Whether you're a born and bred Sydney-sider, or love to frequent Paddington during a visit interstate; you will undoubtedly be familiar with one of the city's ultimate fashion destinations, Parlour X. Housed within the walls of a 19th-century church on Oxford Street, the uninitiated would be forgiven for thinking the store was one of the suburb's many famous galleries. And in fact, that's exactly the experience founder Eva Galambos, intended.
With dreams of becoming a gallery curator, Galambos discovered a uniquely magical way of merging the worlds of art and fashion; creating a space where fashion collections were displayed, appreciated and sold in the same manner by which works of art are regarded. Now, two decades later and celebrating Parlour X's monumental 20 year anniversary, the boutique has evolved into a multi-brand destination – both in store, in the iconic St. John's Church and online – where consumers are introduced to a range of established and newly-discovered luxury designers.
Driven by a passion for elevating Australia's continuously growing and diverse premium offerings, Galambos is always thinking about what's next to come. And then, doing it. Here, she shares her favourite trends for 2022, introducing international brands into the Australian market and what she's learnt over the last 20 years.
Congratulations on an incredible 20 years with Parlour X. Can you tell me a little bit about where it all began?
While I started Parlour X in 2001, the vision started many years earlier while studying fine arts at COFA. My dream was to become a gallery curator, to hand select beautiful pieces. I never initially envisaged that those pieces would be fashion pieces! After graduating from university, I moved to London and worked for major fashion brands including Giorgio Armani and Nicole Farhi. This opened my eyes to luxury retail fashion and I instantly found my calling because I knew that upon my return to Sydney, I would be introducing Australia to a new standard in luxury retail. So Parlour X was the name and the concept was to present a curated offering of unique designers, presented in a gallery/parlour style space.
You were one of the first shopping destinations to introduce international designers into the Australian market. How did you know it was the right time to take our offering here to the next level?
Having just returned from Europe, I knew it was an opportune time to introduce a heightened offering to the Australian market. We had just experienced the 2000 Olympics and Sydney was fast maturing into a true international city. I was determined to represent inaccessible brands to our local market, at a time when online shopping did not exist, meaning you could only purchase the brands on an overseas trip. I was able to draw on my experience as a wholesale agent to confidently navigate through this delicate period of buying the collections and building their profile.
On that note, what do you think differentiates Australian luxury consumers and how have you tapped into those preferences? Whether that be through your buying choices or the way you present luxury in this market.
Australia is a young country, with a fresh identity devoid of deep-rooted beliefs and ancient customs. We are also a wonderful, multi-cultural society with an incredible diversity of tastes. As a buyer catering to these tastes, it is both an exciting yet challenging task. I have developed insights into our luxury clientele to know what will have universal appeal. I also understand their limits, so I can gently introduce our clients to new trends. I decided in the beginning that Parlour X cannot be all things to all people, which helps me to curate collections to an audience I know will appreciate my selections season after season.
What have been some of the biggest changes you have noticed about the evolving luxury market here in Australia over the last five years in particular?
There has been constant change since I opened Parlour X, but the pace significantly increased in the last 5 years. The two most significant shifts have been the expansion of luxury flagship stores, and the explosive growth of online retail, especially since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Twenty years ago, the luxury market in Australia was small, with limited choice. Fast forward to today and the market is saturated, and the customers are overwhelmed with choice.
Looking at the most recent runways of spring summer 2022, what were some of the key takeaways you took from the shows and how do you see that translating into the trends we’ll see over the next year?
What was perhaps my biggest takeaway from looking at the runways for spring summer 2022 was the overwhelming sense of joy expressed – not just in the collections, but also in the ways they were presented. After missing a few seasons of physical runway shows due to the pandemic, there seemed to be a perceptible mood of joy in coming together once again and celebrating that which we all love – fashion – in physical spaces. This was translated so clearly in the types of presentations (both in terms of set design and locations) and I think we will see this reflected in the ways people choose to wear these collections – with joy, freedom and optimism.
How will these trends inform your approach to buying and curation and how do you strike a balance between pieces that did well on the runway and pieces you know your customers are after?
Despite the rigours of running Parlour X, I still devote considerable time to my clients, understanding their needs and observing how certain brands fit and feel. I actually love this aspect of my business. I can then strike the balance of what my clients know and love, and what they will appreciate. After all, they expect me to introduce new brands and trends. PH5 and Brøgger are just some of the recent brands I have introduced to my Australian clientele, and the same applies with trends. In 2016, I introduced oversized Balenciaga sneakers. More recently, I introduced the micro bags from Jacquemus, and also the chunky chain jewellery from Paco Rabanne.
Buying is not only giving clients what they want. To borrow a quote from the marketing genius, Steve Jobs, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.
What’s next for the Australian luxury fashion industry and how do you think brands can/will continue to service local consumers?
Speaking from my perspective with Parlour X, I know that moving into a new year we are more focused than ever on delivering the Parlour X experience to our clients – both existing and those we’ve yet to meet. After 20 years in business, we have a crystal clear vision of who we are, what we stand for and our plans for where we go from here. Our service offering has evolved significantly in the past year or two – seeing significant growth online, allowing us to connect with more clients all over Australia – and I am passionate to continue to set the standard for luxury retail in Australia and surprise and delight with our curated mixture of brands and designer collections.
With 20 years behind you and a remarkable amount of achievements along the way, where do you hope to take Parlour X next?
Business is a journey, almost like driving a car. The brands are like passengers, some embark and others will disembark. Locations change, new retail channels, appear (and disappear) but the journey stays the same. I am never resting so there will be some exciting developments in the coming years that I am looking forward to.
An important consideration for me, after 20 years of Parlour X, is identifying ways I can give back to our industry and nurture and support the next generation of Australian design talent. I am as excited about the future of our industry as I have ever been and only by giving back and sharing the experience I have worked hard to gain over my career can I feel fulfilled, and be proud to know that Parlour X’s legacy will be one to remember.
You can explore Parlour X online, or visit the Paddington store now.