With the State of Design Festival currently serving up a stylish smorgasbord of events in Melbourne until 31 July, we’re celebrating the best design stores in town. Our top tip for a one-stop shop is fast-gentrifying Gertrude Street in inner-city north’s grunge-cool Fitzroy, the ideal stamping ground for local or visiting design fans alike. You’ll find everything from messenger bags to illustrated tea towels and covetable tableware along this hip strip, as well as a clutch of edgy fashion boutiques, cafés, bars and restaurants. Want jam on it? Then swing by before 31 July to catch the Gertrude Street Projection Festival, which sees the strasse lit up with kooky illuminations at night.
1 Kick off your design shuffle at Crumpler (+61 (0)3 9417 5338; left), on the corner of Gertrude Street at 87 Smith Street, known for its messenger bags with vibrant graphic motifs. A Melbourne success story, started by a bag obsessive and a couple of ex bike couriers, Crumpler has since moved on to produce sleek laptop, camera and travel totes, such as new pull-along Dry Red No 3, handy for fashionable minibreaks.
2 Suave Australian beauty brand Aesop (right) has some of the most cutting-edge stores around, including its simple but seductive wood-lined Fitzroy boutique at 242 Gertrude Street (+61 (0)3 9419 8356), designed by local architect Clare Cousins and Aesop director Dennis Paphitis. Aesop was so inspired by the streetscape’s eclectic mix of characters, shops and great bread, pizza and wine purveyors, it even named one of its glam skincare kits Gertrude Street (we love the mandarin facial hydrating cream).
3 Helmed by designer Stewart Russell, acclaimed Melbourne studio Spacecraft (+61 (0)3 9486 0010; left), at 225 Gertrude Street, produces a striking range of art, textiles and homewares, drawing on Australian and global patterns, from botanical to urban graphic prints. Chunkier buys include furniture, bed linen and cushions, but you can also bag smaller souvenirs such as T-shirts and toys.
4 Pop across the road to Max Watts Industria (+61 (0) 9417 1117) at 202 Gertrude Street for a must-see mix of vintage and industrial designs, including quirky medical equipment, hospital furniture and metal High Bay pendant lamp shades by Mornington Peininsula studio Industria X. If you can resist the lizard specimen in a jar, take home graphic letters or coloured metal fruit bowls recycled from old LPG gas cylinders.
5 Third Drawer Down (+61 (0)3 9534 4088; right) is just off Gertrude, a few steps away at 93 George Street, but it’s worth the detour to score statement tea towels by top graphic designers, illustrators and artists from Australia and abroad. Take your pick from David Shrigley’s surreal cards, Martin Parr’s kitsch plates and Donna Wilson’s sweet animal cups, or check out Kiosk in the back of the store, which sells simple, anonymous everyday designs such as net bags from Germany, melamine sugar bowls from Portugal and red lamp shades from Hong Kong.
6 Founded by Australian Peter Lewis, Porter’s Paints (+61 (0)3 9486 9599) at 167 Gertrude Street draws on his builder/colourist grandfather Fred Porter’s old recipes, offering covetable water-based paints in modern and traditional finishes. Find bespoke handcrafted wallpapers here too.
7 We’re mad for Mud Australia (+61 (0)3 9419 5161; left), which sells sensuous porcelain tableware in an edible rainbow of over 21 colours from smoky grey-blue to power pink and buttery yellow. Based in Sydney, Mud recently opened its first Melbourne store at 181 Gertrude Street, where you can pick up ceramics whizz Shelley Simpson’s lovely cups, bowls and plates, as well as exclusive finds from Chilewich table and floor mats to Kobo soy candles and design-classic Vitsoe shelving.
8 Bikes are the go at Saint Cloud (+61 (0)3 8415 0727; right) at 73 Gertrude Street, a concept store founded by Nick Mahoney touting cutting-edge designer numbers from sleek fixed-wheel frames to saddles, stems, handlebars, pedals, fashionable biking threads and even organic bike care products. It’s named after a commune in Paris, famous for its bike races. Of course.
9 At 71 Gertrude Street you’ll find Little Salon (+61 (0)3 9419 7123), a bite-size boutique bubbling with a quirky mix of Aussie and global designer treats, including accessories, homewares, fashion and jewellery. You can never have too many bangles with attitude and sassy pairs of shades.
10 Pretty, girly, vintage-inspired goodies galore beckon from Cottage Industry (+61 (03 9419 2430; left), at 67 Gertrude Street, which champions salvaged fabrics and craft skills. One-off and limited-edition finds include cute cushions made from old Aussie textiles (cue kitsch koalas, kangaroos and iconic tourist sights), quilts, bags and tapestry poufs.
Eat You won’t go hungry on Gertrude Street. We heart Smith tastemaker Andrew McConnell’s Mod Oz eatery Cutler & Co or grab a table at Charcoal Lane for indigenous fare; Anada for Spanish tapas; Ladro for thin-crust pizza or De Clieu or Birdman Eating for breakfast. Gertrude Street Enoteca makes a good wine stop if you get thirsty on the design trail.
Sleep For somewhere style-savvy to bed down within easy reach of Gertrude Street check out Villa Donati boutique hotel in Melbourne.