It’s been a day of millennial nostalgia for me, kicking off with the announcement that Kings of Leon are touring Aus for the first time in 10 years, and now with the news that cult Australian brand Wheels & Dollbaby is back, after closing down in October 2017.
I know I’m definitely showing my age here, but visiting the brand’s iconic Surry Hills store in Crown Street was the highlight of my early 20s — saving all my pennies to buy the embellished singlets, cardigans and dreaming of one day owning the leather jacket (I’m still yet to achieve this… maybe next pay day). Their gorgeous figure-hugging frocks were the stuff of rockabilly dreams, especially for a girl like me with a curvy body living in a pre-Kardashians world.
So recently I was quite surprised to see emails from Wheels & Dollbaby popping up in my inbox letting me know that “Knitwear is coming” or “our leather jackets are back”. I frantically googled but couldn’t find anything about Wheels & Dollbaby reopening, so being the good investigative journalist I am, I went straight to the source — the brand’s founder, Melanie Greensmith, who first launched Wheels & Dollbaby in 1987.
I had a great gasbag with Mel on the phone, and she tells me that while there was a “flurry of press” when she closed down the brand in late 2017 — “the TV cameras were at my door!”, she cackles — she quietly relaunched again in November 2020 with a very small collection online and decided not to “make a big hullabaloo” about it this time. She kept the collection small as she was unsure that the brand’s fanbase was still around, pointing out that “three years is a long time in the rag trade. A lot can change.”
But the small collection was a hit. “It did really well. And I thought — they’re all still there,” Mel says. “Now I’ve added t-shirts, and the leather jackets. We’ve got cardis coming. I’ve done it like the Sydney store, I’m just filling my racks!”
While she was expecting her previous customers to be the ones buying up big for the nostalgia factor, she tells me that she was surprised by younger people being the brand’s biggest fanbase now. “I reckon girls are sick of fast fashion,” Mel muses. “They want to buy into a brand that means something.” Wheels & Dollbaby has also cracked into the US market, something the brand struggled with before.
Her reasoning for closing back in 2017 is honestly so relatable, I can’t even be mad. “I just needed a break,” she laughs. “I’ve done Wheels & Dollbaby since I was a kid. I started it when I was 19, just a little brand with my friend. Because I’m the designer and the leader of the gang, I couldn’t just go on a holiday. And I would never sell it. I just kept the name, had a break, went travelling. But I missed it.”
And we missed you too, Wheels & Dollbaby. Dunno about you, but not only am I going to hit up the website for new pieces, I’m also going to dig through my wardrobe for my noughties faves, too. With the range only getting bigger online, here are some of the must-haves right now.
And you can just hook this directly to my veins, please:
While there’s none of the iconic black cardis with the logo on the back available at the moment, Mel gives me the hot tip that they’re coming, so stay tuned.