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The first time I saw Sydney Road in Brunswick it looked to me like the Wild Wild West of Melbourne. The assortment of ramshackle buildings jammed together along this famous stretch of tarmac seemed innumerable and disordered and I wondered how anybody found their way.

Having lived in the area for almost a year now, I can only look back on that first impression as a distant memory. A road that once seemed so chaotic now appears completely ordered and organized, everything sitting in its correct place, right where it should be.

Becoming a Sydney Road-sider was as natural as breathing; in the shambles of tumbledown buildings lie a number of hidden gems, which, once you have found them, become impossible to live without. Admittedly it is comparable to the journey to Eldorado – what with the number of rackety old junk shops and tacky wedding boutiques you have to wade through before you find gold – but it is a voyage that is definitely worth undertaking.

Amongst the diamonds in the rough that I have unearthed over the past year, the first place that comes to mind is Scavengers. This thrift shop sells a mixture of books, CDs, clothes and shoes that are ideal for the girl on a budget. Not quite a vintage store and not quite an op shop, it has, as the name suggests, a stock of desirable hand-me-downs, and comes up trumps if you need a cheap, last minute outfit.

If second-hand isn’t your scene, then Lulamae is the best place to go. This Melbourne-based label now has a few boutiques in the CBD, but Sydney Road is its spiritual home. Their broom-cupboard of a shop is bursting with beautiful bags, accessories and clothes, inspired by the ever-elegant Audrey Hepburn. Sisters Tara and Elise combine their love of bold colours and vintage patterns to create, as they put it, ‘dreamboat collections’ of relaxed, elegant clothing with just enough nostalgia to make any shopper fall in love.

However, for the truly vintage girl – the girl with cat-eye shades and pin curls in her hair – Vicious Venus is a must visit. This boutique is the brainchild of two Australian designers, whose love for the female form inspired a series of bespoke retro designs based on the flattering fashions of the 40s and 50s. Filled with pieces that are both glamorous and unique, this shop is the perfect place to get a retro dress that could have belonged to your grandmother – but looks oh so much better on you.

If you’re an eco-girl or ethical-conscious, pop into New Model Beauty Queen (NMBQ). This boutique carries a number of different labels but the house designs are all hand-printed and 100% recycled. Gone are the days when the idea of fair-trade clothing sent shivers down a fashion girl’s spine; with its wild prints and bold silhouettes, NMBQ shows us that environmental concern is always a good look.

Sydney Road’s eclectic mix of boutiques is equalled only by the diverse range of customers willing to delve into its burgeoning fashion scene. It takes hard work and steely determination to battle through the tat to get to the treasure – but it is a war that once won, can lead to everlasting sartorial bliss.

The Fashion Advocate x

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