Nairobi-born, Melbourne-raised sisters Laurinda and Fatuma Ndenzako are behind the eclectic clothing label Collective Closets. Since 2015, they’ve been merging the subtle Melbourne aesthetic with the tribal weaving, batik prints, and bold, earthy colours seen in fashion across the African continent. The pair mainly sold their garments online before opening their first bricks-and-mortar store at the Queen Victoria Market in June.
“It’s been a really great decision for us to venture off and finally open up our own retail store,” Laurinda says. “Customers can come in and we can talk to them and people can touch and feel [the clothes].”
Alongside the duo’s own label, the sunlit store is a hub for other local female designers. “We wanted to open up a store that was like a mini emporium … that celebrated independent emerging designers,” she says. “But also, we love the concept of having a tribe of women who run their own businesses.”
Womenswear label Olearia uses mainly dead-stock linen for its trans-seasonal dresses, skivvies, pants and coats (such as this oversized trench), which go up to size 16.
Revel knitwear’s luxury hand-knitted pieces are an ode to designer Shannyn Lorkin’s grandmother, who taught her how to knit.
“[Shannyn] has a really great policy,” Laurinda says. “If your piece becomes damaged, [for example] by getting caught on something, you can bring it back in store and she’s more than happy to fix it. She doesn’t want anyone throwing anything away.”
On the marble benchtop, A’sika Jewellery takes centre stage. Ghanaian-born, Melbourne-based Ella Badu designs pieces – such as this Yoro Ring – inspired by Ghana’s rich cultural history and artisanal workmanship. Faces of tribal men and women inspired her latest collection.
Other designers include Ovazania Jewellery, Radical Yes footwear and Emily Green jewellery. Everything in the store is either handmade, made from dead-stock fabric (or recycled or reclaimed precious metals), or produced in small runs with the aim of minimising waste.
With whitewashed walls and timber floorboards, the minimalist space is brought to life by greenery from local florist Katie Burgham.
“I met [Katie] when she was carrying one of our bags from our first collection at a market,” Laurinda says. “I tapped her on the shoulder, and I was so excited I was like, ‘Oh my God you’re wearing one of my bags!’ I was having a total freak-out moment that someone was carrying something we’d designed and made. We’ve been friends with her ever since.”
Collective Closets also holds monthly jewellery-making workshops, styling classes and more.
103 Victoria Street, Melbourne
Thu to Sun 10am–4pm