Best for… gothic gear
Across the road from the Enmore Theatre lies the dark façade of Le Cabinet des Curiosities – a one-stop shop for all things gothic that’s devoted to both Australian talent and unique items from abroad. ‘We get a lot of people who are curious to see what it’s all about, plus some who are too scared to come in,’ says co-owner Suzanne. The chessboard-tiled floorspace boasts decorative glass display cabinets of handcrafted jewellery and resin-encased creepy crawlies, plus rails of one-off clothing pieces, not to mention a niche selection of black-metal CDs. All this sits under the prying eyes of a majestic (defunct) peacock. Current bestsellers include anatomically inspired necklaces (AU$45/S$59) and the striking skeleton-hand pendant (AU$115/ S$150). 97 Enmore Rd (+61 2 9517 4598, www.curiosities.com.au). Tue & Wed, Fri & Sat 11am-6pm; Thu 11am-8pm; Sun noon-6pm.
Best for… conjurers’ tools
Home to the largest array of magicrelated paraphernalia in the southern hemisphere, Hey Presto Magic Studio supplies all things magical and mysterious for anyone from professionals down to attention-seeking kids. The shop stocks novelty dress-up gear, instructional kits, DVDs and magic literature; there’s every sort of trick you can imagine using cards, coins, ropes, flowers and, of course, bunny rabbits. Owner Garry Cohen, better known by his stage name Black Jack, is an international comedic magician of many years’ experience and has owned the shop for a decade. ‘Everyone that works in the shop has to be a professional magician, as magicians like to see exactly what they’re buying,’ he says. ‘When you get your tricks you aren’t just buying the kit, you’re buying the secret.’ Start up with novice tricks such as vanishing flowers (AU$5/S$6.50) and work your way up to the 75-trick Magic Made Easy Kit (AU$50/S$65). You can even take a private magic lesson and be impressing your friends before you can say ‘abracadabra’. Upper Ground Fl, 84 Pitt St (+61 2 9232 7660, www.heyprestomagic.com.au). Mon-Wed & Fri 10am-5pm; Thu 10am-8pm; Sat 10am-4pm.
Best for… fancy-dress costumes
House of Priscilla is an eclectic costume hire and dancewear store should be proclaimed a national treasure. When it doors first swung open in 1999 it staked its claim as Sydney’s only one-stop transvestite shop, where the city’s finest would-be drag performers could pick up a pair of sequinned platforms, glittery faux-lashes or a handmade wig that Cher herself would die for. These days, House of Priscilla has evolved into a providore of all things ‘showtime!’ and services a ragbag clientele of gender illusionists, pole dancers and children who eat rockeisteddfod for breakfast. Costumes are made bespoke and just about every shiny, glitzy accessory you can think of is available. The fake lashes will set you back a mere AU$8 (S$10), Indian Mohawk headpieces start at AU$65 (S$85) and top-of-the-range deluxe costume jewellery is pegged at AU$350 (S$458). Level 1, 47 Oxford St, Darlinghurst (+61 2 9286 3023, www.houseofpriscilla.com.au). Mon-Wed, Fri & Sat 10am-6pm; Thu 10am-8pm.
Best for… Mexican craftwork
Blazing open last year in a rude explosion of colour, Holy Kitsch! is a veritable ossuary of Mexican Día de los Muertos curios. Skull necklaces and skeleton toys jostle for space with pink flamingos, Frida Kahlo tote bags, art prints and all kinds of ephemera that have been sourced from Mexico, Peru and closer to home. ‘We just love the craftwork of the Day of the Dead,’ says co-owner Noni Daniels. ‘It’s really vibrant and life-affirmingly humorous. On the day the Mexican people go out and tend the graves, they give sugar skulls to each other. It dates back to Aztec times, but it’s become a date on the Catholic calendar.’ Popular items include handmade ceramic skulls the size of a fist for installing tea lights (AU$35/S$45), and hand-painted pottery candelabras called the Tree of Life and the Tree of Death (AU$95/ S$124 each). 321 Crown St, Surry Hills (+61 2 8068 2437, www.holykitsch.com.au). Mon, Wed-Fri 11am-6.30pm; Sat 10am-6pm; Sun 11am-5pm.
Best for… re-used, recycled material
The overcrowded warehouse Reverse Garbage is Sydney’s re-use institution. Established in 1974 by a collective of teachers looking for cheap classroom materials and a means to divert discarded items from landfill, the shop now offers recycled DIY, costume and art materials for craft-savvy, environmentally conscious shoppers. ‘We get a huge range of people coming in, including home renovators, designers, artists and students, because our products are so varied,’ explains general manager Narelle Mantle. The store stocks everything from garden pavers to clothing, test tubes and sheets of canvas. ‘A lot comes from film and set design, and Mardi Gras is a big donor.’ So what’s the strangest thing that Mantle has seen donated to Reverse Garbage? ‘We’ve had a giant Sphinx head, skeletons – even a vacuum-cleaner bag full of dust,’ she laughs. 8/142 Addison Rd, Marrickville (+61 2 9569 3132, www.facebook.com/RevGarb). Mon-Sat 9am-5pm; Sun 10am-4pm.
Best for… comic books
From its humble beginnings as a mail-order business, Kings Comics now flourishes as the largest comic-book retailer in Australia. And while the popularity of traditional superheroes still prevails, there’s a lot more on offer than mint-condition first editions. ‘[We are stocking] more unique titles and merchandise than ever before,’ confirms manager Jim Papagrigoriou. ‘The usual perception of a comics shop is somewhere dark and dingy populated only by dedicated collectors. We wanted a bright, spacious shop that doesn’t just stock comics. We aim for variety to attract as many people as possible.’ So while the latest issue of The Amazing Spider-Girl is AU$5 (S$6.50), you might select the historical/ literary parodies of Canadian comic artist Kate Beaton in Hark! A Vagrant (AU$31.95/S$42). 310 Pitt St (+61 2 9267 5615, www.kingscomics.com). Mon-Wed 9am-6.30pm; Thu & Fri 9am-8pm; Sat 9am-6pm; Sun 9.30am-6pm.
Best for… antiques
Ken Wallis and TR Keller’s Seasonal Concepts contains around 40 pieces of taxidermy – ducks, peacocks, kookaburras, stags, a wolf rug and, most startlingly, the towering neck and head of a giraffe named Roger. Don’t be too appalled: Roger’s not a hunting trophy. ‘We picked him up in Melbourne – he comes from a zoo or a museum,’ Wallis explains. The store opened a few years back, when the partners decided they’d combine floristry with a collection of trinkets from the first half of the 20th century. As well as elaborate botanic arrangements, the shop is full of old crockery, garden tools, furniture and curiosities. ‘We don’t restore things, we try to keep them with the evidence of wear and tear – objects that tell their own stories.’ For example, a Cyclops tricycle from the 1950s, rusted and with its paint flaking, costs AU$220 (S$288), while a giant wooden bellows is AU$750 (S$982). For the moment, many of the taxidermied pieces have been hired out to The Great Gatsby production team, but you can still pick up a stuffed jaybird in a glass case for AU$540 (S$707). Roger, however, is not for sale: ‘He’s been a huge drawcard for us.’ 122 Redfern St, Redfern (+61 2 8399 2435, www.seasonalconcepts.com.au). Tue-Sat 10am-5pm; Sun 10am-4pm.
Best for… Science geek projects
Terrific Scientific is not just an awesome name but an awesome shop that’s been an Annandale landmark for 17 years. The shop has maintained its commitment to selling toys and games to capture parents’ imagination as much as their kids’. ‘There’s no point trying to compete with the Kmarts,’ co-owner Andrew Poole explains. ‘Specialisation is the only way to survive.’ And that’s exactly what they’ve done, with all the electronics kits, globes, models and chemistry sets you might expect, including Weird Science-y stuff like the static-electricity plasma ball (AU$20/S$26) and the transforming sphere (AU$39.95/S$52.50). There are hard-to-get board games, art kits, soft-toy viruses and molecules (who knew that penicillin was so cute – and, at only AU$14/S$18, so affordable!), light-up eyeballs (AU$5/S$6.50) and, for the budding geologist, crystals and minerals (AU$5- 15/S$6.50-S$20). Uncles will want to play with their Dino Friends wooden dinosaurs (AU$50/S$65) as much as the nephews who are getting them for Christmas. 51 Booth St, Annandale (+ 61 2 9692 9206, www.terrificscientific.com.au/shop). Mon-Fri 10am-5.30pm; Sat 10am-5pm; Sun 10am-5pm.
Sydney | Melbourne