Bling. It’s a large part of what makes us humans.
We love to be able to stamp our homes, belongings and even ourselves with our own flavour and style, so it is no surprise to learn that Australians spend billions of dollars every year on bling, accessories, and fashion items.
Everything we wear is sending messages and telling those around us a little bit about who we are. Some choices are conscious, like a wedding ring or a service insignia, while others are not – but nevertheless, everything we wear is capable of telling a story and few understand this better than Ellen Geraghty, owner of Thousand Island Dressing in New Farm.
Thousand Island Dressing is Brisbane’s home of bling. Similar to the way in which the namesake condiment lifts a traditional prawn cocktail through its statement combination of ketchup, mayo and sweet dill pickle, Thousand Island Dressing has been jazzing up the ears, necks, wrists and homes of Brisbane with all things beautiful and ostentatious for more than seventeen years.
Founded by Leanne DeMartini in 2002, Thousand Island Dressing started out as a homewares store in Paddington. It has gone on to become somewhat of a Brisbane institution, expanding into jewellery and accessories before becoming a fully-fledged company with a further two stores in Bulimba and New Farm. Leanne remained at the helm of Paddington with Rebecca Cain overseeing the new additions.
Ellen has been part of the Thousand Island Dressing family from the very start.
“I was managing the Bulimba store for my cousin (Rebecca) back in 2004 while studying, fresh out of high school. I moved to England, but I always fell back in to Thousand Island Dressing. When I moved back to Australia in 2013, I bought the New Farm shop from Bec and the rest is history.”
The New Farm store is tucked into Merthyr Village, sitting off the well-known lifeline that is Brunswick Street. The first thing that will strike you when you enter the store is the carefully arranged layout and design, with the eclectic collection of accessories, gifts and homewares grouped by complementing colours.
The soft yet daring hues of blue, green, and turquoise stand proudly at the front of the store, reminiscent of the picture-perfect beaches and lagoons of the Maldives. Along the back wall, a Balinese Buddha is perched below a wooden table featuring an array of earthy-toned accessories, with bronze, tan and gold dancing alongside the light of carefully placed lamps. There’s even a space dedicated to the fiery shades of scarlet and vermilion.
The second thing that will strike you about Thousand Island Dressing is just how freakin’ cool this shop is. The breadth of wares on offer is extraordinary, with jewellery and accessories including necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings, brooches, clutches, headbands, and scarves.
New Farm locals will tell you this is the go-to place when you’re after a killer pair of earrings for a night out or you’re looking for a gift for the person that already has everything. From funky sloth earrings from Mox & Co to bespoke acrylic designs by Beetwomey, you are destined to find something that will impress the fussiest of fashionistas.
The homewares range is just as impressive, with bright and funky candles, lamps, cushions, mirrors and wall decals adorning all four walls of the store.
“In terms of gifts, we have a lot of quirky items that speak to people, so you can usually always find a gift that’s personalised.”
Ellen explains the circle of entrepreneurial life that has come about through Thousand Island Dressing, supported largely by sending and receiving goods by air freight via Brisbane Airport.
“We stock items from all around Australia and place a strong emphasis on sourcing quality items from local artists and producers. Around 30 per cent of stock from suppliers in South East Queensland, and the other seventy per cent comes primarily from interstate. We still import some homewares from Bali.”
“It’s interesting with our suppliers, a lot of them are just mums who are working from home making polymer earrings. They’ve given up their corporate jobs, they’re creative, then they go online. There are so many amazing success stories like that.”
One of the best things about Thousand Island Dressing is just how frequently they order in new stock. They have such a fast stock turnover that you are bound to discover something new every time you visit. The takeaway from this? If you see something in store that catches your eye, you should probably buy it because chances are it won’t be there in a week’s time!
“We receive orders from interstate designers and wholesalers anywhere between two to six times a week. The speedy delivery of products via air freight is vital to our business.
“We rely on this instant trade to keep our stock new and exciting, and to fill our shelves, especially at Christmas time when the stock is flying out the door. Even one day of low stock levels has a massive impact on trade.”
Thousand Island Dressing’s proximity to Brisbane Airport is a no-brainer for Ellen when it comes to the future of her business. Consumers have become increasingly savvy, able to compare goods and prices across the world through the rise of online shopping. Ellen understands that for a retail shop front to keep up in such a competitive and fast-paced market, the significance of air freight cannot be overstated. And with Brisbane Airport set to have the greatest capacity of any airport in the southern hemisphere come mid-2020, the future of bling in Brisbane is looking increasingly bright.