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How Melbourne-based store Irvrsbl became the home of Australia’s most coveted archive designer pieces

PHOTOGRAPHER – DIEGO CAMPOMAR
STYLIST – GADIR RAJAB
MUA – ROSE LETHO

WORDS BY IZZY WIGHT

“It connects to the idea of going backwards and forwards in time.”

Very little (some would argue almost nothing) about fashion is completely original. We love a ’90s renaissance, a ’60s-inspired aesthetic or a throwback Y2K moment. Designers are constantly recycling the silhouettes, fabrics and details from seasons past (ahem, Diet Prada), or referencing iconic – and sometimes obscure – looks from the depths of the world’s sartorial archive.

And there’s a reason fashion history continues to repeat itself – because the original is (almost) always best. Vintage lovers will tell you the only real issue is getting ‘the original’ into your wardrobe. Archive clothing can be a pretentious and very expensive interest to have, particularly in Australia (I see you, Rick Owens bros). Clare Ferra, a vintage fashion enthusiast and the founder of Irvrsbl, wanted to change that.


For more fashion news, shoots, articles and features, head to our Fashion section.


A long-time lover of archive fashion, Clare started buying ’90s Issey Miyake in high school. It wasn’t until her uni graduation she started monetising her extensive collection, founding the vintage store Irvrsbl. A treasure trove of coveted Chanel, Gucci, Missoni, Prada, Balenciaga and more, Clare’s sophisticated eye quickly landed her a full-time job. Below, she shares her journey.

Tell us about you. What’s your fashion background?

 

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My background is actually in visual art. Before working in fashion, I briefly worked in architecture before pursuing art school. My art background has had a big influence on me and the way I approach my business. I love collecting imagery and inspiration from all kinds of sources.

However, fashion has been a constant in my life – I’ve been obsessed from the age of 12 or 13. I started getting into archive fashion in very early high school; I had the best wardrobe back then. I was buying rare items on eBay – back then, you had to pay for them via money order.

That meant I’d go to the post office, pay for a money order, then send it in an envelope to the seller. Once they’d receive it, they’d ship the item to me. This was before Paypal!

How did the store get started? Talk us through the process and the challenges.

The actual store started when I graduated from uni. I ran it alongside my job on the weekends and nights, then a few years after I was able to take it on as my full-time job.

Back then, I was selling on the platform 1stDibs – but now we sell everything through our website and physical store. It’s been such a challenge!

Right now, the most difficult aspect would be keeping tabs on all the different moving parts while trying not to drop the ball. I do happen to work at my best when I am overloaded/have too much to do, so it suits me.

What were you trying to achieve from the project at the time? How has this evolved and what are you trying to communicate through the store now?

 

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In the early days, my focus was on museum pieces. One of my best finds ever was an Issey Miyake lantern dress, which I somehow found for $150. I sold it to a buyer in the US for around $5000.

After that, I had an enquiry from Loewe about purchasing it, but it had already been sold. During the pandemic, I noticed Loewe had released a similar style of pleated dress!

These days, my focus is on more accessible, fashion-forward items that can be incorporated into an everyday wardrobe. We’re less about the monogram items and more about really cool, interesting and contemporary pieces.

How would you describe Irvrsbl to someone who’s never seen it before?

Your dream closet!

Where did the name come from?

I struggled with the name when starting, so I just tried to find a word that fits with the concept of vintage clothing. I thought ‘irreversible’ – because it connects to the idea of going backwards and forwards in time – then removed the vowels so it would be easier to search!

What are you most proud of in your work on your store?

 

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I was super proud when we started running pop-ups because I was able to meet all of our customers in the flesh. They’re all so cool and well dressed! The street style in our shop is amazing, I’d love to start taking photos of everyone coming in.

Also, I’m so proud to have such a cool team of people to work with. They all have the best style! I take inspiration from the people I work with every day.

What do you wish you knew when you started?

I wish I knew how important it is to delegate. Also that it’s important to be gentle with yourself and take time out – something I’m only realising now!

Who do you think is most exciting in Australian fashion right now?

Wackie Ju, All Is A Gentle Spring, Maroske Peech, Olivia Rowan and Em Watson!

What about the Australian fashion industry needs to change?

More focus on sustainability. Clothing waste is a huge environmental problem and I’d love to see us continuing to move towards more cyclical models of fashion.

Dream Australian collaborators?

 

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Em Watson – who we’re actually working on a shoot with! I’m also liking Hector Clark’s photography work right now.

Go-to dinner party playlist?

’80s anything. I’ve had ‘Sweet Love’ by Anita Baker on repeat for the last six months. And ‘All Around The World’ by Lisa Stansfield.

Who is in your wardrobe right now?

Mostly monochrome pieces by Margiela, Prada, Rick Owens and Ann Demeulemeester. I’m loving huge ‘don’t @ me‘ sunglasses – I have two Rick Owens pairs. I’m also currently obsessed with Online Ceramics tees! They’re my weekend uniform. And I’m never dressed without fragrance – a signature scent is key! Currently, I love Musc Ravageur.

How can we buy one of your pieces?

On our website! We will be (fingers crossed) opening a permanent store somewhere in Melbourne very soon…

You can browse the curated range of Irvrsbl vintage pieces here.

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