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Harrolds – Proudly Australian for 35 years

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Harrolds – Proudly Australian for 35 years

Harrolds is a family-owned and independently operated Australian luxury retail business. Since 1985, Harrolds has set the tone for luxury fashion in Australia, providing clients with unique access to the most coveted collections from over 120 international and local designers, including Tom Ford, Thom Browne, Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen and more.

Founded on the desire to give luxury a local home, at Harrolds’ inception, Managing Director Mary Poulakis said there were not many luxury brands operating in Australia, and her husband John Poulakis saw an opportunity to bring European fashion to local shores.

“It was a simple objective,” says Mary Poulakis, “To ensure gentlemen are well dressed anywhere in the world.”

From small beginnings to today, there is a common theme through Harrolds’ journey of innovation and reinvention. Core to the evolution of Harrolds is the narrative of five, whereby each quinquennial anniversary is marked with a new milestone.


It was a simple objective – to ensure gentlemen are well dressed anywhere in the world.

Managing Directors Mary and Ross Poulakis ahead of Harrolds e-Commerce debut earlier this year. Image: AFR

For 30 years, Harrolds was a destination for luxury menswear and tailoring.

Managing Directors Mary and Ross Poulakis ahead of Harrolds e-Commerce debut earlier this year. Image: AFR

For 30 years, Harrolds was a destination for luxury menswear and tailoring.

“Historically countries introduced five-year plans as a method of planning economic growth over limited periods, the same is true of Harrolds,” says Mary Poulakis.

“We started in 1985 and it was roughly every five years from then that we either embarked on a monumental shift in the way we conducted business or introduced a new component to the business.”

Beginning in 1985 with the first Harrolds store opening at The Rialto, 495 Collins Street. It was here Harrolds first lay their Collins Street roots, opening a second store in the then newly-opened 101 building (currently housing Van Cleef Arpel). Then, in 2005, Harrolds opened their iconic multi-level flagship store at their current Collins Street site, closing Rialto in the process.

Of his earliest memories, Managing Director Ross Poulakis says he loved watching his father on the shop floor.

“I remember watching dad work and thinking to myself how badly I wanted to do what he did.”

While his own journey began in the warehouse packing orders, it wasn’t long before Ross Poulakis learnt the ins and outs of the family business and he too began to work on the floor alongside brother Alexander Poulakis, the pair pricing product and teaching the local clientele the art of tying a tie.

In 2000, Harrolds expanded their reach to Sydney, opening their first boutique at Martin Place. A warm welcome lent itself to a decade of success, granting them the opportunity to move to their current Westfield Sydney location in 2010.

The following year was one of the most pivotal moments in Harrolds’ history – the introduction of Tom Ford.

“This is definitely one of our biggest achievements so far,” says Mary Poulakis, “The introduction of Tom Ford to the Australian marketplace was a labour of love and took us many years to secure the brand.”

At the time of securing the Tom Ford partnership, Ross Poulakis said: “I remember sitting down with Dad at that time after some initial setbacks and he said to me ‘I’m not giving up on this. This label will change the fashion industry and I truly believe in it.’ So, the next season John and Mary flew to New York where the Tom Ford offices were located and requested that Harrolds be given an opportunity to showcase the label in Australia. Inevitably after many years of pursuing the brand, they finally allowed us to buy Tom Ford.”

In 2011, Harrolds welcomed Tom Ford as an exclusive Australian partner.

At this stage, with Harrolds beginning to gain global attention, it wasn’t strange to see celebrities and international visitors grace their floors, most notably Keanu Reeves, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Hart, Dave Chappelle, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Heck, there was even an occasion when a Malaysian Prince paid them a visit.

“We were the first Collins Street retailers to trade on a Sunday and on one particular Sunday, John and I were working at the store when an iconic Melbourne horse drawn carriage arrived at the front of the shop enquiring if we were open and would we be able to close the store for a Malaysian Prince?,” recalls Mary Poulakis, “We looked at each other, not really knowing what to expect, and then spent the next four hours in the company of Malaysian royalty, from whom we still receive an annual Christmas card.”

On another occasion, Mary recalls receiving a call asking if Harrolds were able to dress Pierce Brosnan mere moments before his film premiere in Melbourne.
“We brought all the stock over to his hotel room,” says Mary, “My girlfriends were very jealous!”

In 2018, the Collins Street store closed their doors upon word that Scott Disick (Kourtney Kardashian’s former partner) was on his way from Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival’s Derby Day after being refused entry for not wearing socks. It was upon his return to the carnival dressed in head-to-toe Tom Ford from Harrolds that paparazzi snapped the iconic photo that blew up on the Harrolds Instagram page.

The lord is in the building. Photo: @harroldsaus

Scott Disick wears Tom Ford from Harrolds to Derby Day 2018. Photo: Daily Mail.

The lord is in the building. Photo: @harroldsaus

Scott Disick wears Tom Ford from Harrolds to Derby Day 2018. Photo: Daily Mail.

Ahead of their 20th anniversary, in 2005 Harrolds expanded their 101 Collins Street offering, adding an additional two floors to the flagship store.

“I remember this as a huge undertaking and physical labour of love for my husband John,” says Mary Poulakis, “I remember the day that we opened, after not really seeing him for months on end, he was so proud of what he created and it was then that I fully understood it wasn’t about the products on the shelves, but the experience itself.”

In 2015 Harrolds signalled a new direction for the now 30-year-old brand with the launch of their first dedicated womenswear store in Westfield Sydney.

Of the launch of Harrolds Woman, Mary Poulakis recalls shooting the launch campaign in New York City with international supermodel Malgosia Bela (who previously walked for Comme des Garcons, Givenchy and Balenciaga) before flying her to Sydney for the grand opening of the store.

“Womenswear was and remains a completely different market and isn’t our natural market segment – we started as menswear and are still referred to and regarded as a menswear retailer – so we still have so much to learn in this space. It’s very trend driven, and the consumer is so diverse.”

Malgosia Bela for Harrolds Spring Summer 2015 campaign and launch of Harrolds Woman.

A busy 12 months, in 2016 Harrolds continued to evolve, this time up the east coast of Australia with the opening of their fifth store in Gold Coast’s Pacific Fair.

“Central to the launch of Harrolds Pacific Fair was the idea that we need a new recipe for each city,” says Ross Poulakis, “We couldn’t approach this new market the same way we approached Sydney and Melbourne, we needed to spend time familiarising ourselves with the client, adapting our buy strategy in response to this and focusing on how we could add value to this space.”

Applying a localised buy strategy, the Pacific Fair collection was curated with the warmer climate in mind and looked to more relaxed, youthful brands to meet the client’s specific needs.

This year, Harrolds celebrates two major milestones: 35 years as Australia’s Luxury Department Store and the launch of their e-Commerce platform, Harrolds Online. Now, Australian and New Zealand clients can experience their world-renowned service in a beautifully curated environment, from browsing their extensive designer catalogue to getting to know first-hand their coveted designers on The Journal.

“The retail landscape has changed so much and the brick and mortar experience is much more dynamic due to technology and innovation,” says Mary Poulakis, “Recently we invested in excess of $2.5 million in technology and strategy with a fully integrated ERP system, Harrolds Online, clienteling platforms, and brand and experience strategy.”

“Although we resisted [e-Commerce] for many years, it’s given us the ability to engage with our clients in a new space and elevate the existing in-store experience.”

In response to the current climate amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, Ross Poulakis says “Our approach is to rethink the way we do business, to rethink the way we engage with our customers, putting forward a Harrolds-first strategy and reinforcing our foothold on luxury in the Australia Pacific marketplace.”

As for the next 35 years, Mary Poulakis says “Generational change is already in place on both fronts with the birth of two gorgeous granddaughters, Olympia and Sophia, combined with our daughter Melina hopefully joining the business after her tertiary studies have ensured the future is female.”

“So much of my life is the business,” she says, “We work together, we live together, and we play together. Doing that with our sons, Alexander and Ross, and hopefully Melina one day soon, is so rewarding and gratifying. Our staff are our family, as are our customers, vendors and partners all over the world.”

Harrolds Spring/Summer 2020 campaign.

Harrolds Spring/Summer 2020 campaign.

Harrolds Spring/Summer 2020 campaign.

Harrolds Spring/Summer 2020 campaign.

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