loading
drag

Sucker is the Melbourne fashion destination championing local creatives

PHOTOGRAPHY BY Rahnee Bliss

WORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE

“I love hearing when designers tell us that they’ve quit their job and are all-in on designing! It’s an absolute privilege to be able to provide a platform to help this happen.”

Ben Tambyah, the co-founder of Melbourne fashion destination Sucker, has always been passionate about nurturing young creatives. After starting a publication and then an art gallery with this as the founding ethos, a pandemic-induced pivot led to a rebrand.

The art gallery was transformed into a pop-up store stocked entirely with young, local designers. But Ben and his fellow co-founder, Aden McLeod, quickly realised it was going to be much more than a pop-up store.


Discover more up-and-coming local designers in our Fashion section. 


As Ben explains, “The reality is we went all-in on building this shop to the point where it wasn’t going to be a pop-up. For us at the time, learning the ropes all over and understanding a new industry was more viable in the long run than continuing to do art shows in such an unpredictable climate”.

Now, several years later, the duo has created a thriving physical and online store that’s become known for providing emerging local designers with a much-needed launchpad into the industry. Below, they tell us how Sucker got to where it is today, and what’s contributed to their success.

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

Ben: My name is Ben Tambyah and along with Sucker, I was born and raised in Wollongong, New South Wales. Growing up I tried to keep my head down at school whilst nurturing a passion and love for community. After becoming close friends with a talented creative called Ruby Hough not long after high school (2015), she and I started a publication called Sucker Magazine that would document the area’s emerging creators and characters.

It featured a number of curated editorials and photoshoots which I would produce and she would create. The South Coast was a great spot to birth something like this as there wasn’t much of a market for it but a massive community of young people supporting each other.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sucker (@sckrco)

I met my great friend and now co-owner of Sucker, Aden McLeod, through asking him to shoot an editorial for one of our zines. He grew up down the road in a small coastal town called Kiama. Aden’s background is in photo, video and media.

I remember bumping into him every couple of weeks at the local spot, Rad Bar, and he’d be there to shoot the bands playing. Both of us never really had any kind of background in fashion; we just had experience that would eventually be utilised in the industry.

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

B: After reuniting in Melbourne a few years later, Aden, myself, and a few others would sit around a table in a Coburg backyard talking about our dreams and complaining about the future of the creative industry, until we decided to try and do something about it.

We opened a space in 2018 that saw the likes of Jack Irvine, Doug Bennett and Yasmin Suteja put on some art shows that would be our kickstart into the Melbourne community. This paved the way for us to open an art gallery in Northcote at 420 High Street. If you know, you know! The place was home to a lot of artists’ debut exhibitions and a bunch of good times.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sucker (@sckrco)

As COVID-19 emerged we looked at our options as we could no longer host exhibitions. The plan was to open up a pop-up store as a COVID-forced backup for the gallery. Luca Seresin-Staig joined the team and played an integral part in opening the shop. The reality is we went all-in on building this shop to the point where it wasn’t going to be a pop-up.

For us at the time, learning the ropes all over and understanding a new industry was more viable in the long run than continuing to do art shows in such an unpredictable climate. Here we are today, in too deep and in love with our new venture in the fashion world. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

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?

B: Our sole purpose was to create a platform for local creators and for us it didn’t really matter the direction it would take us. We see so many similarities in the way we run Sucker as a shop to when it was an art gallery. It’s about the intent of the mark we’re trying to make and the people we’re trying to uplift. Melbourne is filled with an abundance of incredible artists and designers and it’s humbling to think we can play a part in their future.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sucker (@sckrco)

It’s a blessing to think about how much we’ve learnt over the last 18 months. Each of us has put our heart and soul into studying the industry, the community, the market, and nurturing the skills needed to run a successful business in fashion.

We want Sucker to make a difference through providing opportunities for independent brands, emerging designers, and fashion school graduates who plan to establish their work. We hope for each relationship to be meaningful and to have a positive impact on people’s future plans. If our designers are reaching their highest potential it allows us to do the same.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sucker (@sckrco)

How would you describe Sucker to someone who’s never seen it or been there before?

B: A platform for Australia’s independent designers. Young creatives supporting other young creatives.

Where did the name come from?

B: About seven years back when we were starting the magazine, Ruby and I would drive around doing a whole lot of nothing. I think I saw someone trip over and I said “Sucker!” and Ruby thought that’d work really well.

What are you most proud of in your work at the store?

B: Getting ourselves into this position where I’m able to work alongside and learn from Aden every day as we try and create the best shop in the world. Personally, Sucker has been my number one priority for a bunch of years, and now it’s finally allowing me to have other priorities. It’s creating more opportunities and that’s something I’m really proud of and grateful for.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sucker (@sckrco)

Aden: Being able to do cool shit every day with my partner Nicole and great friend Ben! It’s a dream to be creating, designing and collaborating within our team and the community. I love hearing when designers tell us that they’ve quit their job and are all-in on designing! It’s an absolute privilege to be able to provide a platform to help this happen.

What do you wish you knew when you started?

B: It doesn’t matter too much about what other people think of the decisions you make, it’s where those decisions get you is what’s important.

A: Not a lot more than what we did. I feel like us learning and growing with the shop allowed it to be where we are now. If we knew anything more/different maybe the shop wouldn’t be what it is today.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sucker (@sckrco)

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

B: Stella Vendetta, Emily Watson, Wackie Ju, Love Manifesto, Pure Obsession and Sean Brown, if we’re talking exciting.

A: DOCG, DocGirl, Love Manifesto, Heaven, Salehe Bembury, Sean Brown and Hello Sisi.

What about the fashion industry needs to change?

B and A: Not so much change, but we think when it comes to brands, their products, and their marketing, the movement towards inclusivity is far from over. It’s great to see an emphasis on this in the area. We like to think Melbourne is at the forefront of promoting inclusiveness, but there is still a long way to go. We’re still learning too.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sucker (@sckrco)

Dream Australian collaborators/brands to stock or work with?

B: I look up to Nathalie Scarlette and Georgia Haynes a bit; those guys make some incredible work in terms of creative production. In my opinion, they are pioneers in their own departments and people I’d love to learn from.

A: To be honest I love our team. Every day I’m learning so much from Ben, Nicole, Hansika and Kat and am always excited to hear their ideas so I’m very content with working with them at the moment.

As a team, we’d love to re-establish our connection with local artists. We do miss the gallery days and have begun working on ways to implement aspects of it into our business.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sucker (@sckrco)

How can we buy from Sucker?

B and A: For everyone in Melbourne, we’re open six days a week, Monday to Saturday! We’re located at 438 Sydney Road, Brunswick. For everyone else, you can check us out online at shopsucker.com. New arrivals from our range of Australian-based designers are released every Wednesday.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sucker (@sckrco)

Anything else to add?

B and A: From our team to you, thank you for your ongoing support over the years! From the OGs to the new friends, you’re giving us the opportunity to live out our dreams, so thank you! Keep supporting emerging creatives!

You can keep up with Sucker here.

Lazy Loading