When Phoebe Southwell finished her studies at Melbourne’s Whitehouse Institute of Design, the future looked bright. Then everything changed very quickly. “I had a few jobs within the fashion industry lined up before Covid happened and those all fell through,” she says. So instead of waiting for the industry to rebound, the young designer began looking at other options.
One way to make money was by selling some of her own clothing, but she quickly discovered that most of the avenues for doing that either required a lot of work or were prohibitively expensive. Faced with another dilemma, she decided to take matters into her own hands. “I thought ‘if I'm struggling to do this then I'm sure a bunch of other people are as well’,” she recalls.
So when a set of offices on The Parade came up for rent in early June, Phoebe and her mother Kerry decided to transform them into a boutique with a difference. The premise of Yours + Mine is simple: sellers pay to rent a rack then they set the prices for their clothes and keep all of the profits for themselves. For buyers, that means some serious bargains.
The Southwells highlight some of the new arrivals on their Facebook and Instagram accounts and designer pieces by brands like Zimmermann, Burberry and Keepsake have been snapped up quickly. But because there are more than 1500 pieces on display at any given time and they rotate every fortnight, there’s always plenty more to discover instore.
As well as helping savvy shoppers fill their wardrobes with bargains, Yours + Mine cuts down on waste by giving these garments a second chance. Phoebe frequently finds clothing with tags still attached and loves to find new homes for them. Having worked in retail and fashion, she’s seen firsthand how much waste exists in the industry and is proud to be doing her part to support sustainable fashion.
Fortunately she’s far from the only one. “We thought it was going to do reasonably well,” she says after almost two months in business, “but it's done a lot better than we expected.” Yours + Mine already has a set of devoted regulars who pop in several times a week to see what’s new. And some of the boutiques on The Parade have even enquired about renting racks for their out of season fashions.
It’s just one of many surprises Phoebe has had in the months since launching the business. But perhaps the most important lesson she’s learned is not to check whether the new pieces are her size. “There are some really amazing pieces so I try to be really good with that,” she laughs. “Otherwise I'd be very broke!”