Behind an unsuspecting garage roller door in Balmain, lies the treasure trove that is Casa Boheme. Owned and curated by experienced creative, Andrea Millar, the boutique lives and breathes clean, modern- bohemian living. Each piece of clothing, jewellery, beauty product and homeware is beautiful and unique, hand picked by Andrea as she strives to fill her store with items that are “timeless and special”- something that she has undoubtedly succeeded in. It was a privilege to be able to speak with Andrea about her experiences and the store.
What did you do before opening Casa Boheme?
I worked in magazine publishing for 17 years, during that time I was a writer and researcher, then an interiors, food and fashion stylist, then style director and a deputy editor. I worked mainly for designer and interior mags but freelanced across the board for years as well.
What inspired you to start Casa Boheme?
I always dreamed of starting my own retail business – I didn’t know exactly how it would look and what I would sell but it came together as a fashion and lifestyle concept store for the modern bohemian woman in 2013 and I opened the store last April (2014).
What is your current role within Casa Boheme, and do you still work in other industries?
I am the buyer and creative director of the business – I put together our collections and ranges and do our social media and lookbooks – and until now I’ve managed the day to day operations of the store too but I am very happy to say that I am handing that over this month – relief! My role is quite busy, so no I don’t work in other industries anymore. I’ve gone from being a stylist to being a business women – quite a change and I am still reeling from the learning curve. Two young children in the mix also ensure that there is never enough time.
What do you look for in the pieces you curate?
I have worked with objects and trends for so many years that now all I want is to see and trade are pieces that are timeless and special. For homewares I find that these are usually hand made things with simple lines and have quality and love behind their manufacture. Usually they are socially responsible pieces from fair trade groups in far off lands, artisans carrying on a village tradition like ceramics from Morocco. Sometimes it’s recycled or up cycled wares made from industry scraps into something beautiful like our Mooi purses and clutches.
With fashion, it could be lovely scarves hand made by artisan groups in India or sometimes it is a young Australian designer doing something the are passionate about and living a dream. To be honest it’s not easy to work this way – from the heart – sometimes I completely run out of stock, but I would rather do that than just fill the store with things that will end up as landfill.
It takes effort and time to find things that are beautiful, affordable and will be treasured – from a tailored shirt to a cushion – but that is what I look for!
Where do you find such beautiful pieces?
All over. I travel to find fashion and homewares but I also work endlessly at tracking things down by making contacts, researching online, making middle of the night phone calls to far away places. I also manufacture some things too. Basically once I have an idea it’s hard to get me to stop until I’ve sourced it. But – again – as a researcher, writer and stylist for magazines it is what I was trained to do and it must be my personality as well. The store is just a different way of expressing my need to hunt things down and curate them.
What are some of your favourite pieces on sale at the moment?
There’s not much sale stock left which is good at the end of January, I guess. But I love some Juliette Dunn kaftans on sale that can be worn to the beach as a cover up, or over a slip as a gorgeous dress. These are designed by a London cult hit designer (Victoria Beckham and Olivia Palermo wear Dunn’s kaftans) and they are all hand embroidered or block printed in India. They are very sweet and flattering.
What inspires you every day?
Imagining the possibilities that the day will bring inspires me. What I guess drives my day are two things – one is the relationships in my life and making sure everyone around me (including me) is growing, learning, giving. And, there is the creative possibilities that each day brings. This year there are new labels to introduce, new pieces to design and manufacture.
What sort of woman do you envisage loving this store?
What advice would you give anyone wanting to follow the path that you have taken in opening your own store?
It’s a huge learning curve, you just have to try it if you really feel you want to. Make sure that you crawl before you walk though, start small and make sure you have someone by your side that can work an excel spreadsheet. I can’t but my husband can, it’s a crucial combo.
Pop in to Casa Boheme at 4 Montague St, Balmain
Open Monday-Friday 10am-5.30pm
Or shop online at Casaboheme.com.au