Encounter the cosmopolitan in Carlton

Take a trip to Melbourne’s little Italy in Carlton – where the coffee is free-flowing, and the fashion is one-of-a-kind. 

Nestled amid Victorian heritage streets, and Carlton’s celebrated parks and gardens, you’ll find a vibrant and thriving neighbourhood of niche treasures to uncover. 

From family-owned pizza restaurants to Scandinavian homewares, sustainable knits and gallery-worthy slow fashion – Carlton’s attractions are as divinely diverse as its residents, 48 per cent of whom are born overseas. 

This eclectic retail, entertainment and dining precinct – bustling with more than 1000 businesses – is fuelling Melbourne’s recovery. 

‘Carlton is buzzing,’ Luca Sbardella, President, Carlton Inc. traders association said. 

‘The pedestrian activity on Lygon Street regularly exceeds pre-pandemic levels, particularly after dark and around events, like the Melbourne Money dining scheme showing the importance of these bounce-back initiatives.’ 

Carlton has a well-established reputation as a gastronomic destination, and its bespoke and bohemian stores have sparked intrigue for many years.  

‘We want to showcase this distinct Carlton offering,’ Luca said. 

‘We’re encouraging people back to rediscover their favourites, and introducing them to something new while they’re here.’ 

Elk has opened a new store in Lygon Street

Discover something new 

Thanks to the City of Melbourne’s $2.6 million Shopfront Activation Program, there is no shortage of new experiences to be had in Carlton. 

The program – jointly-funded by the City of Melbourne and the Victorian Government as part of the $100 million Melbourne City Recovery Fund – is transforming empty shopfronts in the locale to see Carlton become a fashionista’s dream destination. 

In the past year, the neighbourhood has welcomed three new fashion designers – Elk, Van de Kooij and Aaron Fluck – alongside the quirky Karen’s Diner and Italian-themed Biblioteca pop-up library. 

‘There is a real sense of collaboration amongst the new fashion entrants in the Lygon Street precinct,’ said Jack Amies, Managing Director of The Place Agency – who manages negotiations for property acquisition and leasing in the area. 

‘The saying, ‘businesses attract businesses’ has never been more apt than what we are seeing in women’s fashion in Carlton.’ 

Van der Kooij Designer and Director Natasha Veenhuizen is thrilled to transition from clicks to bricks, and test a retail store environment. 

‘Being supported through our transition from online to in-store has allowed us to take a huge step further in building the Van der Kooij brand. 

‘We offer an intimate in-store experience which can’t be replicated online, so it’s fantastic to be able to connect with new and existing customers in this way.’

Fashion retailer Van der Kooij has transitioned from online to in-store

Following lockdown, savvy retailers are adopting a more nuanced approach to retail promotion, experience and customer connection.

‘Opening the doors to our first flagship store in Carlton has been an instrumental step in deepening the personal experience and connection with our clientele,’ Aaron Fluck Designer and Director at Aaron Fluck said. 

‘It’s exciting to see the Lygon Street precinct making a name for itself as Melbourne’s newest fashion hub, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it.’ 

For Marnie Goding, Creative Director and Co-founder of ELK, the Shopfront Activation Program has offered an opportunity to try out a new aspirational location for the brand. 

‘It has been an invaluable way for us to try before we buy into the Carlton market,’ Marnie said. 

‘After the first three months and a fantastic response from the local community, we’re planting permanent roots on Lygon.’

Aaron Fluck is one of three new fashion retailers in Lygon Street

Make a date with Carlton 

Creative spaces and pop-up ventures are just part of the colour and excitement enticing visitors to Carlton. 

Alongside the Shopfront Activation Program, the Carlton business precinct association – Carlton Inc. – received a $90,000 grant from the City of Melbourne to drive activity and support local businesses. 

‘This has been very welcome news for traders,’ Phillip Mansour, Executive Officer, Carlton Inc. said. 

‘It will provide opportunities for networking and training, encourage visitation and local spending and has enabled us to curate a robust event line-up for the year ahead.’ 

Clear the calendar for an upcoming Melbourne Fashion Week activation in Argyle Square, and the Fringe Festival’s iconic parade taking to Carlton’s streets in October after a 20-year hiatus.  

The Fringe Festival will involve the return of the Waiters Race, and the Lygon Street Block Party, which is supported through the Melbourne City Revitalisation Fund. 

Celebrate Christmas in Carlton by dining out under the fairy lights as festive bonbons line the streets and a massive pop-up activation comes to Argyle Square. 

‘Carlton Inc. will also host the Kingpins Kuztums Christmas toy run in November, and our Christmas activities such as roving performers, and Carlton Gift Voucher giveaways in December. 

‘After the past two years we can’t wait to welcome new and old faces to celebrate together,’ Phillip said.