Little Australia at large in New York

STROLLING down Mulberry Street in New York's Nolita, it is hard to believe you could be anywhere but downtown Manhattan.

Cluttered vintage boutiques and their upscale neighbours beckon you inside to peruse their second-hand and designer wares at prices that might leave an unsuspecting tourist running back to the high-street discounts of nearby Broadway. Cafes and bars teem with impossibly attractive style savants casually sipping on their afternoon macchiatos as if the term "day job" was invented for other people.

But if for a minute, you stop, close your eyes and listen to the banter ringing through the narrow thoroughfare, it is entirely possible you might be tricked into thinking you are standing in Surry Hills .

"We're trying to get the name Nolita changed to 'Little Australia' or 'Australita"' jokes model and long-time resident Nicole Trunfio.

Kidding aside, it is a moniker that has already caught on among fashionable friends and neighbours like fellow super-beauty Jess Hart.

"It feels like a community and that's hard to find in a big concrete city like New York," says Hart.

Trunfio agrees. "It's tight; it's a one big happy family-type neighbourhood. It's not commercial, it's got good food, good coffee. And no pressure, it has a really laid-back vibe."

As more young Australians migrate to the US in search of career opportunities courtesy of the E-3 visa, and tourists make up the sixth-largest visitor group in New York alone, those destined for the Big Apple find themselves living or socialising in the roughly six-by-six block territory. Within this domain, commonly referred to as Nolita (north of Little Italy) there are no fewer than 10 authentic Aussie hot spots ranging from coffee shops to art galleries to clothing stores and nightclubs.

Mulberry Street, which could be deemed "the capital" of "Little Australia", is home to some of the original haunts that still draw devoted fans. Before the Vogue cover shoots, Hart got her elbows greasy during regular part-time shifts at Ruby's, a tiny hole-in-the-wall eatery serving flat whites and burgers named after Sydney's best surf beaches.


For Trunfio, making friends with expats was easy. "That's the great thing about Nolita. You go hang out and you end up becoming a part of the clan, which means lots of summer barbecues and an extended Aussie family in NYC."

Since both models arrived on the scene more homegrown talent have bought real estate in the area. The latest addition is B-Space, a concept store-come-studio-come-showroom hoping to serve as a creative mecca and hangout for Australian artists, styleites and their American admirers. Opened by Pete Maiden, a former Rolling Stone staffer who hails from Sydney, the space boasts a collection of Australian brands such as Volley shoes, Mambo, Ellery eyewear, Driza-Bone jackets and pieces from Trunfio's jewellery line.

"I'm a proud Aussie," says Maiden, adding: "The idea for B-Space is to showcase our culture, brands and lifestyle to America."

Also on Mulberry is a sweetly perfumed boutique, Damsel in Distress, which exclusively stocks Australian brands such as sass & bide, Maurie & Eve and One Teaspoon. Though owners Lyn Wills and Lisa Brooks had no connection to the area before stumbling upon the storefront three years ago, Wills recognises they struck gold. "It's like a community, we all know each other," she says.