Épatant: Melbourne’s new men’s store

Melbourne men have a new retail destination in Épatant, a Collingwood store featuring quality basics and rarities to satiate the appetite of the most dedicated gentleman sartorialist.

It may be old-fashioned French speak for ‘splendid’, but Épatant, writ small across the access door to a former wire-works in Melbourne’s back-street Collingwood, is understood by the locals to mean ‘new place for the discerning male to doss’. Perhaps they have deciphered this from the discreet front door illustration – a New Yorker-style caricature (circa 1960s) of a trilby-wearing, broadsheet-reading, espresso-nursing, club chair-cosseted gent – that communicates in short, sharp semiotic, ‘herein lies amusement, attire and convivial atmosphere for the thinking man’. Or perhaps they gleaned this meaning from the group of splendid looking ‘chaps’ who, newspapers rolled underarm, began gathering each morning, on the building’s Peel Street side, in anticipation of the roller door lift on Mina.No.Ie (the co-habiting café run by the Cibi crew).

Epatant shares a space with Mina.No.Ie, a café serving home-style Japanese food.

But in the absence of any press or party to drum roll the arrival of this new hybrid retail establishment for the discerning male of any age or life-stage, definitions were always going to be second-guessed. And that’s just the way concept creators, Lachlan Smeeton and his silent “partner-in-crime”, Dennis Paphitis (the man behind the Aesop brand), like it, because when your contents and culture hinge on the ethos of discretion and quiet design, the blowing of one’s own trumpet would just be bad taste.

Mind you, Smeeton, a former Aesop business development manager who has been talking the idea of Épatant with Paphitis for several years, says that if they were so predisposed to the loud announcement they could have pulled an excellent J. Hudson ‘Harking’ horn from one of their carefully curated cabinets and just blasted it full force across the suburbs. Paphitis thinks the horn more a suitable gift for a seven-year-old (what mother wouldn’t smack him for that) but credits Smeeton with a rare retail sensibility that gives weight to the aboriginal words: “the more you know, the less you need”.

“We at Épatant believe that there are two fundamental categories of objects in the world: there are those that function without flourish, that soullessly satisfy and exist at the most basic level, and then there are those all-too-rare items that excite and amaze with both their form and function, belongings that sing, inspire and delight with every use,” says Smeeton, an arts and science grad who has applied both his left and right brain to the buying of such quality basics as Abbeyhorn combs and brushes, Berg & Berg regimental silk ties, Carradice cycling saddle-bags, Cutler & Gross eyeglasses, Fox umbrellas, Gloco wooden snow sleds, C.K scissors, Scheisser underwear, Swiss Army issue ‘house-wife’ kits and all the books any self-declared cineaste could ever need to spout off on art-house cinema. “Those objects ought to deliver the utmost pleasure and that’s what you’ll discover in our modest Collingwood store and within the pages of our website.”

So what can he show that sings above the current retail dirge of disposable fashion? Smeeton moves to a shop floor arranged with a mercantile eye and returns with an Isaac Reina round-cornered cognac-coloured leather satchel that is a masterclass in simplicity. “Isaac is a leather goods artisan of Spanish origin who worked for Hermès for eight years,” he says, showing the bag’s seamless internal reinforcement. “I think there is almost an inverse snob value in owning something that is completely unbranded.”

The Reina range includes custom-made I-Pad envelopes, I-phone cases, wash-bags, weekenders and for the itinerant who has everything, a tiny little leather envelope customised for the storage of Paris Metro train tickets. To pull from the Albert Camus quote that is one of Paphitis’ favourites: “Nobody realises that some people expend tremendous amounts of energy merely to be normal.”

Épatant, 33 Peel St., Collingwood, VIC Tel: (03) 9417 7739. As an added treat for visitors or locals looking for an alternative guide to their city, download Lachlan Smeeton’s free very ‘splendid’ guide to Melbourne.

You can read our full interview with Lachlan Smeeton and Dennis Paphitis here.

Writer: Annemarie Kiely
Photographer: Michael Warnock

2 Responses to “Épatant: Melbourne’s new men’s store”
  1. uncøated says:

    Reblogged this on uncøated.

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