Daily Life

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Boutique City

Bigger isn’t always better, especially when it comes to looking for personalised service. Meet some of the faces behind smaller Canberra businesses that specialise in helping the individual.

Leane Bell, owner of DeVine Goddess

After working as a make-up artist in the United States, Leanne became addicted to the wide range of jewelry around her. And it was this bourgeoning addiction that inspired the former fashion student to bring a unique and diverse selection of mid-priced jewelry to Canberra through her business, DeVine Goddess. “We specialise in costume jewelry,” she says. “It’s definitely more glamorous for evening and special occasions.” Leanne says knowledgeable customer service sets the store apart. “I’ve got a degree in fashion design and so does Chris, who runs our city store,” she says. “We breathe fashion and the customers like that because a lot of the time they like to be guided in terms of what would suit them.” Accessories are often touted as completing an outfit, and Leanne says a lot of women now appreciate the simplicity and value of adding a statement piece of jewelry to an existing wardrobe. “You can have the same dress but the way you accessorise it can take it to the next level – you can bring your style, it can give you a different look and people love that.”

Upper Level, Canberra Centre, 148 Bunda Street, Canberra, 0420 501 620, leane.bell@gmail.com

Julie Nichols and Rachel Evagelou, owners of Shop Handmade Canberra

For craft enthusiasts Julie and Rachel, stepping into Shop Handmade is like experiencing a slice of Christmas every day. Housing 170 Australian designers each month with new stock arriving daily, the store is brimming with anything from home wares and furniture to jewelry and wood wear – as long as it’s hand made. “The shop never gets boring, it never gets stale; it’s always new and exciting,” Rachel says. After the launch of the quarterly, two-day Homemade Market in 2008, the pair realised a need for a more permanent presence in Canberra and opened Shop Handmade in 2010. Today, the store offers a range of workshops plus a creative space for customers who want to make an item from purchased materials or kits. “You can buy a soy candle, you can learn to make a soy candle and then buy the kit and go home and make more soy candles,” Julie says. “Things can be made to order too. And that’s one of the big differences. When you want to buy something for anybody we have the people in the shop to customise something to your own needs.”

City Walk Blvd, Canberra, 6156 3274, handmademarket.com.au

Daniella Jukic, owner of Alice Be Curious

For Daniella, the highlight of a long career working in fashion retail is interacting with her customers. And it’s this passion for imparting her fashion experience on visitors to the store that is at the centre of the shopping experience at Alice Be Curious. “It’s a bit of a unique experience in that it’s one-on-one. I’m not rushing to serve customers,” she says. “Quite often you develop relationships, a good rapport, with your customers and you learn their style and you know what to suggest. So when I do my ordering I always have a few customers in mind.” The self-described “flamboyant” dresser also enjoys stocking an extensive range of clothes, shoes and accessories from labels like Finders Keepers, Keepsake, House of Harlow and Jeffrey Campbell. “I try to choose brands that aren’t heavily saturated in Canberra,” Daniella says. “I’m trying to choose pieces that are a little bit different and unique for the fashionista in Canberra that goes to Melbourne or Sydney to shop because they can’t find anything here.”

3/1 Mews East, Canberra, 6161 1544, alicebecurious.com


Xavier Orsucci, owner & Tailor of Black Tie by Xavier

Xavier rarely sees a Canberra man sporting a beautifully tailored suit. “It’s an off the rack, it’s a general fit,” he says. But this is a problem the owner and tailor of Black Tie by Xavier is tackling head-on. Xavier says his store emerged from a need for more personalised service for the men of Canberra. “Men didn’t have that level of service,” he explains. “So whether they’re hiring or purchasing or having a suit tailor made, it’s all encompassed under the same store. [A tailor-made] garment is made specifically for the client, to fit him and be exactly what he needs.” It’s also Xavier’s dual role as owner and tailor that sets the store’s customer service apart. “I’m the tailor so you’re being serviced by a tailor rather than a salesman,” he says. “Coming from the tailor’s point of view, there’s a certain level of trust. They allow us to hone our craft for them so, it’s very important the customer has a focus on what he wants and from there we can turn it into a reality.”

Level 1, 75-79 Petrie Plaza, Canberra, 6257 3937, blacktiebyxavier.com.au

Loretta Hately, owner of Lellow Kids

Loretta always knew she had the drive to run her own business – she just wasn’t sure what business that would be. But after becoming a parent the former bookkeeper “stumbled” into retail, taking the reins of Lellow Kids (formerly Lellow) from friend Diana Derek in October 2011. With a diverse background tackling both numbers and nappies, Loretta brings a unique touch to the bustling business. “When I took over, I added things to the store that I knew parents would like – I knew what the kids loved,” she says. “But I’m actually a bookkeeper. So I like figures, I like business behind the scenes.” Stocking a range of clothes, shoes and toys catering for newborns to 12-year-olds, Loretta says the store specialises in stocking quality products as cheaply as possible. Items include clothes by Munster, Chalk n Cheese and Coco and Ginger, a range of French-made toys from Moulin Roty plus a variety of shoes and boots. “The clothes are a bit more unique – they have more of a sense of style,” she says. “You don’t need to go to Melbourne or Sydney now – you can come to Lellow.”

3a/25 Lonsdale Street, Braddon 6248 5006, lellow.com.au

Cally Earnshaw, manager of Soho Dezigns

Boasting an array of sought-after labels, including Bec and Bridge, Camilla and Marc and Wayne Cooper to name a few, Soho Dezigns really has something for every taste. “Soho is a wonderful venue for daughters, mothers and grandmothers who like to shop together – all ages,” manager Cally says. But at the same time both the store and its sister shop, Momento Dezigns, owned by Roslyn Wright, are unique and retain a level of exclusivity. “We receive new stock every week so we always have something new to offer and inspire,” Cally says. With a decade of experience in retail behind her, Cally says she is passionate about helping customers find the perfect article of clothing while encouraging them to try something new. “We love to style clients around what suits and what is appropriate for an occasion, all while striving to meet a client’s budget,” she says. “There are different looks and styles that women feel comfortable in and I like to work with  that and potentially, just maybe, let them try something different and allow them to see themselves in a different light.”

70 Bunda Street, Canberra, 6230  6630, sohodezigns.com.au

Shaen Flakelar, owner of La Cobbler Shoes

Florist-turned-shoe shop owner Shaen says one of the highlights of running her 12-year-old business, La Cobbler Shoes, is meeting the daughters of the women she used to sell to. “It’s nice having the daughters of the mothers I used to deal with actually coming in now as young women, saying ‘my mum always used to bring me to your shop’, and now they’re shopping with me,” she says. “It’s like handing me down.” And it’s this love of getting to know her customers and helping them complete an outfit that’s at the heart of Shaen’s business. “Having clients bringing their outfits in and dressing them with shoes and a bag – accessories they need – that’s when I feel I’ve done my job,” Shaen says. “I’ll see them after hours and that sort of thing so I have the time to give totally to them.” With a philosophy of providing Canberra’s women with a distinct range of shoes and accessories, including the new and Australian-exclusive Gretaflora label, Shaen says she strives to provide her clientele with a unique experience.

Shop 12/40, Canberra House, Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra, 6247 4855

Brad Cox and Emma Peadon, owners of Olive & Grey

At Olive & Grey, it’s all about colour. Formerly named Bsuited and solely run by Brad, the store was renamed last December when Emma joined the business.  Bringing more than just a woman’s touch to the boutique men’s and women’s clothes store, Emma is a trained image consultant and enjoys helping customers choose clothes that complement their bodies. “I did personal colour analysis for women,” Emma says. “It’s called style and body dynamics, so it works with body lines, body shapes and the line of clothing and what’s complimentary to someone’s figure. It’s something we wanted to tie into the store so people know that they’re getting clothes that are beautiful and suit them as well so they can go away and feel and look amazing.” Acting as both owners and salespeople, Brad and Emma agree forming trusting relationships with their clientele is integral to their business. “The internet is big at the moment but we still think there are enough people who want that experience of coming in and trying things on,” Brad says. “That’s why it’s about trust and getting that personalised service.”

Shop 5, 40 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra, 0403 311 272, style@oliveandgrey.com.au