Two years ago, British-born men's accessories designer Christian Kimber moved from London to Melbourne, where he founded an eponymous line of footwear. His signature suede loafers and chukka boots—shoes that look equally at home with beat-up denim and bespoke tailoring—are generally sold at local shops but can be made-to-order. From his initial concepts for a show (he uses watercolors to sketch out his ideas) to designing the brand's logo (the burnt orange color was inspired by the bright Australian mud) to managing the business, Christian oversees every stage himself.
Here, he talks about menswear in Melbourne, his five favorite stores, and what to see and do down under.
How did you get involved in menswear?
I'm British, born in East Sussex, but I spent most of my time in London working in menswear—everything from retail and styling to PR and production. I was lucky enough to get a few great opportunities working on Savile Row before I eventually ended up at a footwear store on Clifford Street where I really developed my skills and decided what I wanted to do. I was also going to night school at the London College of Fashion, although I'm mostly self-taught.
I've always been interested in menswear, something I picked up from my father who wears navy suits, white shirts, and horsebit loafers most days. After watching him I found it wasn't just about clothing—it was the way he held himself.
Over time I began sketching ideas about what I wanted to wear, but didn't realize that I was actually designing. Although I've been developing the brand for a long I'm very new to the scene—we only launched this year. So far the reception has been wonderful. I've sold to clients all over the world, but I think the highlight for me has been the recognition from publications I read every day. The next year is going to be interesting.
What single item in your closet you would save in a fire?
A Loro Piana brown cashmere coat, even though I don't get to wear it as often as I'd like in Melbourne. Also the watch my father gave me. Perhaps a fireproof wardrobe would be a better plan. In the end, things don't really matter—I would grab my girl.
How would you describe menswear in Melbourne right now?
The lifestyle is much more laid-back than my London life, and the way people dress often reflects this. The culinary culture is so developed here—I think it is time the menswear caught up. It's a much smaller industry than in the US, but there's a revolution underway spearheaded by a handful of younger guys. There have been a lot of new stores and tailors launching over the last two years.
What are your favorite shops and local brands?
Double Monk: Chris and Nick Schaerf, two brothers who are mad passionate about quality footwear, opened one of the most beautiful shoe stores I've ever seen.
Beggar Man Thief: Scott and Mark own the most iconic shoe store in Melbourne. They represent a new form of retail, where personal, friendly service is key. They stock my shoes, too.
Patrick Johnson: A tailor who understands what a younger generation of men want in a suit. Tom is my tailor here in Melbourne and influences the #menswear crowd daily.
Henry Bucks: Australia's version of Paul Stewart (and a stockist of C. Kimber Footwear), now with new leadership. I really look forward to seeing what's to come from this iconic Australian menswear emporium.
Incu: A great minimalist shop I'm really hoping might be my next stockist. This is where a menswear dude gets his casual kit for the weekend.
What's life in Melbourne like?
People always ask me to compare Melbourne to my life in London, but they're such different cities. One thing I've noticed is that young Australians grow up dreaming of moving to London or New York, but after a few years they always come back for the lifestyle. London is my first home, but Melbourne is turning into my second.
With its great mix of ethnicities, art, food, and style it's seen as the cultural capital of Australia and has maintained the title of the most livable city in the world for the last two years. For example, from where I live it's just a 40-minute drive to a winery, the mountains, or the beach—I've started surfing every chance I get.
What places should a Details reader be sure to visit on their next trip to Melbourne?
Mt. Rael: Hip restaurant restaurants change regularly, but my favorite lesser-known spot would have to be Mt. Rael. It an incredible view of the Yarra Valley, which you can gaze out over while you sample the best local produce.
Torquay: Often referred to as the gateway to the Great Ocean Road, I explored this township in Victoria during my summer of surfing. The beaches along this road are easy to get to, but you'll need a car.
Siglo: An elegant rooftop wine and cigar bar that overlooks the Treasure House in the vibrant CBD (Central Business District).
Tarrawarra Museum of Art: Melbourne is home to a thriving art scene, and this is my favorite places to see shows. The grounds and views are incredible, and I recently saw an amazing Jeffrey Smart retrospective (he's one of my favorite artists).
Coffee: The best coffee in the world is made in Australia, and you can get a ridiculously good cup almost anywhere. Still, my favorite local haunts are Black Velvet, where you can smell the roasting beans all the way down Exhibition Street, and Liaison, which is also one of the best looking buildings in town.
Brunch: Chez Dré in South Melbourne and Coin Laundry in Amadale are the best places for a midday weekend meal. I'm always open to trying out different spots, but I don't like to wait in reservation lines at new restaurants.
—Follow Christian on the Details Style Network, where you can discover great menswear bloggers from around the world.
Portraits by Jesse Hisco.
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