A comprehensive guide to Melbourne’s sustainable stores.
Over the holiday season, we’re taking a break too. Over this period, we’ll be resharing our favourite content of the year (and your favourite too – it’s our most well-read). This article was originally published on August 14.
Our collective appetite for fashion has changed for the better over the last few years. Looking good and dressing well now have much more complicated criteria; we want to know where our clothes are made, who made them and in what conditions, and what they’re made with.
An increasing number of us are taking the time to read care labels, to know our silks from polyesters and to take pride in wearing a design with the disclaimer ‘ethically made’. But in a city full of fast fashion super-stores and with greenwashing rife amongst fashion labels, knowing what’s actually sustainable can be a difficult process.
For more style suggestions, head to our Fashion vertical.
Thankfully, there are a number of local Melbourne designers and destinations that are making sustainability easy to shop by being transparent with us, the customers. To help you out, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of Melbourne’s best ethical and sustainable stores so that you can shop (relatively) guilt-free. Enjoy.
Blood-related or not, these sisters know how to scratch our sustainable itch. Producing collections crafted from locally sourced, vintage fabrics – and lots of linen because who doesn’t love linen? – the duo behind Sister are all about making practical yet pretty things. Plus, everything is designed, developed and created in Melbourne. Shop their sweet, ’70s inspired threads here and be sure to check out their dreamy shopfront sometime.
105 Scotchmer Street, Fitzroy North
One of Melbourne’s pillars of sustainable fashion, Arnsdorf is respected across the city, the state, hell, the entire country, for its commitment to creating lasting, quality garments. The one-and-only Arnsdorf boutique, situated on Brunswick Street, reflects the brand’s minimalistic and carefully considered ethos and was designed by Jade (the label’s founder) herself by repurposing much of the store’s pre-existing structures. Arnsdorf also offers one on one appointments in-store or virtually via FaceTime.
229 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Owned and directed by Octavius La Rosa, Dot Comme rejects the idea of easy fashion and encourages experimenting with different colours, shapes and patterns. Dot Comme sources and sells an archive of Japanese and Belgian fashion from Comme des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and others.
Level 3 and 4 Curtin House, 252 Swanston St, Melbourne CBD
One gripe that we often have with the sustainable fashion industry is its tendency to exclude certain body types. No such complaint can be lobbied at E Nolan, whose made-to-measure, luxurious power suits are a game-changer for women at any size. The pieces are ‘designed to be worn to death’, a rejection of the throwaway mentality we’ve been accustomed to and a return to investing in forever pieces.
2 Cowper Street, Hawthorn, by appointment
Green Horse Northcote
There’s something about the words ‘green’ and ‘horse’ that conjure visions of natural beauty. Step inside this little Northcote nook and this is exactly what you’ll find. Boasting a collection of both international and Melbourne-based brands (keep your peepers peeled for Bahlo, Tara Whalley and Kiwi label Kowtow), Green Horse will have you trotting back down High Street looking good and feeling gratified.
255 High Street, Northcote
Saint Francis Place
Like Mecca, only locally-focused, Saint Francis Place sells a carefully-selected range of beauty and skincare products. The collection focuses on small-batch productions and on companies that are dedicated to simple, organic and non-toxic ingredients. You can shop the Saint Francis Place collection for outer beauty ranges, such as skincare, haircare and makeup, as well as inner wellness and home products.
63 Smith Street, Fitzroy
Bruce is a Melbourne-based consignment store chain specialising in secondhand and high-end Artisanal Japanese and European designer clothing, footwear and accessories. Bruce’s collection can be shopped by appointment and is carefully curated with quality and sustainability in mind.
157 Gertrude St Fitzroy and 284 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill
Nobody makes jeans like Nobody. Why? Because they’re made in Melbourne, they’re manufactured according to Ethical Clothing Australia standards, they last forever and they look really, really good. If you’ve seen a Nobody campaign (think: cute tooshes, toothy grins and the occasional midriff slip) you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.
396-398 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Camberwell market has produced a number of gems over the years, but FME Apparel might be our favourite. This slow fashion brand was launched in 2013 by Maddy Maeve following a successful run there, and now sells its range out of its boutique in Abbotsford and online. With sophisticated designs that adhere to the “quality over quantity” ethos, Maddy only uses high quality, sustainable materials and fabrics. We especially can’t get over these two toned cardigans.
340-342 Johnston St, Abbotsford
Does wearing your veggies excuse you from having to eat them? While we’re still not clear on that one, there’s nothing more transparent than Vege Thread’s manufacturing process. Named Vege Threads because of its use of all-natural plant dyes, this brand’s main factory is Melbourne-based and all of its garments are made here in Aus. Vege Threads offers womenswear and menswear including denim, swimwear and intimates, all made from ethically sourced, durable and comfortable materials.
246 High Street, Northcote
Despite its name, the unique, high-quality pieces this resale store has to offer will have you saying “Oh, hello,” more times than you’d care to admit. Goodbyes is like a carefully-curated op-shop – it only sells high-quality and durable pieces. By giving new homes to pre-loved clothes, Goodbyes is doing its bit to reduce the fashion industry’s alarming waste problem. Goodbyes also support a range of charities and causes throughout the year.
2 Johnston Street, Collingwood, 127 Sydney Road, Brunswick and 142 Commercial Road, Prahran
Brotherhood of Saint Lawrence
While this strand of second-hand stores has altruism at the core of its ethos, we figure ethical and altruistic intent go hand in hand. And, if purchasing boutique sustainable threads is stretching your budget, there’s nothing more satisfying than scoring a second-hand steal. The coolest thing about the Brotherhood stores? Many of them section their styles and curate little ‘trend-based’ corners. It’s not uncommon to find a vintage Country Road camisole, or faux-fur jacket lurking in their overstuffed racks.
For a full list of the Brotherhood’s Melbourne locations head here
The Clothing Exchange
The best thing about The Clothing Exchange is it doesn’t involve shopping at all. Why shop, when you can swap? The brainchild of RMIT Fashion graduate Kate Luckins, The Clothing Exchange believes looking good shouldn’t cost the earth – and heck, we coincide! It offers a platform to ‘swap’ your second-hand clothes for other pre-loved pieces online, or at physical ‘Swap Shop’ events across Australia. It’s a super fun (and free) way to be fashionable while making like-minded mates.
Head here to keep an eye out for upcoming Melbourne events
Elk The Label
Founded in Melbourne in 2004, Elk is a pioneer of independent Australian design. Elk partners with several charities and is committed to being a transparent, honest and ethical label. Elk’s bi-annual collections are centred on its commitment to combining simplicity, sustainability and innovation, and in 2019 Elk won the Australian Fashion Laureate Award for Sustainable Innovation presented by IMG. You can expect breathable and comfort-focused designs and product lines including all-occasion clothing, accessories and footwear.
119 Dundas Place, Albert Park, 182 Little Collins St, Melbourne CBD and 395 Plenty Road, Preston
Buying second-hand pieces is one of the best ways to reduce the waste caused by the fashion industry, but it can be hard to give something a second life if you don’t have time to find it in the first place. Vintage Sole has taken the heavy lifting out of thrifting by curating lightly used, seasonally appropriate pieces ranging from the 1960s-90s. This is the place to go if you’re looking for high-quality vintage leather goods or denim, as it always has a good supply of overalls and cowboy boots.
153 Chapel Street Windsor, Cathedral Arcade, 6/37 Swanston Street, Melbourne CBD and 258 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
HoMie, which stands for Homelessness Of Melbourne Incorporated Enterprise, is a Melbourne-based streetwear label with a mission to support young people affected by homelessness. All of HoMie’s garments are produced in Australia and the brand is committed to providing its workers with safe workplaces and fair pay. Shopping at HoMie supports the enterprise provide young people affected by homelessness a paid internship and retail training to help them with employment.
296 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Shag is your spot if you’re looking for a unique vintage piece with a story behind it, or if you’re just a huge fan of “leopard print and hot pink velvet” kind of aesthetic. While this absolute treasure is stocked with an abundance of costume jewellery and vintage furs, there are all sorts of wearable pieces for guys and girls, from corduroy trousers to 80s bomber jackets.
130 Chapel Street, Windsor, shop 20 259 Collins Street, Melbourne CBD and 84 Smith Street, Collingwood
Hey all you colour-lovers, did you know ethical fashion brand Obus makes high-quality, mostly local-made pieces in changing palettes and travel-inspired prints? Yep, and Obus prides itself on producing small ranges and reducing waste by repurposing fabric off-cuts. They also have a Swap Shop initiative that aims to close the loop on the lifecycle of fashion by encouraging customers to trade in pre-loved items for store credit.
Level 1, 285 High Street, Northcote
The Lab Organics
The Lab Organics is a boutique organic skincare and lifestyle store with an online shop and physical store in Carlton. The Lab Organics takes the research out of shopping natural and organic beauty products and only sells products that don’t contain undesirable synthetic chemicals and are results-driven. It’s also committed to sourcing products with sustainable and environmentally-friendly ingredients.
360 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North
Hew is a designer label specialising in bold and colourful patterns. Founder and designer Emma Hewitt created Hew when she discovered a bright and colourful looking gap in the Aussie menswear market, and she has since filled it with her technical expertise in playful patterns and colour exploration. Hew also maintains a strong ethical and social code of conduct, uses Global Organic Textile Standard fabrics and is committed to creating garments that are circular and biodegradable.
Level 1, 187-193 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne CBD
Reina is an archival designer boutique curated and run by Romy Theodore, a graduate of New York’s Parsons School of Design who’s passionate about rehoming old pieces to make fashion more circular. Reina can be likened to the wardrobe of an enviously-stylish older sister with a great eye for vintage threads, only this wardrobe is open, airy and, best of all, shoppable. With an emphasis on pieces from the late 80s to 2005, Reina’s collection is meticulously curated and includes labels like Prada, Miu Miu, Gucci and Dior.
Level 1, 37 Swanston Street, Melbourne CBD
No Order Market
No Order Market is a collaborative retail space in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. It’s home to luxury store Shifting Worlds, which stocks labels like Issey Miyake, Shrimps, Maryam Nassir Zadeh.
Level 1, 187-193 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne CBD
Circular fashion brand A.bch is really into radical transparency when it comes to ethics and sustainability. All of its clothes are made in Melbourne from renewable, organic and recycled materials, and sustainability is baked into every part of the design process and supply chain. Its clothes prioritise clean shapes, thoughtful minimalism and timeless design functionality so the pieces will last you a long time, but are also compostable when you’re done with them. The FAQ page on its website has heaps of information about its values and business practices if you want to learn more about a brand doing it right.
Studio 2/25 Easey St, Collingwood, by appointment
With over two decades of denim expertise enriching every piece, Denimsmith takes locally-made clothing to a whole new level and is proudly accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia. Their pieces take strength and durability up a notch, with 10 stitches per inch instead of the industry standard of seven. Denimsmith’s ever-expanding range of styles and washes means you’ll probably be able to find your perfect pair, and they even have a custom option if you don’t.
73 Gertrude St, Fitzroy and 15-17 Kirkdale St, Brunswick East
Kalaurie creates modern heirlooms designed to be treasured for a lifetime. Working on a made-to-order manufacturing model, your garment is made especially for you and crafted from beautiful and renewable resources and that are also biodegradable.
By appointment, find out more here
More of a system than a shop, Swop focuses on reducing waste and creating a circular fashion economy by incentivising people to sell their unwanted clothes. Passionate about sustainability and durability, Swop only takes items they know they can give a new, long life to. You can shop Swop’s collection of unique pieces in-store or online.
266 Smith Street, Collingwood
Vintage Garage is a boutique marketplace made up of 40 of the finest hand-picked specialist dealers. A hotbed of classic vintage, edgy streetwear and crazy festival gear, Vintage Garage has a well-established reputation for exclusive stand-out pieces. You will also find vinyl records, homewares, memorabilia, collectables and vintage fabrics (and plenty of inspiration for your next costume party).
318 Smith St, Collingwood
Vintage lovers, take note. Yesteryear’s two eclectic stores stock vintage & internationally sourced clothing & accessories. Walking into the store you’ll be confronted by an abundance of colour and retro patterns but fear not there’s something for the minimalists too (think Celine-esque camel coloured Italian two-piece suits).
331 Brunswick St, Fitzroy and 200 High St, Northcote
In it for the long haul, Kuwaii prides itself on design-focused pieces that are made to last. Each piece Kuwaii makes is designed locally, in its Brunswick studio and always with the customer in mind. Kuwaii is committed to environmental sustainability and strongly believes in empowering women. Kuwaii’s pieces range from solid colours to funky prints and include everything from basics to footwear.
291 Smith Street, Fitzroy, Shop 7-8 Cathedral Arcade, 37 Swanston Street, Melbourne CBD and 37-39 Glenlyon Road, Brunswick
Hidden upstairs in the heritage Nicholas Building, this eclectic secondhand store has been open for almost 20 years. Specialising in fashion from the 1940s to the 1990s, you are sure to find some fab flares, cowboy boots and fringed jackets. They even have a collection of over 5000 band tees and they hold massively discounted warehouse sales so keep your eyes peeled.
Nicholas Building, 37 Swanston Street, Melbourne CBD
Lost and Found Market
This place is a treasure trove full of vintage fashion, furniture, art, records, bric-a-brac and more. Located in the heart of Fitzroy, this collection of individual stalls is the perfect place to go when you don’t know what you need. Head up the stairs and you’ll find everything from couches to cooking pots, but make sure you have the whole day put aside cause boy, you’ll need it!
288 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Mutual Muse is a consignment store offering sustainable fashion lovers the chance to buy and sell gently-used secondhand clothing, shoes and accessories. While Mutual Muse specialises in familiar, contemporary brands it’s not shy of anything a little unusual and won’t say no to well-made basics and a bit of vintage. Not an op-shop or a traditional vintage store, Mutual Muse prides itself on its curated selection and particularly focuses on a femme aesthetic in its Thornbury store.
687 High St, Thornbury and 171a Sydney Rd, Brunswick
For more sustainable fashion labels, head here.