Sydney: Heads To The Hills

  • At Somedays.

    At Somedays.

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Above: Vintage boutique Grandma Takes a Trip.

Fashion takes on a unique dimension in Sydney’s Surry Hills.

By Carli Ratcliff
Courtesy of Grandma Takes a Trip & Somedays

Once a seedy inner-city suburb known for its brothels and razor gangs, Surry Hills has emerged as one of Sydney’s most buzz-worthy neighborhoods. These days, it’s a mélange of galleries, antiques stores, cafés, and boutiques that draws the crowds, though traces of the garment trade that defined much of Surry Hills’ past can still be found among discount clothiers and factory outlets. It’s a rags to riches story that has inspired a number of off-beat designer establishments to set up shop here as well; read on to discover five of our favorites.

Half Sleeve

This streetwear hub stocks uber-cool brands from New York and Tokyo—a Harajuku sister store allows the owners to tap into lines released only in the Japanese capital. The clothes are as bold as the boutique itself, which is hung with paintings and bespoke T-shirts by area artists. To ensure that customers find their groove, the store plays a soundtrack of tunes from the Surry Hills music scene (Shop 3, 133 Goulburn St.; 61-2/8021-0869;

Dobry Den

With a name that translates as “good day” in Czech, this boutique-cum-gallery showcases Australian and New Zealand designers du jour, among them retro-inspired fashionista Alice McCall and jeweler Edward Janssen. Artworks line the walls and indie films loop across the storefront display, so that even window shoppers will go home satisfied (326 Crown St.; 61/402-741-123;

Grandma Takes a Trip

Nicola Sault has amassed one of the largest collections of vintage clothing in Australia, with a range of outfits and accessories from the 1950s through the late ’80s. Stock is updated on a weekly basis, and may include a 60-year-old pea coat from Manhattan or—Sault’s current obsession—mid-century frocks from the UK, all given a new lease on life under her Altered State label. The candy-colored shop attracts local and globetrotting celebs who drop in to pick up something special for their next red-carpet turn (263 Crown St.; 61-2/ 9356-3322;

Saint Augustine Academy

From indie rock to mod and punk, there are few music subcultures that Aussie designer Alvin Manalo doesn’t draw inspiration from. His menswear range, Saint Augustine Academy, gives cult stylings a modern twist with directional tailoring and a muted color palette. His Surry Hills flagship boutique is lined with dashing pieces from his latest collection, Corpus Christie Carol, named after a 1994 song by the late Jeff Buckley (642 Bourke St.; 61-2/9690-2863;


















This self-styled “oasis of understated cool” is a shrine to Nordic design. The airy factory space overflows with Scandinavian talent, from the photographs and art on display in the on-site gallery to the neat retail space, where you’ll find cult brands like Sweden’s Cheap Monday and Dr. Denim Jeansmakers (72B Fitzroy St.; 61-2/9331-6637;

Originally appeared in the May 2009 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Heads To The Hills”)

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