For Chrissie Catling, a great retail experience is about sincere, personalised service. Her S2 store in North Perth's Angove Street has it in spades, but its flair is also in its discerning, luxurious fashion and wares; distinctive, clean design; and worldly-wise sensibility.
A flagship for Catling's S2 label - characterised by minimal, structural pieces in natural fabrics and a moody palette - the store also stocks a handful of similarly cool Australian and international names including Lui Hon, Alistair Trung, Chronicles of Never, Phong Chi La, Sardine de Montard and Gem Kingdom. The crisp space, with its white walls and concrete floor, is a canvas for the evolving displays of clothing, footwear and accessories.
It also allows Catling to showcase works from local artists such as Jodee Knowles. 'I designed the space in such a way so it was possible to be forever changing. To really work it as a gallery space,' she says. 'We've got 400kg of fish tank gravel on the floor at the moment that we shove into different shapes, just to keep the energy changing.'
Where do you look for inspiration?
The two key places are nature and architecture. Another source of inspiration is the Japanese designers. They're creating fashion, but they're creating pieces that you can wear for a lifetime. And I love the juxtaposition of old and new.
Who is your favourite Perth artist?
At the moment it's Tim Darby. He's worked in copper, he's worked in limestone, he is an environmentalist and his way of putting things together is fantastic. He looks at things in slightly different way. He's just installed some new copper rails in the store for me.
What is your biggest indulgence?
I love beautiful rings, especially from Dutch label Gem Kingdom. And I love beautiful fabric and finish.
One other indulgence is space. The negative space around things is just as important as what we put in it. It's not always possible to have space, whether it is in your mind - to think or not think; or in your environment - in order to show something beautifully. I think that's an indulgence. And we have far more of it here than perhaps in other cities in the world that have millions more people.
If you had to choose a favourite fashion period from the past, what would it be and why?
I don't really have one, but if had to choose I probably would lean towards the 1920s, because of the liberation of women from corsets. It was a greater freedom of clothes on the body and I think women looked just as sexy and gorgeous. I think it’s that non-conformity of the 20s, and how Coco Chanel thought at the time, 'let's put women in jersey', and how well that worked.
What is your favourite shopping city and why?
Melbourne, because it's close at hand. It does all sorts of things. It offers a really forward approach in architecture and it brings that wonderful juxtaposition of old and new. Its fashion and public spaces are probably like how I styled S2 in a sense, with leaving soul in the building and not just ripping the guts out of it so it’s so perfect that it becomes a bit sterile. And Melbourne's got great food!
Where do you go to escape Perth?
We have about a week a year, where we all go to Albany. I went there as a child for holidays so I have a very fond memory of the place. I just find that Southern Ocean and all the granite on the headlands just so beautiful. And it is a milder climate with a tinge of green. There’s something really special there for me.
26 Angove Street, North Perth. T: 08 9227 1136
When Melissa Gordon was a child, her imagination was allowed to run wild - exploring the farm she lived on in plenty of space and experiencing countless adventures. A trader at heart, the little girl shared a stall with her mother at the local markets selling peanut slabs.
Born and raised in Perth, Wal started painting in 1996 and has exhibited in many cities, from New York to Broome to Hong Kong to Margaret River. He says the colours in his abstract expressionist paintings “select themselves”. Not surprisingly, his hometown of Perth is an inspirational place for Wal. “Perhaps because you need to fossick to get inspiration here, it becomes more potent – as opposed to the white-wash of constant inspiration found in those cities of the world we all adore,” he explains.
Imagine a small cafe nestled in a tree-lined neighbourhood street. The breakfast eggs are silky and the ever-flowing coffee seeps aroma into every corner. Now imagine this transformation as the sun goes down – the breakfast menu gets stowed away and a theatre curtain is drawn down creating an intimate, gastronomic kitchen. Suddenly, the bustling community coffee shop has turned into a dark and chic dining experience.
Almost 10 years young, Love In Tokyo is a visual feast of colour and texture, situated in the historical west end of Fremantle. With confessed bowerbird at the helm, Sheree Dornan creates a stunning edit of silk garments, scarfs and accessories from her eponymous label as well as handpicked pieces from local and national collections.
After studying commercial interior design and running a Japanese restaurant in Perth for over 11 years, Mark wanted to instill creativity into his world and make use of his childhood passion for art. He opened an art gallery in Mt Lawley in 2006, later moving to Northbridge. Walker strongly believes that "Perth needs (to act as) a platform of creativity for artists to showcase their work."
Shedwallahs’ quirky cross cultural name reflects the current zeitgeist of the Indian sub-continent. Proprietors Fran Welke and Mandy Rogers pioneered a different approach to retail over 8 years ago when they opened Shedwallah in the 1940’s saw toothed warehouse in Stack Street. It is now one of Fremantle’s’ iconic businesses and has inspired others to join this funky emerging community.
With a burning love for books, Jane Seaton left behind a long and successful career in medicine and medical sales to open Beaufort Street Books.
Describing itself as “sitting at an intersection of design, art and fashion,” Portal+ is an extraordinary fusion of independent art gallery and progressive retail space.
From growing up in dairy and sheep farm in Cowaramup to cutting his teeth in a five-star hotel and working at the Dorchester Hotel in London, and cultivating his passion for food through travels in France, Spain, Italy and Portugal when he was in his early 20s, Russell Blaikie’s career was certain from early on.
For Bree Taylor, bringing luxury into everyday life is a no brainer. “It is so important to make yourself feel important and pampered, and it doesn't have to be overly indulgent,” says the owner of Mt Lawley skincare and fragrance boutique, Mariposa.
When Ryan Gregory and Carla Arevalo happened upon a warren of ramshackle basement offices in a stately heritage building for lease on Howard Street in the middle of Perth’s CBD, they didn’t need vision goggles to see the potential.
Who: Ursula Rose
What: Toast Cafe, 21/60 Royal St, East Perth. T: 9221 0771
Must Try: Toast every which way, corn fritters or polenta toast with mushrooms, soft Italian cheese & fresh parsley
Where: Post Emporium, 23 View St, North Perth. T:9228 0373
Must see: The D'or skirt from the Summer 11/12 Illumina collection
Who: Desi Litis Where: Venn, 16 Queen St, Perth. T: 9321 8366
Desi Litis is part of the duo behind Perth's Venn, a one-time flour mill that is now home to a gallery, artists' studio, bar & cafe and design retail space. We chat with her about balancing acts, renovation stress and local inspiration.
Urban Walkabout talks to Perth's local talent, giving you an insight into the passionate people behind amazing businesses. We chat with Philia Kailis, owner of Test Tube Objects about form vs function, keeping our homes looking good and the inspiration found both locally and abroad.