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step inside anna cordell’s northcote boutique

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What do Courtney Barnett, Missy Higgins, Tim Rogers, Angie McMahon, Amy Taylor and Lime Cordiale have in common? Aside from being some of our favourite Aussie musicians, the stylish bunch have all donned rad vintage-inspired outfits by Melbourne fashion designer and muso Anna Cordell. We chatted with the super-talented lady about her first bricks-and-mortar store, which recently opened in a 132-year-old building in Northcote.

Why did you open up a physical shop? Taking this space was pretty spontaneous. Although, the thought of having a physical store had been cropping up because so many of my customers were local to Melbourne and were keen to touch and see the garments in the flesh. Once COVID restrictions eased I decided to take the leap. Everything had been so restrictive and my kids and I had been stuck online, so I really wanted to have a closer connection to my customers and deal with everything in real life. Plus, I was hungry for a new creative challenge! 

What’s your favourite thing about the boutique? It’s such a joy to meet so many of my customers who I’ve spoken to online and to feel a sense of community. I opened this place with the help of friends and still have mates helping me get it all off the ground. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the encouragement people have given me and the excitement locals around Northcote have had for the space. 

I love offering the store window to artists for collaborative installations – that’s been really special and has created a beautiful energy in the store. I really look forward to hosting some music in the future, as well. How does the space reflect your clothing designs? The store is inspired by pre-revolution Iran – the time before my dad had to leave the country. I’m fascinated by Persian culture and wanted to bring this influence in strongly, with the warm feeling of a small music venue. I wanted to really create another little world for people to step into.

The store is a real culmination of all of my influences. It’s mood-lit and woody, but we have lush gold vintage wallpaper on the back wall and long velvet curtains hanging in the change room. Like my clothes, I want the space to feel like a dream – a step back in time in one way, but also something indistinguishably new.

How have you incorporated these influences into the space? I’m inspired by the architecture, colours and textures of Iran. I plan to collaborate with some textile artists there soon for my suiting. I took a lot of the colour pallet inspiration from Persian art. Recently, my dad sent a box of beautiful family heirlooms to fit the store out, so we have beautiful woven rugs to warm up the cement floor for winter with little original artworks scattered around. 

My good friend and fellow musician Hollie Joyce, who helped me set the place up, started burning frankincense in the store. That has become a daily staple which really creates the initial tone of the store when people walk in. We play a lot of Persian and Middle Eastern psychedelic folk rock from the ’60s and ’70s in-store, and soon the space upstairs will be set up for special fittings with Persian-inspired drinks and Turkish delight on offer. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and want the experience to be really fun! 

What’s your go-to gig uniform? These days it’s always a suit! I often use my shows as a little trial run for a new idea. I recently tried out a new suit in an antique cream stretch lace. I love creating sheer garments, but I had to see how wearable this garment really was. Doing this set me off on a quest to make some versatile velvet undergarments that would work for layering sheer pieces – I’m really excited to bring those out soon. What in-store experience are you hoping to give customers? I want people to feel comfortable in the space, even if they just want to come and have a look. We invite people to come and play dress-ups.

Will your approach to creating and selling garments change now that you have a physical store? Having the shop and getting feedback directly from customers has already taught me so much. I’ve decided to increase the quantity of small runs of clothing so I have various sizes available off the rack in one style. I’m looking forward to doing surprise drops of small runs throughout the year and making more ready-to-wear for in-store and online. I’ll still have some one-off garments only available in-store – that’s exciting to me and keeps the store a special place to visit – but not everyone has the ability to pop in so I’m excited to have select styles available without the wait times. 

Who has been your favourite musician to dress? I’m working on something with US musician Sharon Van Etten at the moment and I think she’s my current favourite because we’re still in the stages of back-and-forth-ing about what she dreams of wearing, what best suits her latest music and how I can pull all of this into one perfect garment for her to wear while playing. Find out more about Anna and her shop over here.