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December 17, 2015

A very independent Christmas: Leigh Street Luggage

The joy of travel is only tempered by the style in which you leave and arrive. Keep your summer sojourn straightforward with a comfortable piece of luggage from Leigh Street.

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  • Pictures & Words: Joshua Fanning

We thought Julie Barnes was on Leigh Street before it was vibrant.


Leigh Street Luggage
22a Leigh Street, Adelaide
Monday – Friday 9am -5pm
Saturday 10am – 3pm

“Believe it or not, Leigh Street was pretty cool in the 1980s,” says Julie, reminiscing about the neighbourhood when she first established her little luggage shop – Leigh Street Luggage.

Julie goes on  to describe the European-style chaos of the street when, shock-horror, the street had two-way, four-wheeled traffic.

“People used to pull up on the curb, to grab food and park on the footpath, while they ran in to get a haircut from Alec – it was exciting,” says Julie.

History and herritage are strong themes in Julie’s store. As soon as you walk in, you’re greeted by purposeful and artful displays of luggage of all shapes and sizes. The store feels more like a collection rather than a retail offer and, really, it’s Julie’s personal thoughts on the best luggage in the world.

“A couple of years ago a rather large [luggage] brand approached me about selling my store to them,” says Julie.

The company had seen the sort of numbers she was selling through of their brand and wanted to grow that while still keeping Julie in the store to sell the product.

“I just couldn’t see the point,” says Julie continuing, “my store works because I believe in every product on the floor, because I select every product. It gives the customer and myself a sense of security knowing that.”

And while Leigh Street has morphed and changed in recent years, Julie has updated her store to suit.

Leigh Street Luggage is home to the cult brand, Bellroy whose wallets bring in young customers clutching their smart phones and pointing at images on the screen to determine whether Julie has the particular model in stock. She almost always does.

“Another great brand is Knomo,” says Julie. “They make bags for electronic devices but not in an ugly and obvious way, stylish leather pieces with subtle compartments for cords and batteries.”

As she talks me through the other great brands and their suitability for the different styles of travel – overnight, interstate, overseas, overland, backpacking, cruising, driving and so on – the front door dings.

“Oh no,” says Julie with mock dread as a customer walks in. “I bet anything this guy is going to want something I don’t have.


Julie says she is currently having to turn away a good percentage of customers who are only interested in the original luggage with the grooves

“I’m not getting my next shipment of Rimowa until march and the next big order comes in July,” says Julie. “And I made the order for that lot last July!”

It’s a good problem to have and proof, certainly, that bricks and mortar retail can flourish as long as it’s tended by someone who cares. Although Julie does offer a warning at the conclusion of our visit.

“If you ever come in here and see fluffy toys for sale on my shelves, please,” she emplores with a wry smile, “don’t hesitiate to tell me it’s time to retire.”

CityMag is happy to report there’s not a soft toy in sight.

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