Time Out says
Friendly warning! We're working hard to be accurate. But these are unusual times, so please check that venues remain open.
High fashion becomes accessible at Curtin House
Octavius la Rosa (Otto to his mates) was 16 when he purchased his first piece of designer kit – a yellow, towelling shirt by Belgian designer Walter Van Beirendonck (WVB). That the piece was in his budget opened his eyes to the fact that designer items could be affordable and set a foundation for a business plan. “You don’t have to buy something new season," he says. "There are plenty of pieces from the older seasons which are for comparable money [as fast or high street fashion] – they’ve been around for years, but they haven’t dated.”
La Rosa’s passion for fashion became his livelihood when he and his partner Holly-Rose Butler opened Dot Comme online in 2012, stocking vintage WVB, Comme des Garçons, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto – all bold and interesting garments in terms of geometry, colour and pattern. The business moved to bricks and mortar in the Nicholas Building in 2013, while maintaining the online business for higher-end, collectible pieces. Then in March this year Dot Comme settled into Curtin House and La Rosa is delighted with the new and more spacious digs. “I always wanted to be in this building,” he says. “There’s nowhere else that fits our identity so perfectly and there’s a real sense of community here. We hounded the owners when we heard that someone was moving out.”
A bigger shop has also meant that Dot Comme’s already extensive collection has been able to expand: there are now about 400 pieces on the floor and 2000 in the store room, on top of which is la Rosa’s private collection, which sports 1000 special pieces. “I’ve come to realise that I have the collecting gene,” he says. “It’s always been the case. When I was a kid, I collected different money, shells, rocks, stamps. But then I fell into fashion and the collector in me just wouldn’t let go."
When pushed to nominate his favourite item, la Rosa pauses – it’s like picking between your kids. “I’ve got 30 super-special runway pieces,” he says, eventually. “I also have a sample suit that was made for Bono – I actually just got some more information about from a guy who really wanted it – he said they never even ended up producing it, so there’s probably only three of them in the world – one’s Walter’s, one belongs to someone else and one is mine. The guy said it was about seven and a half thousand back then wholesale – I knew it was special, but I didn’t realise it was quite that special.”
One of the blessings of la Rosa’s business is that it has brought him into contact with his designer heroes, including WVB. “I was in awe – speechless when I met him,” la Rosa says. “I think I just said, ‘I love you Walter,’ and gave him a hug.”
Lvl 3, Curtin House
252 Swanston Street
|Opening hours:||Mon-Sat noon-6pm|