90 years of Queensland glamour
The Brisbane Arcade, connecting the major shopping districts of Adelaide and Queen Streets in Brisbane City, is a rare example of a functioning and original shopping arcade in Queensland. It is currently celebrating its 90th Birthday, and in that time has been home to some of the state's most celebrated designers and retailers.
Its elaborate interior and stylish facade recall the grandeur of the 1920s and '30s; a time when shopping was a more glamorous affair. In the decades that followed, women would visit local stores to find everything from hosiery and millinery through to shoes and gowns. Brisbane Arcade's tenants have managed to carry this tradition of an entirely 'in house' shopping destination throughout the 20th and in to the 21st centuries.
Though most of the original structure and fittings remains the same, the decades saw many changes in ambience and tenants (including, for a time, fast-food chains and pigeons). We look at some of the spots that have provided a sense of enduring glamour through both the gritty and the opulent periods of Brisbane fashion retail.
Brisbane's own couturier
Harvey Graham was a favourite tenant in the Brisbane Arcade in the mid-to-late 20th century. He opened his store in the 1960s, and worked in to the 1980s; the decade from which this photograph dates. A contemporary of another Brisbane Arcade icon, Gwen Gillam, Harvey Graham was particularly well regarded for creating chic evening gowns. Such pieces lived up to the name 'couturier', which he used in all of his labelling.
In addition to dramatic formal dresses, Graham also produced pretty day frocks, particularly in the 1970s and '80s. A stash of such items was recently discovered through a local vintage boutique, and has been on display as part of the Brisbane Arcade's 90th Birthday celebrations.
The steadfast boutique
Pauls of Brisbane Arcade was one of the longest standing businesses in the centre. Originally established in the 1930s, Pauls was still operating in the 1980s. Selling everything from millinery and shoes to bridal wear, Pauls was a one-stop shop for the fashionable women of Brisbane.
Much like fellow Brisbane Arcade business, Gwen Gillam, Pauls had a reputation for bringing Parisian trends to Queensland women. The salon had additional showrooms in Fortitude Valley, and would frequently host fashion parades to showcase the season's latest at social venues around Brisbane, such as the Trocadero.
Model & designer
This image captures Brisbane model and stylist Sharen Kenny wearing a pale pink three piece suit designed by long-standing Brisbane Arcade resident Keri Craig, who opened her first boutique there in the 1970s. Kenny frequently collaborated with Brisbane Arcade designers in the 1980s and '90s; she featured in many Keri Craig editorials, and worked closely with Royce Facy—another well-known designer in the Arcade.
Keri Craig is perhaps best known for designing Renata Blauel's wedding dress for her marriage to Elton John in 1984. In the 1980s, the designer relocated to the Arcade's downstairs emporium, where her store still operates today. This expansive underground space had former lives as a bomb shelter, art gallery, tea room and bistro prior to Craig's long-term residence.
Irma J Smith established the 'Irma J Smith House of Fashion' in 1994. Today, Irma’s daughters Marabeth and Bronwyn have kept their mother’s store going, operating the house of fashion on the street level of the Arcade. In addition, they run the complementary 'Bethwyn Fabrics' upstairs.
Together the Smith sisters create one-off decadent garments from luxurious imported fabrics. Best known for suits, racewear, and evening gowns, this family of women have built a loyal clientele who covet their flamboyant signature style.
Shoes from afar
Maryon's accessories and footwear boutique has called the Brisbane Arcade home for decades, though the business was originally established on the Gold Coast in the late 1970s. This image captures the hustle and bustle of the Arcade store in 1982.
Known for stocking a suite of celebrated international labels, Maryon's has built a reputation for delivering overseas styles to Queensland women. The store has occupied the same location on the street level of Brisbane Arcade for over thirty years. Though Maryon's have opened newer shops around Brisbane, their city boutique maintains a constant connection to the past.
Published in Issue 6, on November 5, 2013.