Australia’s fashion capital – Sydney or Melbourne? Is that even a question….

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Where can you shop in Australia to buy good quality, stylish clothing. You know the kind of investment piece that just ooze style and confidence and re enforces your personal brand?

I guess I’ve been blessed over the years by shopping all over the world every 3 months for most of my corporate retail life, when you shop for 3 weeks solidly across time zones, life styles and sectors of the market… you really are qualified in the art of shopping.

Looking through my wardrobe I see my old favourites from America, Germany, Paris and London… the endless choice available and the quality that lasts.

Having lived in Sydney for the past 19 years (previously a Welsh girl in London) I’ve been faced with the challenges of building my new wardrobe in Australia, with quality, fit and fabrics being a key selecting factor.

My recent need for a new wardrobe has stemmed from changes in my branding business, as a strong stage presence has become more critical… So, having been frustrated by the same old low-end large chains, I took a road trip to Melbourne with my teenage daughter…

Could Melbourne offer more?

After a massive eight and half hours of driving… with my eyes hanging out of my head, we commenced our arrival into Melbourne


Driving into Melbourne the first thing that hit me was the beautiful cohesive representation of this city, driving past the massive diagonally positioned DFOs on the left, almost directing the traffic into Melbourne from the M31. The most notable difference to Sydney was that the signage wasn’t plastered randomly over walls, trees, banners and anything else that could hold a sign, but professionally well thought out signage using the latest technology, cross lane neon banners advertising the Australian open and large lit visuals. What hit me was that the signage, buildings, banners and art work were all designed to enhance MY experience as a visitor to Melbourne and were not trying to sell me something, or shout at me with massive badly designed graphics.

As we carried on the traffic was directed into the city with multi blue chevrons, reinforcing the wow factor while entering the city… as we drove further we travelled under a massive counter-balanced bright yellow structure, engineered to stand diagonally over all the lanes of traffic and reach for the stars… while rows of evenly spaced red features line the other side of the road.

Driving through city areas, I felt and air of cohesion, the sort of consistency seen in Europe, where the streets and architecture of a city tells the story, complementing each other’s angles, colours and placements on the skyline to create a whole impression and essence of the city.

The signage used on retail and service spaces was controlled and consistent, all adding to the retail, commercial and residential experience without shouting inconsistently from every flat surface and every neon opportunity, where the city essence is king and not each commercial property shouting louder than the next, yelling out ‘Look at me! Look at me!’.

Traveling through the city I notice that technology had been used to its best, with clean, purposeful signage being implemented at the highest quality. The marriage of the old and the new has worked well in Melbourne, particularly with incomplete developments being disguised behind well designed banners and barriers. Making the city feel as if it’s been design for the visual pleasure of its audience – the visitors and residents of Melbourne.

Having been wowed by our entrance into Melbourne’s Docklands, I was expecting great things for my two days of shopping.



We started with the iconic Chapel Street, which over the years has earned its reputation for the choice and variety of one-off boutiques and quirky ideas.

It was a quiet day on Chapel street, with locals planning this 43degree day better than us, but we walked from one air-conditioned shop to the next in search of an opportunity to spend.

Chapel street has suffered a decline over the years, with customers preferring the consistent climate of the enclosed shopping centres, many shops sit empty, unable to attract new stores to declining areas of the street, but when calling in  and talking to the staff and some of the business owners, the service and friendly banter is a definite draw card and the Country Road end of Chapel Street still provided unique and exciting retail experiences for both women and stand-alone stores for men.


Later the same day we called into the Old GPO, where H&M have taken the 5000 square meter space and turned it into am emporium of fashion, with style, quirky artworks and elements of its history all pulled together for an awe-inspiring visual experience. At 9pm at night the store was still buzzing, turning over around $2 million a week, the numbers speak for themselves.

What about the quality?

Well, I did post images of the GPO on social media and one of my old fashion retail friends posted this, “Store looks great, if only they didn’t use dish rags for fabric ”

Oh well, you do get what you pay for, and I wouldn’t be buying quality investment pieces from H&M… but my teenage daughter was in her element.


At 25km out from where we were staying in the Docklands, would it be worth it?

With an easy drive and free all-day-parking we arrived at Chadstone, there are claims that it’s the biggest centre in the Southern Hemisphere, but is Australia’s largest shopping centre, it’s a world-renowned fashion and entertainment hub for local and international visitors. Home to over 550 stores and over 30 Luxury brands, it’s over 50% privately owned by John Gandel.


What can I say, Chadstone is shopping Heaven!


Luxury brands run across the top floor, with the likes or Gucci, Mui Mui, Chanel, Burberry, Cartier, Fendi, Dior to name a few, and they’re all under one roof.

The natural light streaming into the comfortably air-conditioned centre turned our quick visit into a day event.

Anybody who’s anybody can be found at Chadstone, with specialty areas, I’ve never seen so many sports brands under one roof, it was my first visit to a Sneakerboy store selling $1600 leisure shoes with no till, no fixed point of sale and no on-site inventory (all stock stored in HK)

UK-based JD Sport runs a high energy and high impact store out of Chadstone. (It’s 15 stores reporting a 15% total sales growth for the 48-wk. period to 5th Jan ’19.)

Every attention to detail focuses on the experience of visitors, its customer experience is second to none, from the natural light to the wide walkways and bright airy feeling, turns a shopping trip into a leisure experience, the offer of local and international brands, luxury and street fashion, sport to event wear covers every retail need.

While Sydney Centres see a down turn in profits and customer engagement, blaming online sales and overseas retailers, Chadstone reports annual sales of more than $2billion, a record for Australia and one of the world's top five malls behind middle eastern and US retailing meccas.

Chadstone has been doubling sales every decade for the past 30 years in its evolution from a popular suburban shopping complex to an international fashion hub and tourist destination with a hotel, convention centre, cinemas and high-end restaurants.

(Other shopping areas to explore – Emporium Melbourne City & Little Collins Street.)


“Melbourne really is the fashion centre, the fashion capital of Australia.”


After another long eight and half hour drive back to Sydney from Melbourne I prepared myself to experience what a visitor to Sydney might see and feel. Following the M31 all the way to Sydney we passed by the beautiful areas of Liverpool, Bankstown and Punchbowl, leading us through poor, narrow and busy roads, flanked by unsightly commercial properties and ugly signage.

As a visitor to Sydney it wouldn’t have left me with a great impression of this international city and definitely left me with a greater appreciation for what Melbourne had to offer.


Thank you to: The Australian
Author: Ean Higgins

The difference between the two cities, has not developed by chance, but through their different focused, specialist sectors and overall visions.

The People

Only 200,000 people now separate Melbourne from Sydney. In Sydney, overseas migration in financial year 2016-17 accounted for about 85,000 of the increase of 102,000 in population, or about 85 per cent.

New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that of established Australians, people are moving out of Sydney and moving to Melbourne. In terms of internal migration in 2016-17, Melbourne boasted a net increase of 9200, while Sydney recorded a net loss of 18,100.

The Industries

The pro-business Committee for Melbourne claim the state government has mounted an aggressive and successful campaign to attract big and innovative businesses to Melbourne, leveraging on what is still expensive but somewhat more affordable housing than Sydney and what is claimed to be greater liveability.

Chinese online retail giant Alibaba has set up its regional headquarters as well as American online retail giant Amazon and Netherlands-based CEVA Logistics, there is a clustering also of some of the digital companies that is turning into an interesting hub for technological innovation.

According to the 2016 census, 10 of the top 20 manufacturing centres on the Australian continent are based in Melbourne while eight of the top 20 financial ser­vices centres are based in Sydney. While the finance sector always has been and will be in demand, a lot of the knowledge and research-based industries, where the growth is, are in Melbourne, including the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector.

As demographer Bernard Salt pointed out, the economies of Sydney and Melbourne are different: “Melbourne pro­duces, Sydney finances.”

A slap in the face to Sydney was fashion retailer David Jones’ relocation of its head office to Melbourne, bringing 820 jobs to Victoria.

 “Whether it’s global giants like Ali­baba or Amazon, or iconic Australian companies like David Jones, more major brands are choosing to do business in Victoria.”

The Millennials

There are concerns whether Sydney is doing as good a job as Melbourne in making itself sufficiently, for want of a better word, cool, to attract the millennials — talented young professionals who make the new economy tick.

“Melbourne has embraced the night-time economy; it’s a young city, It has greater diversity in terms of night-time, late-time retail, late-night arts and culture.”

“When we plan, we need to think about the way the city works. You need open spaces where things can happen at night. In Sydney you confront red tape, regulation in relation to putting things on at night.”


While Melbourne obviously has a clear brand identity and vision, Sydney by comparison has little to no appreciation for its brand personality, style or point of difference. Brand Sydney appears to be focused on its 2 iconic landmarks and little else.

The recent Royal Commission has meant many of Sydney’s banks, dealerships, brokers and fintech companies are now focused on investing heavily in crafting transparent, trust worthy brands, but are unsure where to start. As I say to every client, “While every business is fixated on marketing its message to the world, as a brand we need to look inwards at our purpose, vision and unique perspective, building a personality that connects with our audience. Then taking the time to stand in our customer’s shoes to see and feel what they experience”

“Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.” Walter Landor

Whether we talk about the city of Sydney, its banks or fashion companies, the opportunity to craft strong brands is something that could be learnt from Melbourne.

This article started with a search for fashion in Sydney, some style, quality or creativity, but since many of the large Sydney run fashion retailers are controlled by financial consortiums and planning functions, is it any wonder that Sydney has a lack lustre fashion industry with wilting, dying brands.

Thinking about creating a cohesive, compelling brand, if you’d like some help to create and grow your brand, check out my comprehensive, innovative two-day group Brand DNA & Strategy Workshop at This workshop will take you step-by-step through the process of creating and developing a powerful brand that you can stand by and build for years to come.

For more information and specific branding advice, contact article author and branding expert, Susan Jones, director of Living Lines branding agency on +61 410 590 737.


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