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Interesting Locals: Meet Melbourne’s Most Prolific Button Collector

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toga pin
2,000+ year-old toga pin

When exploring the city of Melbourne, walking down the hidden lanes and bright arcades, you’ll notice many unique stores and boutique shops.

One particularly interesting and quirky place in Melbourne is located in the Cathedral Arcade on the 2nd floor, Buttonmania.

Owned by local button collector Kate Boulton, the shop has over four million buttons.

And while she claims not to have the biggest collection in the country as wholesale manufacturers can produce more, she is certainly the largest boutique button shop in Australia.

[pullquote]I used to say ‘if I won tattslotto I would buy a button shop.’ I bought the first one in March 1995. I am still waiting for the Tattslotto.[/pullquote]

The buttons come in all colors, shapes, sizes and styles, and simply seeing how many buttons can be kept by one person is fascinating.

Her most notable button is one that is 2,000+ years old and was once used to pin togas in place (shown above).

In her private collection, there are also some rare gems, like some 1956 Olympic games buttons and a purple paste diamente button from The Button Queen in London, whom she got to meet.

Kate wearing a mother of pearl necklace she made out of her buttons.
Kate Boulton wearing a mother of pearl necklace she made out of her buttons

It all started in the 1980s, when Boulton owned her own dressmaking business, a large part of which entailed constantly searching for the right button to complete a garment.

“I used to say ‘if I won tattslotto I would buy a button shop,’ she laughs. “I bought the first one in March 1995. I am still waiting for the Tattslotto.”

[pullquote]”…they are working to filming schedules, and often have to be sent interstate. It is a good adrenaline rush, then to see the movie come out sometimes two to three years later. It gives you a different look when you sit down to see the finished film, and whether people realize all the trouble that goes into the fine details.[/pullquote]

Today, Buttonmania is made up of a number of button-related businesses Boulton has purchased and combined over the last 18 years. Most of the buttons are from Europe, although she has many from other parts of the world, as well. And while Boulton loves being able to offer a wide array of high-quality buttons to her customers, she also enjoys collaborating with community members. In fact, a good proportion of her orders are from businesses, be it bridal boutiques, designers, dressmakers. Additionally, designers often send clients who need buttons for films. For example, many of the buttons for the movie “Australia” with Nicole Kidman feature Boulton’s buttons, specifically in the scene where she wears a ball gown. Some other movies you can view Boulton’s buttons include “Ghost Rider,” “Charlottes Web,” “Pacific” (the series) and “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” to name a few.

“You need to catch on real quick to their brief, as they are working to filming schedules, and often have to be sent interstate,” explains Boulton. “It is a good adrenaline rush, then to see the movie come out sometimes two to three years later. It gives you a different look when you sit down to see the finished film, and whether people realize all the trouble that goes into the fine details.”

So, what’s in store for the future of Buttonmania? Boulton simply hopes to continue to grow her collection and to help customers and clients with their buttoning needs. There is also the possibility of a button museum if the finances and logistics work out if her favor. To learn more about Buttonmania and Kate Boulton’s collection, visit buttonmania.com.au.

Jessie Festa

Jessica Festa is the editor of Epicure & Culture as well as Jessie on a Journey. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia, agritouring through Tuscany, and volunteering in Ghana.

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