In swinging 1968, a young Australian girl touches the soft webbing of a vivid Missoni knit dress for the first time, fresh out the tissue paper from a sophisticated boutique.
For this fledging fashion lover, wearing the frock is like shimmying straight out the pages of an exotic Italian Vogue, because half a century ago, Missoni, Versace and Courrèges — just like the sassy Carnaby Street girls she idolised — were new to Australia.
The thrill of acquiring fine designer gear, just as it was when the first luxury garments were brought to Australia, can amazingly be experienced again when the iconic collection of the late Mary Lipshut — a pioneering fashion importer — goes on sale in Melbourne next week.
Many of Lipshut’s 5000 garments have never been out of the boxes they were shipped in, and none — including those that hung in her ML Vintage salon in Melbourne’s upmarket South Yarra, which she ran until her death earlier this year — have ever been worn.
Next week, vintage retailer Danielle Goodwin will offer the complete collection — under the auspices of the Lipshut family — for purchase to the public, half a century after they were imported and intended for sale.
The collection — including 1960s, ’70s and ’80s Pucci, Roberta Di Camerino and Krizia, stored in plastic sheaths to protect their dazzling colour and intricate construction, is believed to the world’s largest cache of unworn, high-end designer vintage.
The legendary Lipshut, who passed away in February aged 90, had an eye for design that was before her time. She helped to lay the foundation of fashion retail in Australia as a maverick buyer for George’s and Myer in the 1960s.
Famous in the most respected rag trade circles around the world, Lipshut introduced high-end labels like Pucci, Missoni and Courrèges to Australia and ran her own boutiques.
But when France dropped the nuclear bomb in the ’60s, Gallic products were snubbed on shop floors and so much of the precious fashion cargo was stored.
In Lipshut’s humble salon in a South Yarra lane, a Prada heel skip from Chapel Street, she sold portions of the priceless collection over the years, with tags still attached, but much of it was warehoused.
The ML Vintage sale, run under Goodwin’s Hawkeye Vintage, includes the largest collection of heritage Missoni outside of the Missoni family’s archive.
The Missoni’s tried to acquire the collection years ago, but Lipshut didn’t budge.
And so, from Thursday, March 20, when the sale opens to the public, these glamorous garments will finally line the wardrobes of a style lovers and collectors.
The collection goes on sale for three days from 11.30am on Thursday March 20 at 1/377 Lt Bourke Street, Melbourne.
Emily Power is an established Melbourne fashion editor who wrote and edited Fashionista’s Guide to Shopping in Melbourne and Fashion & Flemington, both published by The Slattery Media Group.
See Emily interview Mary Lipshut at 6:36 of this video for The Fashionista’s Guide to Shopping in Melbourne.