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What Does Melbourne’s Luxury Boom Mean for Local Design?



Whether you see it as a dazzling Elysium of affordable floral blazers or a shining beacon of Australia’s betrayal of its own fashion market, Swedish chain H&M has been dominating Melbourne’s fashion scene since it announced its opening. Before that, it was Topshop pumping 40 collections a year out of South Yarra’s Jam Factory, and Zara still drawing crowds large enough to warrant a bouncer.

In order to keep up with the alarming number of trending fast fashion “must-haves” infiltrating the city each season, Melbourne must also be seeing a boom in the business of either oversized wardrobes or charity bins. But don’t think this is posing any great danger to Melbourne’s fancy-pants reputation: Apparently the city’s luxury market is growing just as fast.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Melbourne is now top-ranking in the global markets for French luxury brand Hermès. It ranks 17th for tableware sales and 24th for fashion jewelry sales among Hermès’ 300 stores around the word. “The Melbourne market is growing very fast and it is one of our most dynamic global cities for growth,” Hermès’ executive vice-president of distribution Florian Craen told the paper.

H&M isn’t the only colossal new fashion store on Bourke Street either. Three-story luxury behemoth Marais recent opened there too, housing labels including Céline, Balenciaga, Givenchy and Lanvin. Add to this a new Chanel beauty boutique in the Emporium last month, and Dolce & Gabbana and Paul Smith stores close by.

This could be swung as a positive for the Australian design scene. Surely people prepared to drop triple figures on dinner plates have the cash to spend on a Dion Lee blazer?

But while Chanel has certainly enjoyed a resurgence of cool over the last few years, most luxury brands blowing up down under carry more brand recognition than a Starbucks frappucino. Factor in that they’re ludicrously expensive by nature, and it’s probably not the cool young label-eschewing fashion set forking out for monograms.

At least young Melbourne's eye for quality does extend beyond coffee foam art. Two-year-old local label Strateas.Carlucci is making a name for itself, catching the eye of Vogue Italia’s Franca Sozzani and taking out the VAMFF National Designer Award for its use of quality leathers and “investment piece” palette. They might not be luring 20-somethings away from overseas chains, but they must be doing something right.