Kanye West once rapped that "my presence is a present, kiss my ass". While this way of life might work well for him, most of us are still obliged – or even desire – to buy gifts for our loved ones. Here, we've compiled a list of our favourite places to buy gifts in Melbourne; some bricks-and-mortar shops, others online boutiques.
Shops in Melbourne
Best for: designer pieces that you won't find anywhere else
The NGV International plays host to one of the best design stores in the city, collaborating with artists, designers and makers from Melbourne and beyond to supply shoppers with interesting and contemporary products. Jewellery, homewares, clothes, books and even toys are on sale.
Best for: sweet-smelling products to treat someone special
This little gem has been around for 17 years and stocks rare scents from around the globe. The essential oils, shea butter and extract of Tasmanian Pepperberry in Kleins’ Surfer and Two Girls hand cream work together to keep hands soft and nourished.
Best for: quirky pieces for a food-loving friend
Melbourne gold and silversmith Lucy Folk makes quirky jewellery that's good enough to eat; all her pieces are inspired by food. Gift-wise, there's something for everyone, from fancy friendship bracelets under $100 to wedding and engagement rings for a few grand.
Best for: locally designed goods, all in the one handy place
There’s more to the South Melbourne Market than fresh seafood and cheap threads. Dodge the discounted trackies until you reach SO:ME space; a mini design market that rotates a selection of local makers. You’ll find cute home decor pieces from TheSuperCool, locally made shoes from Lost in Seasons, bike accessories from Bakerlite and more.
Best for: irreverent gifts for your friend who doesn't take things too seriously
Objects like the tea towel blurting LARGE FANCY ROOM FILLED WITH CRAP encompass the air of cheeky randomness and disregard for the overly twee that has earned Third Drawer Down a cult following. Wonky splatter mugs, camel-shaped egg cups, peanut butter and jelly sandwich wallets by local and international designers do just as well as gifts as for bringing some affordable, unique art into your home.
Best for: hard-to-find gifts at price ranges to suit all needs
Heide Museum of Modern Art is a torch bearer for Australian modernism, but also champions contemporary Australian art. In addition to the three museum spaces, there is a gift shop selling everything from locally made homewares to art books and fashion. Price-wise, there's something to suit everything from $20 KK gifts to designer jewellery for your significant other.
Best for: gourmet treats for your foodie friend
This well-known providore may be harsh on the hip pocket but they stock products you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere. They have a mammoth range of beverages, biscuits, pastry, chocolate, vinegars, tea, grains, oils, preserves, olives, jams, confectionery, nectars, condiments, sauces, homewares and pickles.
Best for: non-fiction books for the curious philosopher in your life
Founded in London in 2008 by philosopher Alain de Botton, The School of Life had its first international campus in Collingwood in 2012/2013. Since 2014 it has moved in to permanent digs on Bourke Street, offering up a range of life-improving classes from how to find fulfilling work to how to have better conversations. They also stock plenty of fascinating books on these subjects, plus a range of stationary to brighten any work space.
Best for: all the necessary accoutrements for a healthy, sustainable lifestyle
Robert Redpath's buzzing boutique in East Brunswick is the obvious gift destination for urban beekeepers, but it's also full of grain mils, cheese-making sets, food dehydrators and delicious, golden honey.
Best for: hampers and hard-to-find treats for your vegan mates
"It's not even arguable: Melbourne is the vegan capital of Australia," says founder Jessica Bailey. Watch your vegan friend's face light up with high-end vegan chocolate, leather-free bags, cookbooks and beauty products.
Best for: unconventional gifts, homewares and objets d'art
Over four years ago, Jos Van Hulsen and Mary Long opened a large, friendly space that is now part homewares shop, part gallery and part junkyard – in the best possible way. Van Hulsen takes abandoned objects that would otherwise end up in landfill (like copper boilers and old skateboards) and turns them into elegant one-off pieces of furniture (like cabinets and hat stands). These objects aren’t cheap, but you’ll also find an affordable range of locally made jewellery, crockery and stationary.
Best for: cheap, cheeky and downright bizarre knick-knacks
Customers of Japanese discount variety chain Daiso come in several forms. There are those in search of authentic Japanese products you can’t find anywhere else: food, drinks, beauty products and homewares. There are those who can’t get enough of the adorable patterned crockery, stationary and tablecloths. There are those who get their kicks from ogling weird stuff, like the series of ‘Classic American Magazine’ posters of glazed ham ads. The one thing that unites them? The unique joy of knowing that everything you pick up is $2.80.
Best for: extraordinarily beautiful plants and homewares
Mr Kitly is the creation of Melburnian Bree Claffey, who wanted to reflect the Japanese sensibility of simple beauty and functional design in her own homewares and gift shop. Once you’ve found the narrow staircase nestled between $2 shops, you’ll step into a room filled with plants. In the room facing the street, you’ll find a carefully curated selection of ceramics, utensils and artworks.
Best for: reasonably priced gifts for all occasions
Good luck resisting the urge to buy everything for yourself at Belki – a Carlton boutique that sources products from around the world and brings them to you in a cute, carefully curated package. You can't go wrong with well-priced candles, cards, leathergoods, homewares and baby accessories. Pick up contemporary ceramic pieces by Bison, tote bags by Melbourne-based designers Nancybird, and treat yourself to beautiful gem cluster earrings by Melbourne jeweller WhiteLightly.
Best for: a carefully curated selection of books and other great gifts
Happy Valley is the new kid of Chris Crouch, who owns the Tramway Hotel in Fitzroy North and founded Polyester Records and Books. In order to make his new joint in Collingwood feel like a gallery, he personally curates the store’s entire collection of art, books, gifts and ceramics.
Best for: delightfully unconventional jewellery
Explore the tunnels under Flinders Street Station and you'll find Corky Saint Clair: a boutique specialising in gemstones and sterling silver jewellery with off-kilter designs. Think cute little T-Rexes, ribcages and moving skeletons. Also on offer are gemstone pieces, and even cufflinks, bookends and inkwells.
Best for: high-end stationary and lush gift-wrapping goods
Zetta Florence is your place for your high quality and a bit posh archival, presentation and stationery needs. A great place for that elusive stationery gift – gorgeous paper weights, writing and letter sets and ye olde maps of Europe.
Best for: well-priced gifts for your stylish friend who has it all
Lunar Store is the project of Jules Unwin, who has an eye for left-field style. The timber-floored space boasts bags, shoes, clothing, art prints, jewellery, wrapping paper, nail polish and lots more. Most are sourced from Australian and niche international designers, including local jeweller Emily Green, Kester Black nail polish and Bridget Bodenham ceramics.
Online gift shops
Best for: fresh flowers, gourmet treats and one-off designs from all over the world
Caroline Ball, Matt Gurry and Ant White are connoisseurs of the art of giving. Passionate about those five special words – ‘sorry’, ‘thanks’ and ‘I love you’ – the three pals have lived and worked together in Paris, New York, Melbourne and Sydney and have sourced luxury gifts from around the world. Take your time in the online store to admire their selection of beautiful things, from craft beers and soft Tasmanian cheeses and jewellery and clothing. You're paying a bit more here, so choose wisely and save this for a very special someone.
Best for: dreamy bags, baskets and candles inspired by Italy
Designed and made in Melbourne, but inspired by Italy, Che Sara's pastel-coloured hand-sewn baskets bring elegance and light to any room. Mother and daughter duo Sara and Nilla also hand-make soy wax candles, pot plant-holders and decorative weavings.
Best for: sweet treats with a cheeky personality
Custom cookies are the go at Sweet Mickie – and the possibilities are endless. These Melbourne-based purveyors of delicious cinnamon and ginger cookies adorn their creations with fun messages on vanilla icing, which you can customise for birthdays, Valentine's Day, baby showers and anything else you can think of. Gift boxes start from $29.95.
Best for: rainbow-hued neon signage
Electric Confetti's LED neon art pieces are unmissable. Created by designer and illustrator Natalie Jarvis, they're made by hand using LEDs encased in a PVC jacket and backed onto acrylic, ready for display in any home or business. Your quirky mates will love Jarvis' whimsical ice cream cones, rainbows and peeled bananas, but Jarvis will gladly workshop custom designs with you, so you can gift your friend with a once-in-a-lifetime statement neon art piece.