What's inside South Melbourne's newest women's shoe boutique? Beautiful handmade brogues, for a start
The footwear connoisseurs behind men's emporium Beggar Man Thief have just opened a new store right around the corner from their South Melbourne boutique. Nestled inside a Victorian terrace house, the three-room space is furnished with Art Deco chandeliers, ’60s Danish antiques, and the friendly faces of business partners Sarina Lewis and Kirsty Umback. While you'll find a range of bags, accessories and beauty products (including Melbourne lipstick brand Shanghai Suzy), the heart of their operation is the collection of beautifully constructed, classic ladies’ brogues.The name of the shop is inspired by Victorine Meurent; a wild, unconventional Frenchwoman of the 19th century who was an artist, model and muse to Impressionist painter Edouard Manet.
To find out how a love of classic shoes turned into an imaginative retail project, we spoke to co-owner Sarina Lewis.
Sarina, what was your biggest lesson from Beggar Man Thief that helped you when starting Victorine?
From the amount of women that have come in to Beggar Man Thief in the last four years, that there is a market of women crying out for quality brogues, loafers, Chelsea boots and even lifestyle shoe. We want to see the ballet flat removed as the default flat shoe for women. There is so much more interesting stuff out there.
Your shoes come from a variety of sources from designers around the world. But what inspires your own Victorine brand of shoes?
The Victorine shoe brand echoes the ethos of the shop – which is quality and classicism over fashion. Shoes that are stylish but not trendy. We’re always placing an emphasis on the quality of the making, which is why we’re committed to making our more traditional British style brogues, loafers and Chelsea boots in England. For us it would be the greatest compliment if you never had to wear another pair of shoes again – simply keep adding to the collection!
Can you walk us through your buying process?
We focus on brands that keep close the same ethos that drives us: shoes that are beautifully constructed in classic styles but are still happy to push the boat out experimenting with leather treatments, materials, textures and colours. We always have in mind our niche – a shoe you can wear that is comfortable but still turns heads. You don't need a six-inch stiletto to do that.
How would you describe the style of the store itself?
Intimate and warm. People often comment on its European feel given that it seems more like a living space than an actual retail store. Someone even one day asked if this was our lounge room! We have furnished using Danish mid- century antiques from Retropia in Williamstown, with Art Deco crystal chandeliers from Lyn Gardener at Empire Vintage. All pieces are on consignment and available for purchase.
Do you have a fashion based quote that you carry with you for inspiration?
"Cinderella is proof that a pair of shoes can change your life" – Walt Disney. The man knows what he's talking about.