I THE SECRET SHOPPER Pigeons and Pippi Longstocking
Eclectic finds on the fly in Perth
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,
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