friday & Sat 10am–6pm