I THE SE­CRET SHOP­PER Pi­geons and Pippi Long­stock­ing

Eclec­tic finds on the fly in Perth

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - MICHELLE ROWE

When law grad­u­ate Jo­hann Kim set up a tiny fash­ion and gift store within a hid­den ar­cade in Perth’s CBD on his 25th birth­day, it was done on a wing and a prayer, and with ‘‘a lot of help from friends and fam­ily, and a cou­ple of credit cards’’.

Pi­geon­hole cel­e­brated its fifth birth­day in Oc­to­ber as a thriv­ing chain of four stores, each with a dif­fer­ent fo­cus, plus a cafe and menswear out­let. Its slo­gan is ‘‘off-beat de­sign found off the beaten track’’ and the shops stock an eclec­tic mix of fash­ion, de­sign prod­ucts, ac­ces­sories, ana­log pho­tog­ra­phy gear, sta­tionery and home­wares. Kim’s own­range of distinc­tively branded Pi­geon­hole jew­ellery (look out for the pi­geon in a busi­ness tie) is so pop­u­lar it’s now sold by re­tail­ers na­tion­wide. At the huge Pi­geon­hole pop-up store in the One40Wil­liam com­plex on Wil­liam Street, open un­til the end of Jan­uary, I spy ev­ery­thing from chunky wooden jew­ellery and old­fash­ioned Ri­d­ley’s toys to bags and in­de­pen­dent Swedish fash­ion brands, as well as gor­geous ce­ram­ics, stamps, book­marks and notepads.

Kim’s charm­ing Cabin Fever cafe, in the Bon Marche Ar­cade off Bar­rack Street, is just the spot for but­ter­milk pan­cakes and a nice pot of tea, in sur­rounds rem­i­nis­cent of Granny’s front par­lour. More: pi­geon­hole.com.au. I don’t know what catches my­eye first, the racks of glit­ter­ing evening wear (un­der­stated el­e­gance rather than in­y­our-face bling) or the cute ta­ble ar­range­ment of san­dals, ac­ces­sories and whim­si­cal ob­jets d’art rem­i­nis­cent of a dis­play by fash­ion de­signer Fleur Wood. Cole­man be­gan her ca­reer as an in­te­rior stylist, open­ing her first home­wares store in Syd­ney in 1996 and go­ing on to work with the likes of Si­bella Court in New York. She later branched out into fash­ion de­sign. Her bi­jou bou­tique stocks gor­geous pieces from French de­signer Am­bre Bab­zoe (a cute 1920s-style dress for an ele­gant cock­tail soiree, per­haps?), as well as Cole­man’s own creations, from floaty silk and cot­ton dresses per­fect for sum­mer to sports­wear and evening pieces. Cole­man keeps her hand in with home­wares, too, run­ning an in­te­rior styling con­sul­tancy in tan­dem with the bou­tique. More: elis­sacole­man.com. Perry and Jill Cole­man, par­ents of Elissa Cole­man (above), set up their first Em­pire Home­wares store in Su­bi­aco in 1993. There are now five of th­ese glam­orous in­te­ri­ors out­lets in the state, as well as a re­treat and spa in Yallingup, south of Perth.

Beau­ti­fully re­alised dis­plays of fur­ni­ture and ac­ces­sories, from bed­room set­tings to gor­geous din­ing ar­range­ments, change weekly as ship­ments of hand-picked items ar­rive from abroad. The fam­ily also man­u­fac­tures dis­tinc­tive fur­ni­ture pieces. Ac­ces­sories in­clude vi­brant tex­tiles (rugs, cush­ions and table­ware), can­dles and glass vases. Per­haps you’d like a quirky wooden deer’s head rem­i­nis­cent of a hunter’s tro­phy, but with­out the guilt? More: world­ofem­pire.com. Eleni Kaku­las’s fab­u­lous food em­po­rium, which has done a thriv­ing busi­ness for years, is surely the best rea­son to visit Fre­man­tle. Fol­low the fra­grance of fresh spices to wooden boxes full of aniseed and cin­na­mon sticks, fenu­greek and sweet pa­prika, which share a crammed splitlevel space with im­ported goods such as Malaysian curry mixes, Ja­panese sauces and In­dian chut­neys. Scoop as much cous­cous, or­ganic quinoa, rolled oats or lentils as you like out of gi­gan­tic stor­age con­tain­ers, and put in an or­der for cheeses or chorizo from the small­go­ods deli tucked at the rear. This is a one-stop shop for the eclec­tic en­ter­tainer. If you want to make it two stops, it’s worth check­ing out Kaku­las Brothers, a sim­i­larly well-stocked repos­i­tory of eth­nic in­gre­di­ents, run by Eleni’s rel­a­tives in Northbridge. More: 29-31 Mar­ket Street; (08) 9430 4445; kaku­las­bros.com.au. What to make of this odd lit­tle store in newly cool Northbridge? I feel as if I’ve stum­bled into a graf­fiti artist’s lair,


above left

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be­low with its wall of artist-qual­ity spray paints, marker pens and sten­cils. There are blank T-shirts, skate­board decks and even sets of Rus­sian ma­tryoshka dolls wait­ing to be cus­tomised by as­pir­ing artists. For those who don’t have a cre­ative bent, there are more than enough ready-made pieces to choose from — prints, cloth­ing, eclec­tic jew­ellery — in this very con­tem­po­rary art-sup­plies out­let, housed in a con­verted butcher’s shop on Wil­liam Street. There’s also a sis­ter store in Fre­man­tle. More: the­butch­er­shop.com.au. It’s only fit­ting that Wil­liam Topp’s founder and owner, Kate McKie, has this quote from Astrid Lind­gren’s Pippi Long­stock­ing on her web­site home page: ‘‘I am a ThingFin­der, and when you’re a Thing-Finder you don’t have a minute to spare.’’ The busy McKie has found all man­ner of rare kitsch and col­lecta­bles with which to stock her Wil­liam Street store, from old tin toys to a hole punch that turns credit cards into gui­tar picks, from stamp sets and colour­ful mo­biles to knit­ted egg cosies, quirky badges and magic sets, as well as hand­some jew­ellery and scarves. McKie tries to source mainly from Aus­tralian artists and crafts­peo­ple and I am par­tic­u­larly taken by the ec­cen­tric dio­ra­mas cre­ated in­side old to­bacco tins by Mel­bourne’s tal­ented Neil Thomas. More: williamtopp.com.au.

Kate McKie at her Wil­liam Topp store

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