It's renowned for its style but how does a visitor tap into the fashion secrets of the Victorian capital? Melburnian Julietta Jameson explains all.
Every city has its share of sharp dressers but Melbourne seems to have more than most. Whether it's the weather, the legacy of Italian immigration or a more indoor lifestyle - the fact is Melbourne has a fitting reputation for fashion and it lives up to it.
"Melbourne is such an individual city," says Melburnian fashion designer, Shalini Coelho. "You have women dressing for themselves and they are so strong and confident with their sense of self."
"I find wherever you go in or around Melbourne you are constantly inspired by architecture, boutique interiors, food on a plate, laneways, graffiti, culture, street style, history, the eclectic vibe.
For Indian-born Coelho, Melbourne's style is also embodied in its residents. "People here are really not afraid to take risks and be individual and showcase their sense of style."
Coelho especially likes Melbourne style in winter when the weather demands coats, hats and gloves.
Recent renovations of iconic sites have seen the arrival in Melbourne of a slew of international brands. The stand-out is H&M, which opened in the iconic GPO building in April. The new retail enclave Emporium (emporiummelbourne.com.au) has introduced to the Melbourne retail scene Uniqlo, the Japanese casual wear store famous for cheap cashmere and ridiculously affordable yet design-conscious everyday wear.
So where do the stylish Melburnians get the gear to look this good? Here are five of the city's best shopping destinations.
South of Southern Cross Station, busy Spencer Street turns into Clarendon Street's wide pavements and Victorian awnings. Tucked behind it is South Melbourne Market, a local favourite for produce and grocery shopping. It's also home to clothing and homewares stalls and the innovative SO:ME Space which showcases emerging designers, with, in addition to permanent designer stalls, four pop-up spaces that change every four weeks.
Nearby Coventry Street shopping village looks European with its colourful cafe umbrellas, cobbled gutters and tree-lined footpaths.
Nest (nesthomewares.com.au) stocks beautiful bed linen, children's clothes and artworks.
At Pomegranate (pomegranate.com.au) find accessories from Melbourne label Nancybird and cute separates from Chip Chop.
Don't miss the gems on Clarendon Street. Nord Living (nordliving.com.au) stocks a scintillating range of Scandinavian fashion.Melbournestyle (Melbournestyle.com.au) is, as its name suggests, dedicated to showcasing Melbourne design, be it in jewellery, bags, scarves, cushions and cards.
Melbourne designer Christina Exie is a star on the rise. Her VAMFF show was described as "a multitude of It-Girl must-haves". When Exie is seeking must-haves outside of her own collection, she favours Melbourne's CBD for shopping.
"I really like Little Collins Street and Flinders Lane," she says. "The stores are unique, they're mostly not in malls and it means the clothes I buy won't be seen anywhere else. It's important to me to spend my money in the right places."
Exie fancies the work of fellow Australian designer and fan of architectural lines, Alistair Trung (alistairtrung.com.au), on fashion enclave Little Collins Street, and Zambesi (zambesi.co.nz) on Flinders Lane. Currently, the New Zealand powerhouse designer defaults to black, just like Melbourne. "I think I used a lot of black because I'm from Melbourne," Exie says. She also likes Alpha 60 (alpha60.com.au), another designer heavy on the black (and charcoal), with its flagship in Flinders Lane.
Find Christina Exie's designs at Lupa (lupaclothing.blogspot.com.au) on Smith Street, Fitzroy, a fashionable 'hood in which Smith and Brunswick Streets are the big stars, with Gertrude Street, which links the two, the interesting little sister. It is the epitome of Melbourne's northern lifestyle, an eclectic mix of hipster and urban professional and encapsulates the gentrification of once edgy Fitzroy.
The low cost housing remains, but now celebrity chefs and designers have taken up residence. And here is boutique Melbourne shopping at its best. Side-by-side you'll find handcrafts and heirlooms, cutting edge fashion and curios.
Cottage Industry (cottageindustrystore.blogspot.com) is the place for garments with a home-spun feel: lacey mohair scarves, chunky leather satchels and various pieces handmade by owner Penelope Durston. Amor y Locura is stuffed to the rafters with Argentinian and Mexican antiques, colourful embroidered clothing and Day of the Dead-themed homewares and jewellery. And for the cutting edge, Left (leftfashion.com.au) stocks innovative, evocative pieces from Yohji Yamamoto, Commes des Garcons and Issey Miyake. Uniquely Melbourne Leonard Street boutique (leonardstreet.com.au) is the place for the creations of Amanda McCarthy. The Leonard St label (a hit at this year's fashion festival), incorporates ethical manufacturing with organic inspirations.
The northern end of Chapel Street still attracts tourists on reputation alone. Its day in the fashion sun is long gone. Edgy bespoke boutiques have given way to big name chains. A decade or so ago, it wasn't worth crossing Commercial Road to the south if you wanted to shop for fashion. It was all electrical supplies, furniture and adult bookstores.
Then cheap rents attracted vintage stores and unique designers (one of Gorman's earliest boutiques is here). In more recent times it's morphed again.
Today's Chapel Street Windsor is full of bearded men and braided women riding fixies to their yoga classes. It's become ground zero for arty bars and fad restaurants (pho is all the go) and some popular nightclubs.
But it remains a hub of op shopping, vintage scouring and treasure hunting. A Chapel Street stayer is the Chapel Street Bazaar (217 Chapel Street). Whether your style channels Mad Men, Get Smart or Downton Abbey, this maze of individual secondhand stalls selling antique jewellery, quality vintage coats, cowboy boots, dresses from many eras, hats, gloves and all manner of other accessories demands several hours' exploration.
Seven kilometres east of the city lies the leafy, genteel enclave of Armadale, Melbourne's yummy mummy central. Melbourne shoe designer Bianca Buccheri has one of her Dolci Firme boutiques there (dolcifirme.com.au). She studied in Milan and her business is based around the lessons learned. Her shops stock only shoes made in Italy that are on designer trend but without the designer price tag. They're by no means cheap, though - the quality is exceptional and the pricing is what Buccheri calls mid-range.
"Armadale is a beautiful little area," she says. "I love the city. Melbourne CBD has a lot to offer and lots of little pockets for fashion. But there's no parking.
If you want to have a serious shop, I really believe High Street Armadale is the place. A girlfriend calls it her edited version of a fashion mag. It's an edit of her favourite labels into one little pocket that's walkable and really pretty."
In addition to beautiful Dolci Firme, pop into Husk, with its carefully curated collection of covetable garments, accessories and home wares, and Skin and Threads (skinandthreads.com), for whom AFL WAG, weather girl and Melbourne It Girl Rebecca Judd designed a capsule collection.
Qantas and Virgin Australia fly almost hourly from Sydney to Melbourne. See qantas.com;
The new Sheraton Melbourne is in the heart of the CBD's fashion quarter on Little Collins Street. Rooms from $260 a night until September 30. See sheratonmelbourne.com.