Every now and then, you come across a shop that truly is an Aladdin’s Cave full of hidden treasure. The sort of store you can circle for hours, continually discovering prized booty you didn’t spy the first time around.
Belle and Beans is exactly that. Nestled under the railway bridge along the Gardenvale shopping strip, it’s also a double-purpose shop – filled with great ideas for gifts AND colourful clothing. For me, this means I can visit – ostensibly on a Christmas shopping mission – but if I happen to be diverted by a new party frock I absolutely MUST buy for myself, then that’s completely justifiable – right? After all, I went there, purely motivated by the need to ‘give’…. Plus everything is SO reasonably priced, you could hardly be accused of over-spending.
Owner Nova Healy started up her first Belle and Beans store in Highett three years ago, then came across a vacant space in Gardenvale that captured her imagination. ‘I really fell in love with this store because of the location and space and I really wanted it,’ she said. ‘It’s really visual.’ Her new Gardenvale store opened just over six weeks ago.
With two connecting rooms, Nova has made the most of the space, filling it with ingenious feature pieces – including a tee-pee – and displays of bright clothing, jewellery and shoes. She’s had so much fun decorating her new store, it’s inspired her to relaunch her original Highett shop with similarly bright, funky decor.
A mother of three, Nova says the name of her store came from a combination of her daughter’s names – Belle, being the eldest who also works there part-time, and, her youngest daughter, nicknamed ‘Beans’.
She says the playful spirit of the interior design evolved organically. ‘It’s evolved naturally because I travel overseas and have been going to Indonesia and Bali for years, so I’ve got friends over there with furniture factories and businesses so that’s how it’s come about.’
Fortunately for me, my friend Rochelle was back in Melbourne, on a break from her TV Production Assistant job, and was able to model for me once more. So let’s take a look at our favourite outfits that are in Belle and Beans right now and then I’ll show you a few fab present ideas:
Some of the clothes are sourced through agencies, but an increasing number are designed by Nova herself, under her Belle and Beans label. ‘I design and screen print and obviously have staff who help do that. I’ve been designing for about three years now. I like bright – I love colour! Some people go whoa… but it works.’
Best of all, the prices on some of these pieces are unbelievably cheap. Can you believe this gorgeous studded skirt is just under sixty dollars???? Nova says that’s part of her strategy for the stores, making them particularly attractive for her younger clientele who might not have huge wallets but have an enormous passion for high-turnover fashion.
Another reason to feel ‘guilt-free’ when shopping at Belle and Beans, is that Nova sources most of her gifts through a company called Tractor, run by a local Melbourne girl. ‘It’s a bit like Oxfam,’ said Nova. ‘She goes travelling all over the world and they employ villagers to make things which gives them an income.’ Fantastic – ethical AND original! So let’s look at some of my favourite gift ideas:
First up, HAND-BAGS!
I couldn’t wait to show you this – my favourite item in Belle and Beans and one of the most quirky presents I’ve seen. Where else could you find a PAPER MACHE PIG?? An ideal gift for the man in your life. Tell him he looks like George Clooney and explain that you’ve bought him just the right pet to perfect the image – but he won’t have to clean up after this little porky. (more masculine colours available too!)
Nova’s a big fan of the pigs too. ‘I fell in love with the pigs in Bali. That’s where they’re made. They make them out of paper mache and you can order them in any colour or style paper you like. They’re good fun. So many people fall in love with them too.’ Although dog lovers may prefer these perky little bulldogs instead…
For something a bit more ‘Christmassy’, the Antelope heads are also a popular choice for children’s bedrooms.
But Nova’s biggest seller for kids is this magical Tee-Pee, which comes complete with detachable ‘dress-ups’, velcro-ed to the side of the tent!
And if you need to buy me a gift, I’d happily settle for half a dozen of these sparkly diamente the-candle cups – a steal at just $10.95 each.