The Aussie influence

Armed with suntans, spending money and flat whites, Australians put down roots in NYC’s fashionable hoods

An outpost of the Sydney-based women’s apparel brand Zimmermann

The immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island a century ago faced immense hardships. With few resources, they built tight-knit ethnic communities in Manhattan’s Downtown slums. Today, a new wave of immigrants is pouring into those same Downtown neighborhoods — but they’re hardly the poor and huddled masses. For the past decade or so, young Australians, armed with suntans, spending money and with a predilection for flat whites, have been flooding Downtown’s most fashionable and expensive neighborhoods.

A report by the Australian Consulate showed that the number of Australians living in NYC rose from some 5,537 in 2005 to 20,000 by 2011 — and that number has likely grown (although the consulate hasn’t released a more recent study). The vast majority of those expats from Down Under seem to have settled in Nolita and Soho. The influx led the Australian blog Traveller to dub the area “Little Australia” in 2012, but more recently “Australita” has gained currency.

Locals told LLNYC that Australians shack up in Soho not only for the laid-back vibe, but because it’s a good place to work service jobs while pursuing careers in photography, fashion or styling. (Young Aussies largely escape the debt that plagues their American counterparts. Health care and university tuition are free or available at low cost.)

One snarky Australian described Zimmermann
as “dresses for private-school girls
who are out of school.”

And like the waves of immigrants who have come before them, Australians are putting down roots and opening businesses here. By our count, there are roughly a dozen Australian-owned businesses operating in Nolita and Soho. And befitting a neighborhood known for luxury retail, many of these shops are high-end boutiques.

Take Zimmermann at 55 Mercer Street — a Sydney-based women’s apparel shop where dresses run from $500 to nearly $4,000. The brand is known for its colorful patterns perfect for hitting Bondi Beach or Balthazar. One snarky Australian described Zimmermann as “dresses for private-school girls who are out of school.”

Then there is Sass & Bide at 480 Broome Street, a brand known for denim pieces that cost several hundred dollars and receiving the SJP stamp of approval in “Sex and the City.” A few blocks over, Dinosaur Designs, at 211 Elizabeth Street, is run by Australian design team Louise Olsen and Stephen Ormandy, who create handmade jewelry and housewares. The items range from $50 rings to $10,000 tables. On the same street, you’ll find plant-based skin care from the high-end Australian beauty brand Aesop.

The latest arrival is high-end Adelaide-based bootmaker R.M Williams, a former “swagman” (Aussie for transient) turned fashion mogul, who sells his $500 Chelsea boots made from Australian leather at 152 Spring Street.

But it’s not all about Aussie fashion. Australians are intensely proud of their coffee culture — which is more about kicking back than productivity. You can drink it up at Aussie-style cafes like Ruby’s, Two Hands and Coco & Cru.

Ruby’s, at 219 Mulberry Street, is credited with starting the Aussie trend in Soho over a decade ago. Its “brekkie” menu has faves like “avo toast,” Vegemite toast and muesli. Stop by in the afternoon for Tasmanian and Aussie beers.

On a recent trip to Ruby’s, we asked our Aussie waitress why so many Australians move to Soho. She shrugged. “When you move to NYC, you aren’t looking to live in Ridgewood. All my Australian friends live in this area.”