Bondi Beach. The words conjure one of the world’s most successfully exported lifestyles, characterised by sunkissed bodies, zinc on cheekbones and feet in flip-flops. But step into Playa – the icy-pink jewel box of a store opened in late 2016 by Australian designer Lucy Folk, located just a block from Sydney’s most iconic shoreline – and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d detoured to Paris or Positano. Its display cases and racks hold a trove of singular, sophisticated accessories and apparel, from sunglasses and beaded clutches to directional fashion by the likes of Isa Arfen’s Serafina Sama and former Hermès creative director Christophe Lemaire – and of course, the provocative but refined jewellery designs for which Lucy Folk is known at home and abroad. While the palettes and styles at Playa vary widely, every item in Folk’s edit shares a quality best described as whimsical worldliness.
The idea for Playa came to Folk, who opened her eponymous boutique in Melbourne over a decade ago, when she was living temporarily in Bondi: “I wanted to create a resort store that reflected my love of travel; I look at things differently when I’m travelling; I’m usually in a great, expansive mood. I wanted Playa to reflect that.” Folk’s secondary remit was to bring some (arguably much needed) retail cultivation to the area: “I wanted to change the concept of how people shop in Bondi.”
Folk has long been known in Australia (and by devotees of Net-a-Porter and Shopbop, both of which carry her work) for employing playful ideas and shapes in her jewels, as seen in bestselling pieces such as her Spritz ring (from A$2,650, about £1,500), a band inlaid with a colour wheel of semiprecious stones. A recent collection with London-based designer Luke Edward Hall contains some striking limited edition pieces, including the chunky Neptune signet ring (from about £540) and a necklace (about £540) of rough-hewn yellow gold discs stamped with portraits, like ancient coins, called Gods of the Sea. Lucy Folk sunglasses (from about £200), all handmade in Italy, line half of one wall at Playa, along with a selection of her signature eyewear chains (from about £50). In late 2017 she launched her first resort collection. Like her eyewear line, it’s all produced by hand, with fabrics Folk sourced in Morocco; the striped Playa robe (from about £310), flirty Beachside shorts (about £200) and Ziggurat kaftan (about £385) are prime examples of her irreverent philosophy.
Folk describes the handful of other brands she stocks as “ones that generally aren’t available elsewhere in Australia” – see the structured but feminine appeal of Isa Arfen’s Elsie dress (about £665) or fitted, peplum-waisted cotton Vera blouse (about £545). Alongside relaxed daywear is elegant, understated swimwear: cult US labels Marysia (Bimini one-piece, about £245) and Solid & Striped (Daisy maillot, about £125) are the season’s stars. Folk is now based in Paris, commuting to Sydney, and next season will debut a new collaboration: fine leather “beach” totes created with leather goods star Gabriele Corto Moltedo. Watch this space.