Words by Madeleine Russell
When you walk into a store for the first time you decide almost instantly whether or not you like it. The smell, the way it’s decorated, the lighting and most importantly the designers they stock. It’s not too often that upon walking into a store you feel you would be content to live within it’s walls for the rest of your life, but this is exactly the feeling that washed over me upon entering Alice Euphemia.
A small boutique fashion store in Melbourne, it houses some of Australia’s greatest and most intriguing designers. Upon deciding to move into the shop I thought perhaps I should ask the owner if she wouldn’t mind housing a fashion-obsessed squatter. I sat down with the owner of Alice Euphemia to pick her brain on Australian fashion versus international, the smallness of the world and how her background in art has attributed to her love of fashion.
Karen Rieschiek is the director, and has been since the shops debut in 1997, and places her stores design esthetics to the want and need of Australian made designs. “I was quite interested in the work a lot of my friend’s were making and I was working in retail for some interesting smaller business at the time,” reminisced Karen about opening her store. Her love for her friends work lead her to other younger designers coming out of Universities in Australia. Opening a small shop with a studio in the back allowed her to live out her original passions for sculpting and teaching in an unusual way. Instead of sculpting art she has helped sculpt various Australian designers careers by giving them a platform to sell their pieces.
“We only sell Australian made and that has been the case for fifteen years.” This passion for homegrown fashion sets Alice Euphemia apart from its competitors who too often or not source designers who import from overseas. Not only are the fashion designers themselves Australian (“with some New Zealander’s thrown in”) their work is actually made and produced here as well.
Alice Euphemia has stocked thousands of designers over its lifetime but they all seem to resonate with one another in a particular way. Karen said that nearly all the collections have “a unique voice that is an aesthetic that we can relate to.” The designs need to excite her and her team; they need to be something in which they themselves would buy. “We are suckers for a good story, we love a romantic kind of tale or something with great influences. Like at the moment we have a brand in store called Happy Campers that’s based on kind of German pottery and interiors from the 70s which is really nostalgic and great.”
It’s more than just a great story or great designs for Karen. “It’s having that business background as well, being conscious of the realities of retail. There is no point in having incredible design skills without having the business knowledge to support it. Designers need to have a good handwriting. They need to be consistent and not look as if they have copied someone else’s work.”
Alice of Euphemia stocks designers such as Colony, Ellery, Francis Leon, Deadly Ponies, Dress Up and Lover. It is a store that leaves you fulfilled, it transports you to the heartland of Australian Fashion and if you are anything like me entices you to live within it, breathing in the quality and uniqueness it contains.