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Melbourne's Top 7 Emerging Designers

Fashion, arts and culture are synonymous with Melbourne, a city renowned for its invigorating style, cutting-edge artistic vision, and sustainably focused labels. Here’s a look at our top seven emerging designers.

7. Klei

269 High Street, Northcote

Bringing colour to life are the clever team at Klei. Founded in 2003 as a collaboration between Barbara van Oost and Ben Paola, the Klei business owners started out in their garage, with a small range of ceramics and jewellery manufactured in Melbourne. Now sold through independent retailers across the country, Klei also proudly owns a standalone store in trendy design hub Northcote, with a collection that has grown to include womenswear and unique accessories. Think marbled acrylic earrings, funky studs, brass tribal jewellery, charm necklaces, vintage pouches, patterned minibags and woven baskets — all with a signature bohemian flair.

6. Martha Jean

Various locations across Melbourne

Offering a range of contemporary jewellery, scarves and handbags with a strong focus on shape, pattern and colour, Martha Jean is a frontrunner in the creative stakes. Founder Ana Nicols’ background in fine art and textile design is apparent in her pieces — combining colours, textures, shapes and materials in interesting and unusual ways. Taking inspiration from her studio surroundings, Nicols counts nature, art, painting and sculptures as influences in her work. “Each piece goes through quite a process from conception, design and sampling. All of the jewellery is handmade” she says. You’ll find quite the range — earrings come in sparkly stud, silky tassel, jewel drop or wooden and copper hoop forms; her necklaces definitely turn heads with brass statement and timeless resin pieces making up the collection.

5. FME Apparel

340–342 Johnston Street, Abbotsford

Proudly Melbourne made “born and raised”, clothing line FME Apparel was officially launched in 2013 after owner Maddy Maeve’s successful stint of selling dip-dyed dresses at the Camberwell Market. A boutique that celebrates “creative expression and community, through photography and clothing design”, FME Apparel is all about the detail in women’s wear. With sophisticated designs that adhere to the “quality over quantity” ethos, Maeve only uses high quality, sustainable materials and fabrics. From stylish bodice tops and cropped pants to midi skirts and fashion-forward jumpsuits, FME Apparel is built to last. As a bonus, FME sells outfits created by Women Weave (an Indian not-for-profit which sources skilled women from rural areas to hand-spin organic cottons), showcasing the value in practicing what you preach.

4. A.BCH

367 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North

A.BCH is an independent fashion label tackling the bigger issues in the fashion world — air and water pollution, wastage and human rights abuse. How are they doing this? By using sustainable materials like GOTS Certified Organic Cotton and Linen, hemp, ethical wool, peace silk, Tencel® and recycled polyester (PET). Ethical cred aside, founder Courtney Holm ensures every garment is a fashion and lifestyle piece for the global citizen. Classic t-shirts, trendy skivvies, linen dresses and shirts, and zero-waste sweaters form the wardrobe basics of Australia’s first fully-circular fashion label, proving that upholding environmental standards go hand-in-hand with running a profitable business. Definitely a standout in the sustainable space is our verdict.

3. Space Vivian

Pinky's - 28 Gilbert Rd, Preston VIC 3072

Melbournalia - 5/50 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000

All that glitters is, well, glitter. Although not designers in the traditional sense, friends Claire and Rosie are pushing boundaries with their eco-friendly glitter line. As ardent festival-goers themselves, they were appalled to discover just how much of a carbon footprint their love for colour was leaving behind and took matters into their own hands. “We developed an eco-glitter product that is cosmetic grade and compostable. We spent a long time investigating the product to ensure it has all the right eco-credentials, and researched packaging — as most cosmetic ones are plastic.” With fun names like ‘Glitz out for the Boys’, ‘Rocky Horror Glitter Show’ and ‘Baby Glitter's Club’, they also offer customers a chance to DIY their own glitter mixes — so the sky's the limit for colour combinations. Environmentally friendly, and with a hilarious Instagram account to boot.

2. Leonard Street

Various locations across Melbourne

A slightly larger emerging fashion operation, Leonard Street is an independent label known for its quirky prints and vibrant colours. Since its humble beginnings in 2004, Leonard Street has expanded into three boutiques across Melbourne. The brand also carries a range of accessories – from cute earrings to funky hats and tote bags. Founder and designer Amanda McCarthy’s take on fashion is a distinctly bold approach with an eclectic, modern twist. Think statement prints with structured pants, two-tonal scarves, classic knit jumpers, flowy tunic tops and crisp linen outfits to stand the test of time. If you’re after unique prints on quality fabric, this is the line for you.

1. Devoi

Design-a-Space, Manchester Lane, Melbourne

Flattering feminine silhouettes is the name of the game, and Devoi is showing the rest of us how it’s done. A chance meeting between UK fashion designer, Rhianne de Almeid, and Australian lawyer, Cheryl D’Amico proved fruitful after they both discovered they shared a passion for distinctive clothing. Established in 2015, the designers stay true to their “individual yet effortlessly striking” philosophy when curating each new collection — every Devoi piece is made with timeless style in mind. Delicate flower prints, silk blouses, elegant pencil skirts, and dresses that seamlessly transition from work to play are all staples in Devoi’s collection. As a bonus, they’ve also teamed up with a jewellery designer, Next Romance, so you can accessorise your outfits all in one spot.