Three little birds and little boy blue
A new popup store, 'Three little birds and little boy blue', opened in the Nishi building this week. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Everything about NewActon is so fiendishly new, avant-garde and up-to-the-minute. And so the mind is boggled a little by the sudden emergence there of a space celebrating the 1950s and 1960s.
“Shall I turn the music down?” Suzan Dlouhy wondered as she began Tuesday’s guided tour of Three little birds & little boy blue. And the music she was worried about was by those stars of long ago Little Richard and Roy Orbison. They were warbling on an olde vinyl platter spinning on a period, wood-cased Astor record player.
The mind’s bogglings as one crosses the threshold of the “creative hub” are caused in part by the fact that to get to it, to step into the 1950s, one has just ascended the dashingly 21st century staircase of the Hotel Hotel in the Nishi building. To go in to Three little birds & little boy blue and into the embrace of songs from a prehistoric hit parade is to feel the shock of the old.
But it is great fun. We associate NewActon with a kind of Melbournesque trendiness and sure enough this new (it opened on Monday) “pop-up shop” may be the first to pop up in Canberra.
“This,” Dlouhy explained (speaking loudly to be heard above Orbison’s Almost 18, a hymn to his girl friend who has barely reached the age of consent) “is a creative hub.”
“It’s been designed and styled by owner of April’s Caravan, Janette (Netty) VontheHoff. So the idea is that it’s a little mini-house [set in a spacious, sunlight-lit space on Hotel Hotel’s foyer level]. She’s recreated a vintage, 1950s style household within the space.”
“We [the five tenants] expect to be here two or three months. Pop-ups like this usually occupy a space that’s in transition. There’s a lot of them in Melbourne and Sydney. It’s like you get in retail hubs and there’s a gap in tenancies and you find local artists invited in to have somewhere they wouldn’t normally have to showcase their stuff. So it’s usually an opportunity for local people to get a foot in the door.”
The occupants of the pop-up shop are fashion designer Gina Poulakis of label G. Ginchy, fashion designer Dlouhy of label SZN, and the owner of April’s Caravan, Janette (Netty) VontheHoff. They’re the three little birds. The little boy is fashion designer Mitch Thompson of label Perpetually Five. Artist and designer Jodie Cunningham will also work from the space.
All five have their own very distinctive spaces, within the shop, where they ply their various crafts and sit among the things, all on sale, that they’ve made and/or collected. So for example Dlouhy sits at a discreetly fabulous 1950s Husqvarna sewing machine (made in Sweden). It is as dear to her, you can tell from the way she sings its praises, as a Stradivarius violin is to a virtuoso fiddler.
And so for example Gina Poulakis works in the “kitchen” of the “mini-house” furnished with the kitchen artefacts of the 1950s. The star of the latter (and perhaps the star of the whole space) is a freshly-painted (an authentic pale, custardy cream) Hallstrom refrigerator of the 1950s. In working order (Dlouhy opened it to show cold drinks within) it has some of the noble, bulbous qualities of the very first Holden motor cars.
Dlouhy’s own space is, she laughs, the mini-house’s “garden”.
“Yes,” she explained at the next stop on our tour (speaking above Little Richard admitting I brought it all on myself) “this next space is mine.”
“I’m using [to make unique clothes] a mixture of sustainability techniques and using fabrics that have been given to me. Vintage fabrics and from around the world.”
One “futuristic dress” that almost brought a blush to this reporter’s cheek, is a black leather creation “made completely from recycled leather scraps”. Dlouhy imagines it being worn on-stage by an in-your-face female rock-star.
Certainly Roy Orbison’s aforementioned teenage girl friend would never have worn such as thing for the song has this thumbnail sketch of her:
Full skirt, don't flirt, ballerina shoes
Pin slips, two lips that never sing the blues.
“So my space is the outdoor garden,” Dlouhy explained, pointing out the fake lawn (Astroturf) beneath our feet, “the hanging baskets, the wicker furniture”.
“It’s all to simulate me [and her stylish old Husqvarna] being outside because I’m the sunshine character here. And you should see [through her glass wall] the sunset here over Parliament House. It’s amazing. It’s beautiful.”
And in the two or three months in the evanescent “pop-up shop” that she and the others will enjoy the view of the sunset, there are to be all sorts of novel activities not normally associated with a normal shop. For example on Saturdays at 2pm there will an informal “In the Lounge Room With…” get together at which a chosen creative artist is invited to sit near the Astor and talk and play.
But you can find out all about that at the appropriate website that has just popped up.