Sunday, November 24, 2013

House of Merivale

While the 60's may belong to swinging London, attracting many Aussies to venture to the motherland to experience the excitement, fashion and music on offer, a few clever antipodeans decided to stay at home and start their own swinging Sydney.

One such pair were Merivale and John Hemmes. 

The names Merivale and Hemmes now are more commonly known for the Merivale Group of bars and hotels, and their entrepreneurial son Justin Hemmes. You don't need to go too far in Sydney to find a venue owned by Merivale, one of the most popular being The Ivy nightclub on George Street along with delicious restaurants such as Mr Wong, Mrs G's and Ash St Cellar

But before they were in the Hospitality and entertainment industry, the Hemmes' were more well known for their fashion boutique - House of Merivale

Merivale and John Hemmes

Influenced by the fashionable boutiques of London, The House of Merivale was opened in the late 1959 on Castlereagh Street, eventually moving to a six story Victorian Building in Pitt Street in 1969. With stores like Biba making it big in London, Merivale was the Australian answer to these fashion kings and managed to even out live them into 1996

Merivale's target market were the young 18 to 25 year olds after their own piece of fashionable London. Merivale sold affordable modern clothes 'for people with a zest for life' and was the first store in Sydney to sell the mini skirt. 

60's Merivale Mustard wool minidress

60s Merivale Poppy Minidress

They rejuvenated the shopping experience playing pop music and displaying styles of new art, fashion and make up in their exciting and well decorated stores. They made it fun to shop and customers made every effort to snap up their new and exciting clothes even being prepared to line up outside the door!

Merivale Daisy print midriff top and skirt

Merival Pink platform sandals

Developing 25 new designs each week, they were able to keep up with changing fashions and hungry customers and eventually opened 3 shops in Sydney, 2 in Melbourne and 1 in Canberra. Their Sydney store on Pitt street featured 'The White store' for bridal wear and in late 60s, introduced their men's line Mr John dressing the Sydney dandies in wide lapel jackets and corded suits just like their Carnaby Street counterparts.

Mr John /Merivale mens shirt 

A heavy burgundy cord suit jacket from The House of Merivale and Mr John

Their later stores much like the Big Biba boutique took on their own grandeur and allowed the Hemmes' their first foray into hospitality with a Thai tea cafe in their Pitt street store decorated in lush palms and with an exotic decor. The Australian rock singer Chrissy Amphlett of The Divinyls was one of their most popular sales girls in their Melbourne store

Merivale and John in the Pitt Street store
They stocked many of their own designs as well as styles by Australians Prue Acton, Norma Tullo and Kenneth Pirrie as well as some imported labels. 

Source - Sue Davie and Monika Lieblich wearing Merivale fashions in 1976

Fashion by House of Merivale and Mr John. Image from Women's Day Oct 9th, 1978

While visiting Australia many celebrities would stop in at the store including Mick Jagger, Cher, Liza Minelli and Marlene Dietrich and their garments nowadays now command top dollar in vintage stores and online 
Merivale Print dress - available to buy here
House of Merivale Fishtail Floral Maxi Dress - Availible to buy here
Merivale eventually closed their fashion stores and moved into the entertainment and hospitality industry in 1996. While famous in their own time their son now carries on the family name in new way.

Nicole at Circa Vintage has a fabulous gallery of reader submitted images of their Merivale items - have a look over here!

If you manage to find some Merivale in your mothers wardrobe or out op-shopping, be sure to treasure it just that little bit more now that you know more about it!

I hope you all enjoyed your weekend dear readers! Come back soon wont you?

Cat xo


  1. I'll take the sequinned gown and the platforms!
    Lovely to read of a label unknown to us Brits. I bet I'll come across one now! x

    1. mmm! arent they lovely? im glad to have introduced you too it!

  2. I remember that shop on Pitt St in the early 80's!!!
    LOVE those platforms, too divoon! I've never spotted any House of Merivale, would be awesome to! XXX

    1. ooh yay! i was hoping you would! Did you ever buy anything? tell me all your Merivale stories!

  3. Such an interesting post, I hadn't heard of House of Merivale before x

    1. I hadn't really either until a friend mentioned it to me!

  4. loved the clothes have photos of myself in a merival knitted mini in 1967 and a sheer top


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