CHRIS­TINE BARRO

Mel­bourne’s queen of ex­pe­ri­en­tial re­tail reaches for the sky

VOGUE Living Australia - - CONTENTS -

Mel­bourne’s queen of ex­pe­ri­en­tial re­tail reaches for the sky. By An­nemarie Kiely Pho­tographed by Sharyn Cairns

Af­ter nearly 20 years of se­cret­ing her fashion phan­tas­mago­ria into a base­ment space in Flin­ders Lane, Mel­bourne’s queen of ex­pe­ri­en­tial re­tail, Chris­tine Barro, is mov­ing to Collins Street and, again, con­ceal­ing her cab­i­nets of op­u­lent cu­riosi­ties in a coun­ter­in­tu­itive space. “But this time, it’s all about the ver­ti­cal laneway,” says Barro of the up­wards lift of her self-named sa­lon, Chris­tine, into a her­itage-listed build­ing at the end of the city’s premier boule­vard. “For me, the real thrill in fashion de­liv­ers in the un­ex­pected find; the hunt and the catch that re­wards with the shock of the new.”

This re­lo­ca­tion, pre­cip­i­tated by the de­vel­op­ment of the build­ing she has long in­hab­ited into a bou­tique ho­tel, has given Barro pause to con­sider “more ob­vi­ous” real es­tate op­tions. Not one to bend to pre­vail­ing wis­dom or the patho­log­i­cally trendy — “the last stage be­fore tacky, as Karl Lager­feld says” — she has de­ter­mined to forge a new path­way above street level, in an old of­fice struc­ture that sits some­where be­tween the es­tab­lish­ment stodge of the Mel­bourne Club and the State Treasury. Her abid­ing be­lief that fu­ture value lies buried in the over­looked was vin­di­cated by the re­cent launch of Sotheby’s new flag­ship in the same build­ing. “Noth­ing ven­tured, noth­ing gained,” says Barro with author­ity of de­meanour that is am­pli­fied by her out­fit — a bold navy dress coat by Mel­bourne-born, Paris-based Martin Grant, who makes Chris­tine his ex­clu­sive Aus­tralian stock­ist. “I just lis­ten to my­self as a cus­tomer.” Typ­i­fy­ing Mel­bourne style as cere­bral and in­tel­li­gent — “one that is drawn to a state of mind rather than a street” — be­ing out of sight is not an is­sue for her busi­ness. “I’ve never done it by the book and just be­lieve that the world is des­per­ate for some un­scripted drama, a lit­tle mys­tery that lit­er­ally rises above the pre­dictable se­man­tics of lux­ury,” she says.

If one had to guess at Barro’s very par­tic­u­lar state of mind — a pop-fest of toile de jouy and tar­tan that seem­ingly chan­nels the Ste­wart clan, Marie An­toinette and Andy Warhol all at once — it would be that re­tail is more than con­sump­tion of prod­uct. It is a cul­tural move­ment, one overtly man­i­fest­ing in her mag­i­cal sa­lon teas. These four-times-yearly, two-hour show­ings of story-filled fashion (served with cus­tom-brewed tea in Li­mo­ges china) en­ter­tain, elu­ci­date and en­gage cus­tomers in so­cial com­mu­nity. In­deed, many a friend­ship has forged amid the aes­thetic chaos of her sub­ter­ranean sa­lon, where lolly-hued slubs of 1950s Mu­rano glass fight for sur­face space with Philip Treacy millinery, Meiji pe­riod porce­lain, Pierre Hardy stilet­tos, Arts & Crafts tea services, Adrian Lewis jew­els, Pellini neck­laces, carved cinnabar cab­i­nets, Isaac Reina bags and Robert Clerg­erie shoes. Avow­ing that an eq­ui­table mea­sure of max­i­mal­ism is now ma­te­ri­al­is­ing in Collins Street, Barro says, “You can’t have too much of a good thing. Fashion is its own lan­guage.” VL christineac­ces­sories.com @christineac­ces­sories

FROM TOP Chris­tine Barro wears a Lan­vin for Swarovski neck­lace by Elie Top. Print from Andy Warhol’s 1972 Mao Tse-Tung series; Philip Treacy hat; Emma J Ship­ley scarf; Vic­to­ria Beck­ham hand­bag; an­tique brass mir­ror; lac­quered cabi­net from In­dia. Kal­mar caf­tan; Etro hand­bag; an­tique gilded ta­ble and bud­dha(in back­ground).

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