Pulling the veil of an iconic fashion doyenne
“I never wanted to be a window on a street.”
For Christine Barro, famed Melbourne fashion icon and owner of Collins St boutique, Christine on Collins, her life, and work, follow a simple philosophy of invention and intrigue.
From her early days in the subterranean depths of Flinders Lane, to her current “resting place” at the Paris-end of Collins, Christine’s “magic box” of couture fashion, accessories and excitement lies bare for anyone willing to “pull back the veil.”
“It’s about the element of surprise and the experience when you come in,” she said.
“You can look into a shopfront window, but you don’t have to enter. On Flinders Lane and now here, you have to search, find and take the leap.”
Having cut her teeth working in the legendary Georges department store, Christine opened her own emporium in 2000, showcasing fashion, accessories, art, and antiques in an environment “that pre-dated experiential retail by more than a decade”.
In 2019, the emporium moved to Collins St, where floors were added, collections grew and the “name eked out to identify location”.
“The thing about Melbourne, is that it is a well-planned city that gives an orderly grid for anyone to go forward and create, whether it’s fashion, food, architecture, music … it’s a clarity of a platform that allows us to grow,” she said.
Christine is currently displaying works from internationally regarded milliner, Phillip Treacy; fashion designer, Martin Grant; Melbourne jeweller Adrian Lewis; and The Vampire’s Wife, a label from Susie Cave, partner of Australian music icon, Nick Cave.
“The label’s name comes from a book Nick never finished,” Christine said. “It’s a gorgeous, clever formular because each dress has the same little ruffle that broadens the shoulder on top of the arm and everyone who steps out of the fitting room looks like princess.”
“While I may not move in the same circles as these designers, they are all connected in one way or another, and it’s a privilege to have this calibre of friends up in the front room.”
While Christine laments the advent of what she describes as high-end fast-food fashion, she still believes Melbourne fashion identity is one of understatement and a “sense of quiet.”
“What’s great about Melbourne is that our European weather allows you to layer and be chic,” she said. “It allows us to be more dressed.”
“I had a woman from Malaysia who bought an apartment here, purely because she loved to come to Melbourne to dress up.”
Christine on Collins is located at Level 2, 14 Collins St. •
For more information: christineoncollins.com