Big Day Masthead

Hidden Gems: Things of Desire

Amanda Whitley

Tucked away in a Manuka laneway is a little slice of Europe. You may have walked past it without a second thought, and that’s because – true to European form – it’s not flashy or ostentatious. But peek inside Things of Desire (T.O.D) and you’ll be almost overwhelmed with the items on offer – racks and racks of dresses, coats, skirts in all colours and textures. Quirky hats made from beaver pelt, embellished umbrellas, handcrafted shoes, house-label jeans, statement jewellery…everywhere you look there is something intriguing and beautiful. This is a place where it pays to take your time.

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T.O.D is the labour of love of Angela Nichol and Alan Arab (above at Prêt-àPorter Paris) , two creatives who came together to import European labels to Canberra. After studying Fashion Design and Production, Angela had her own label in Melbourne; after meeting Alan and discovering his background in art and photography (not to mention his ‘killer eye’), they pooled their resources and ideas, and the brand was born.

“People  were hungry for the high quality and striking designs from France and Italy,” says Angela.

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Leather coat with beaded sleeves by Save The Queen (Italy) and Zipper dress by Sunlight (France).

The unique nature of these designs is evident when you take a close look at the items in T.O.D. On my first visit, I discovered a butter-soft leather jacket which, on closer inspection, could – with a simple zip of the sleeves – could be transformed into a vest, or a jacket with sheer sequinned sleeves for evening glam. I fell in love with a blue leather [email protected] midi skirt. Then there was the handwoven evening dress which looked like spun silver and felt like fairy floss. You don’t find clothing like this on the ‘high street’. And, according to Angela, it’s all to do with an emotional connection.
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[email protected] skirt (Italy) and Leather Jacket by Save The Queen (Italy).

“We go to the prêt-à-porter and look at every label before we order,” she says. “It is a totally gut decision. I love hand worked garments and finishes, I love beautiful things. The most frequent comment we get is that our garments have a WOW factor in contrast to every other garment they wear.”

Ordering a year ahead of the Australian season makes it important for Angela and Alan to understand the waves of trends that flow through fashion, and the social factors that influence purchasing. With the Australian dollar currently in decline, they avoid the more expensive pieces, and focus on offering Canberra consumers brands that they won’t find anywhere else. And every label stocked by T.O.D has a story behind it; just ask Alan.

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Woven evening gown by El Chera.

Maria Grazia was Valentino’s designer and struck out on her own after he sold – her cuts are great! Pianura Studio is from Rome – a brother and sister team that took over from their mother – the label has been going for nearly 50yrs. aldomartins and AMS Pure from Barcelona –  another family business – daughter designs and father Aldo runs it!”

Angela and Alan’s enthusiasm for the labels they stock is clear, and perhaps it’s because every item is hand picked from Paris, Barcelona, Delhi, Hong Kong, Seoul, Berlin, L.A, Shanghai and even further afield.

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[email protected] skirt (Italy) and Roses jacket by Le Copains (France).

“I guess what really sets us apart from others is that we actually go there and pick our stock with our customers in mind,” says Alan. “Not many traders will take the trouble or expense to do that in Australia…not to mention Canberra.”

Without being corny, it’s the passion that Angela and Alan have for their products that sets them apart. It would be easy to spend an entire afternoon ensconced in the T.O.D. treasure trove as they pull out beautiful garment after beautiful garment, always with an anecdote about the piece, or the designer who created it. I asked them what they’re aiming for when it comes to customer service.

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Pink dress Lavina Conti (Italy) and Fur coat by Derby (France)

“Do you remember Georges on Collins in Melbourne? We aim for that standard. Our staff are knowledgeable and helpful; they don’t look at their phones, and are dedicated and passionate about what they do.”

And now the duo are set to expand their philosophy north of the bridge, with a ‘warm and approachable’ concept store soon to open in Braddon.

“We’ll be doing things we couldn’t do in Manuka due to space, including a meeting place for our Black T.O.D Card members, coffee, champagne, interior items, art pieces, and of course fashion. It’ll be fun!”

the essentials

What: Things of Desire (T.O.D)
Where: Shop 6 Style Arcade Manuka
When: Monday to Friday 10am to 5:30pm; Saturday 10am to 4pm; Sunday 12pm to 4pm
How much: Prices range from $190 jeans to $1000+ for leather jackets  and evening gowns.
Phone: 6260 8844
Web: www.todesire.com.au

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Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her 'spare time', she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She's done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women. More about the Author

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