Ruby & Leo: A Vintage-Lovers Paradise.

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Ruby & Leo: A Vintage-Lovers Paradise.

Tucked away in Highton Village, is vintage-lovers paradise Ruby & Leo. Behind the counter is owner, jewellery designer and milliner-extraordinaire Victoria Henderson.
“I’ve been retailing forever, but in “my past life” I was a dental nurse and I didn’t enjoy it, and that’s why I needed to get out and be creative. I’d always done hand craft of some sort,” she says.

Prior to Ruby & Leo, during the time when Victoria owned Gorgeous Jewellery, a small store nestled in the heart of Pakington Street, she even taught classes which ended up inspiring some students to start their own business. The Pakington Street business expanded to become a busy emporium, with multiple outlets but Victoria no longer had time to create.

The move to Highton Village has been successful and allowed more time for the creative side of the business. “I really like Highton. There are people lining up for shops here! But sometimes people walk around with their blinders on and don’t see you.”

Victoria started millinery 22 years ago, after her sister-in-law was about to buy a $350 headpiece, before Victoria offered to try and make it herself – successfully doing so, and launching her business, which really started “by accident”.

“When I started I was only doing bridal, so I used to go to all the bridal fairs.

“You need to be doing something different [now], because there’s so many people having a go at millinery. You’ve got to be prepared to be knocked back, and I went through it too. Try not to do what other people do, it’s already out there. Spring Racing is my time, it’s huge! Last year, the most hats I did was for Oaks Day. I have had hats in the Top 10 of Fashions on the Field at different races in past years.”


Victoria’s main focus now is her millinery, decorating her store with hundreds of hats of all different kinds, describing an eclectic green and yellow piece as one of her favourites.

“Sometimes I do a piece and really love it. I still want to improve, I still think I can do better,” she says, also admitting to being a bit of a collector. “I’m a self proclaimed hoarder, I’m terrible. I love vintage, I can’t help it! I’ve got a collection that’ll be worth a lot to someone one day! I might buy a vintage dress for the fabric, and I can’t ever throw away a piece of clothing because I might need the fabric.”

Victoria says her daughter who is also a milliner has been a great source of inspiration. “She shifted to Hobart, didn’t know anything, didn’t know anyone, didn’t know where to sell stuff, and she’s just doing so well. She set up an online store, ended up on front page of the Hobart paper twice, she’s inspired me to really look at my business and maybe focus on an online presence.

Victoria shares plans of getting back into her store on Big Cartel (a unique online creative business platform).

“This year I’m getting stuff done! I told myself: online presence and a tidy workshop all the time, than hopefully I’ll be more productive…

“I was self taught for about 18 years and I thought I didn’t need to go and learn properly, I thought I knew enough, but I didn’t. My daughter and I did our millinery course together, so we are now both qualified milliners.”

As for the potential future of ‘Ruby & Leo’, her ideal long-term goal for the business is to continue millinery.

“I’ll still continue to do millinery from home and have a home studio. I’m very possessive about my shop. You build it up, put your heart and effort into it, establish a clientele. If someone said to me ‘I want your shop, but I’m going to change it’, it’s probably not going to happen! I can’t see myself not doing millinery, you can keep evolving and finding out new things, it’s just very satisfying.”

Where: Shop 12, Taylor Crt, Highton Village
When: Mon-Tue 10am-5pm; Wed-Thu 10am-5.30pm; Fri 10am-6pm; Sat 10am-4pm
Ph: (03) 5245 8989

Written by Bianca Cotone