Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A trip to Fitzroy for some silk

Melbourne's a small town, right?  Well, for a town of 3.5 million people.

I live in the inner suburbs and across the river is Fitzroy, only a twenty minute drive. And yet I never seem to be able to find the time to do it.

Like the north shore and the southern side of the harbour in Sydney, sometimes we in the east have a little psychological barrier about crossing the river.

You see,  in Gertrude Street Fitzroy, there is a magical shop called Vixen, where you can buy these lampshades.  Well not literally these, as these are the ones hanging in my hallway, but something just like it or maybe even better.

Yes I know, I know (impatient tone) you can make your own lampshades, but these are custom made, covered in Georgia Chapman's beautiful silk hand prints and lined with a contrasting print.   And for many months now I have been dreaming of having a shade like this, in blue tones for my bedside table.  
The lampshades are actually a late addition.  VIxen now does various home wares including wonderful rugs.

But originally, Vixen became famous for its silk clothes and in particular, its sarongs.  Vixen's philosophy is not to slavishly follow trends, but to create designs which are classic and long lasting.  All their sarongs are made of sections of different silks, like an off beat patchwork, but they don't look crafty or homemade.   They look glamourous and sparkling.   I can think of many ladies from the 1920s who would have been right at home in a Vixen sarong, probably the best example is the naughty Lady Idina Sackville (known as the Bolter when she came to life in a number of Nancy Mitford novels) who scandalised England and Kenya with her multi marriages and flexible sensuous approach to life:

Here she is on the cover of Tatler in 1923, newly engaged to Josslyn Hay. 

(The Bolter, by her great grandaughter Frances Osbourne is a book which must be read).

Over many painstaking years I have collected Vixen sarongs.  When I first started buying these Vixen was located in the city, in a turn of the century Art Nouveau office building with a hand cranked lift running down the centre of the stairwell. 

The fabrics were screen printed in a huge warehouse room which probably originally housed printing presses. 

And very occasionally in Melbourne we have the weather for sarongs.   But just owning them, even if I don't wear them much, improves my life.

(Image 3 Designer Rugs Image 4 from Vixen)


Julie@beingRUBY said...

Hi Jane
I love those lampshades and am afraid my lampshade making starts out with good intentions but not often finished...

Idina's fiance looks smashing in his jammies!! what every best dressed fiance should wear when having a cover shoot!! haha

Now.. sarongs.. i love them too.. any type.. use them for many purposes.. and don't mind the cheap cotton ones also as they are handy for the beach... Well I hope you will post the new lampshade if you get it..then we can all be jealous!! xx Julie

Amanda (Small Acorns) said...

Hi Jane, Your lampshades are absolutely gorgeous. What a fabulous shop Vixen must be. And I can understand how attached one could become to those sarongs. Not something we would wear in Wellington either, but the fabrics are so beautiful. Must get hold of that book!

Millie said...

The lampshades are extraordinary Jane - stunning in every way. I have 3 gorgeous sarongs tucked away in my dresser. I never wear them, but each I spy them, I relax & start to think of beaches, so they are wonderful panaceas for what ails me at the time!
Millie ^_^
P.S. I know it's very English, but how could any parent in their right mind name a son Josslyn!!

Mise said...

The fabrics look wonderfully tactile, and I love the opulent lampshades - their rich texture contrasts with the simplicity of their design. I was much struck with The Bolter when first I read about her - it's seldom one word so conjures up a lifestyle and a character. Nancy Mitford is one of my top favourites for escapism; I'm glad you're a fellow fan!

Have a safe trip across the river...

Laura said...

I've just bought the bolter on your recommendation! And now I'm dreaming of sarongs...

Emma said...

I adored all of Nancy Mitford's novels as a teenager, in particular Don't Tell Alfred, which I must have read at least 20 times. I am going to the Book Depository now to order The Bolter! Thanks for the recommendation, Emma

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

Hi Jane,
Oh, I'm loving the silk. I wish that we had a Vixen. I am sure that, in a few posts time, you will be telling us that you've made yourself a blue, silk lampdhade !!
I can imagine Nancy Mitford herself, in a Vixen sarong...one of 'the bright young things ' and English to the core.
I have never been a sarong girl. I have had one in the drawer that has never seen the light of day. Perhaps I should get it out and have a rethink...perhaps I could make a lampshade out of it !! I just bought a grey silk dress and love it so much I went and bought the same one in the other colour of navy. A slight departure from black for me. I think that I may need a lay down in a darkened room !! haha. XXXX

Unknown said...

the fabric choices on these furnishings are GORGEOUS!!! I wish I had access to silk like that.

ps. check out my new blog ;)

hasanahtex said...
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