by Jodi Panayotov
In a world of retail store weary shoppers and cyber shopping threatening to take over the real thing there are still some boutiques in Brisbane where fashion is an art form in every sense, originality and quality rule and to visit them is an experience in itself. Eschewing the mainstream and cookie cutter malls they mostly tuck themselves away from the main streets, without discernible signs and in a couple of cases behind closed doors altogether.
Visitors to Fallow must first take the original 1960's staircase of Cameron House to the next level, where a foyer with a couch and an antler-handled door await. Pull the door open and a windowless dim lit brick walled room with black furniture, glass cases of edgy jewellery and sparse racks of exquisite clothes looks as if it awaits the arrival of Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Fallow is the brainchild of Brisbane fashion queen Natalie Denning who also owns Bessie Head.
Shops come and go on the Ann St precinct of indie fashion boutiques but Violent Green, signed by a smudgy VG, remains (as does its micro Elizabeth Arcade boutique). Inside its dark tunnel like premises are a fabulous array of hard to find brands of his'n'hers street wear, shoes and accessories both local and overseas, overseen by obliging staff who are known to have the VG logo tattooed on their hands.
True to its name, The Outpost sits down a lane off the main Ann St drag and since its establishment, the buzzy little Winn Lane adjacent has come to life. Such is the pull of this split level brick walled boutique renowned for selling cult Euro labels and some from Oz. The owner also dabbles in art books, concept jewellery, limited edition records and artworks by underground artists, all of which can be also found inside.
The lines of art and fashion may be blurred but not to the extent that they are under by world-renowned artisan designer Akira. With a boutique that looks like an art gallery, hung with dreamy clothes fashioned from gorgeous painted textiles in designs that are a fusion of Japan and the west, this is one shop that is worth visiting just to see works of sheer beauty by a genius of the fashion world.
More than a fashion store, K.O.M.A is part art gallery, part boutique, thanks to a collaboration between art-loving design label Ksubi and IMA. Downstairs Ksubi's renowned gritty street wear stars, overhung by stunning installations while upstairs on the mezzanine level works from the Institute of Modern Art, on constant rotation, can be viewed.
Squirrelled away upstairs in the wood-panelled museum like surrounds of the 1930's Bell Brothers furniture store is the attic lair of young Brisbane designer Cyan Reign who, when not pushing the boundaries of fashion is winning awards for doing so. Specializing in ready to wear and couture and also renowned for her corsetry, themes of past collections have been insane asylum escapees in a psychedelic forest, rebels from the French Revolution and Spanish Inquisition.
Fashion guru Nat Denning's other child, Bessie Head is the shiny city slicker cousin of the darker moodier Fallow in the Valley, but still has a touch of the edginess with the bleached cattle skulls strewn around the floor and the odd beaded skull perched on a pillar. The clothes are the same black white and neutral toned but some with a touch of bling and shimmer – fur, sequins and so forth. Where Fallow is Ms Hepburn, this one's Bette Davis.