Style synergy: National Trust to sell vintage fashion in Block Arcade

The National Trust is best known for tending to our historic buildings, but it is fashion treasures that will be showcased at its new vintage clothing shop.

As Victoria’s retail industry reboots this week, the trust has snared a shop in Melbourne’s 129-year-old, heritage-listed Block Arcade for a boutique called Vault.

Jack Fordham, curator and manager of Vault, the new vintage clothing store in the Block Arcade.Credit:Simon Schluter

Ahead of its opening, on November 5, it already has an Instagram account and a Facebook page.

Store manager and curator Jack Fordham says there is currently plenty of stock — all pre-loved.

That’s thanks to generous donors, some of whom purchase haute couture each year and donate previous years’ pieces to the trust to sell.

The store was inspired by the hugely popular annual vintage clothing sale held in March at Como House in South Yarra, which raises about $100,000 for the trust.

Jack Fordham, manager and curator of Vault store, which opens next week at the Elizabeth Street end of the Block Arcade. Credit:Simon Schluter

The event has been cancelled for the past two years due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Mr Fordham said many pieces sold at Vault will be “essentially one-off because that design is not in production any more”.

Labels will range from Valentino to Oscar de la Renta, Yves Saint Laurent and Carla Zampatti.

You could buy a $900 mink coat or an Emilio Pucci shift dress for $350 but Mr Fordham reckons the average price will be about $150 and there will also be $30 scarves and costume jewellery.

A small Saint Laurent Paris black velvet blouse with pleated neckline from the 1980s. Credit:Simon Schluter

National Trust Victorian CEO Simon Ambrose said Vault was a unique venture for the organisation.

“It’s in an exceptional location, in one of the premier arcades in Melbourne,” he said. “It’s very in tune with our heritage sensibilities.”

He hopes Vault will make “a small profit” to help fund the trust’s volunteer programs and collections.

While the National Trust’s shop won’t open for another week, Block Arcade general manager Grant Cohen said other Block shops would re-open this Saturday, many having been closed for 12 weeks. “We’re very excited,” he said.

An Yves Saint Laurent blue satin blouse from the 1980s. Credit:Simon Schluter

In coming months, there will be two other new Block tenants: a cocktail bar in the Elizabeth Street basement and the existing Dr Seuss shop has been divided to make room for a jewellery shop, Trewarne.

Mr Cohen said Vault would have “a wonderful synergy” with the Block Arcade, whose name comes from Melburnians promenading in their finest clothes, or “doing the block” in the late 1800s.

“The arcade is a very curated shopping experience. We like everything to be quite eclectic and unusual,” Mr Cohen said. “The stock at Vault is really quite exceptional.”

Mr Fordham described Vault as “a concept store”. He hopes the store and its upstairs rooms will host talks, fashion design students and stylists and will support young designers.

He welcomes people browsing. “They might say, ‘I had a piece like this’, or ‘my grandma had this’. There could be some really good storytelling.”

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