An AT guide on free and cheap things to do in Melbourne during fashion week.

With the fash pack hitting trendy Melbourne between March 15 to 22, AT couldn’t resist throwing our little spotlight on the Victorian capital this month. In keeping with our current issue’s budget theme, we found you the best pop up shops and free parades throughout town – you don’t have to be a fashionista to be inspired by the energetic shows brought to you by brands like Bonds.

We’ve also enlisted the assistance of Frommer’s Melbourne day by day author, Lee Milne to find the five best things to see for free and cheap eats. After indulging in this year’s hippest fashion and some serious shopping, give your credit card a little rest with Lee’s help.

Pop Up Catwalks
During the 2009 L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival, the city will come alive with the latest fashions as the POP UP free catwalks appear in iconic locations throughout the CBD. Showcasing the latest Australian and international brands, the POP UPs will feature spectacular inflatable fashion catwalks and internationally renowned DJ Dean Cherny will have the runways buzzing.

POP UP 1: BONDS – Monday March 16, 7:30am
Southern Cross Station – Cnr Collins & Spencer Streets, Melbourne
See Southern Cross Station come alive with colour with the Bonds winter Collection – Art Attack! Bonds open the Festival with a splash of colour and dynamic paint splattered underwear prints.

POP UP 2: LILI – Tuesday March 17, 5:00pm
Federation Square – Cnr Flinders & Swanston Streets, Melbourne
This iconic Australian brand creates stylish, chic, glamorous and affordable styles season after season. Lili is a free spirit, vivacious, bringing style and confidence to her daywear, office attire and evening wear. Lili consistently produces collections that are fresh, new and exciting allowing you to take key trends and make them your own.

POP UP 3: UNZIPPED – Wednesday March 18, 12:30pm Federation Square – Cnr Flinders & Swanston Streets, Melbourne
A show that presents sass, fun and entertaining, the Pacific Brands Lingerie Group, with intimate apparel to suit every Australian woman including key brands such as Bonds, Mossimo, Berlei Intimates, Holeproof, Antz Pants, Jockey and Rio.

POP UP 4: FOREVER NEW – Thursday March 19th, 5:00pm
City Square – Cnr Swanston & Collins Streets, Melbourne
Forever New is the irresistible fashion label for girls who love glamour, style and celebrity culture; offering accessible fashion from casual to special occasion and designs that bring distinctive style and individuality. View the latest ’must have’ items to add to your wardrobe, with prices to suit every budget.

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And Fashion Incubator Melbourne Central (FIMC) is getting set to launch two unique fashion parades as part of the 2009 L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, both of which will epitomise the flair and enthusiasm for which Fashion Incubator are renowned.
The InfraRED parade will take place on Wednesday 18th March at 8pm and will showcase Fashion Incubator Melbourne Central’s exceptional talent through a mirage of outfits in vibrant shades of red. Each FIMC designer will present three entirely red, custom-made pieces which will reflect elements of their individuality and creativity. Designers on show will include Sarva, Fugue, Ella, Sideshow, Renee, Josua Andreas and Lenko. Burlesque dancers will be making an appearance and are sure to captivate the audience. The night is truly a must see for all passionate fashionistas.
The historic Shot Tower at Melbourne Central will radiate a kaleidoscope of colour on Friday 20th March at 7pm as FIMC present Everyday Attitude, an eclectic mix of the latest in street wear fashion for Autumn/Winter 09 from Sarva, Fugue, Ella, Sideshow Design, Josua Andreas and Boski.
Check out www.MelbourneCentral.com.au or www.FashionIncubator.com.au

Top 5 Things to See For Free in Melbourne
– an exclusive preview to Frommer’s Day By Day Guide to Melbourne

The Koorie Heritage Trust Cultural Centre
Much of what makes this such an important place is behind the scenes, but for casual visitors the main attractions are two ground-floor gallery spaces for contemporary Koorie artists, and an interesting permanent historical exhibition upstairs. Wrap yourself in a possum skin cloak and savour its warmth. Charged with preserving and promoting the living culture of south-eastern Australia’s indigenous people and fostering reconciliation, the Trust also has a vast collection of artefacts, a research library of rare books and documents and an oral history unit.
295 King St. [tel]03/8622-2600. www.koorieheritagetrust.com. Admission free. Daily 10am-4pm.

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Dedicated purely to Australian art, these 20 galleries are part of the National Gallery of Victoria. The largest collection of Australian art in the country, it showcases everything from colonial times through to contemporary art, as well as indigenous art. Names to watch out for are Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale, Tom Roberts, and Aboriginal artist Emily Kngwarray.
Federation Square. [tel] 03/8620 2222. www.ngv.vic.gov.au. Free admission, except to some special exhibitions. Daily 10am–5pm and until 9pm Thurs. Closed Mon, except public holidays. Free 30 min tours Tues-Fri 10:30am-2pm; 11am and 2pm Sat-Sun.

City Circle Tram
Jump on the free burgundy coloured City Circle tram in Flinders Street. The tram does a loop of the city centre, taking around 45 minutes if you don’t get off. The route runs along Flinders, Spring and La Trobe streets to the Docklands precinct. There’s a short commentary on places of interest near each stop, and the driver will announce each stop before you get to it.
Daily, every 12 minutes 10am-6pm (except Christmas Day and Good Friday). During summer, it runs until 9pm Thurs-Sat. Free.

State Library of Victoria
Wander the halls of this magnificent 19th century building for the sheer joy of its beauty. Most lovely are the Queen’s Hall, the Redmond Barry Reading Room and the domed La Trobe Reading Room. The best perspectives are from the Dome Galleries and from a public viewing platform on Level 6. On Level 5, the permanent exhibition The Changing Face of Victoria, traces the social and cultural history of the state. You’ll also find Ned Kelly’s armour here.
328 Swanston St. [tel]03/ 8664-70004. www.slv.vic.gov.au. Free admission. Mon-Thu 10am-9pm, Fri-Sun 10am-6pm.

Royal Botanical Gardens
These are among the best gardens in Australia and well worth a few hours of wandering. Covering more than 40 ha, they are home to about 12,000 plant species from all over the world. Don’t miss the oldest part of the garden, the Tennyson Lawn, with its 120-year-old English elms. Other special corners include a fern gully, camellia gardens, the Australian Forest Walk, and the Ornamental Lake.
Birdwood Ave, South Yarra. [tel] 03/9252 2429. www.rbg.vic.gov.au Daily from 7:30am, closing at 8:30pm Nov-Mar, 6pm Apr and Sept-Oct, 5:30pm May-Aug. Tropical Display Glasshouse opens daily 10am-4pm.

Top 5 Cheap Eats – Melbourne

Café Segovia
One of my favorites, Café Segovia is always friendly, always busy, and in an atmospheric laneway. It has an intimate interior, and there’s also seating outside in the arcade, but you’ll have to come early at lunchtime to nab a chair. Meals are light but servings generous.
33 Block Place. [tel] 03/9650-2373. Mains $16–$27. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, closed Sun night.

Camy Shanghai Dumpling Restaurant
For what some believe is the best Shanghai food outside Shanghai, this is noisy, crowded place is the place to be. Have the spring onion pancake but concentrate on the generous serves of dumplings, large and small, savoury and sweet. Yum!
23-25 Tattersalls Lane. [tel]03/9663-8555. Mains $5-12. Lunch & dinner daily.

Lentil As Anything
In a novel approach that’s not surprisingly become a hit, not-for-profit vegetarian restaurant Lentil As Anything asks customers to name their own price. That means you get a menu without prices…and after you eat, you pay whatever you feel the meal and service is worth. The food is organic, with lots of noodles and vegetables and things like tofu, curries, and stir-fries. Before you leave, you put your money in a box, anonymously. The concept is so popular that now there are four in Melbourne—at Abbotsford ([tel] 03/9419 6444), St. Kilda ([tel] 03/9534 5833), and East Brunswick ([tel] 03/9388 0222). There’s also a café at Artplay in Birrung Marr. They take cash only.

The Pantry
One of the city’s best kept dining secrets and you’ll literally need a guide to find it. Bookings are essential for this behind-the-scenes preview of the up-and-coming chefs of tomorrow. Hidden in the basement of the Sofitel Melbourne, the food and service at this training restaurant are provided by final year apprentice chefs and hospitality students – with flair and aplomb. It’s imaginative and experimental and very good. Open only two days a week at selected times during the year (usually April to September), it’s worth seeking out. The surroundings are fine too – white linen, artworks and a good ambience. You’ll be met in the lobby and escorted through the back-of-house maze to your table.
Sofitel Melbourne, 25 Collins St. [tel]03/9653-0000. $30 set menu for three courses. Lunch and dinner Wed-Thurs. www.lentilasanything.com.

Stalactites
You can get takeaway here, but it’s worth the (hopefully short) wait for a table in the superbly kitch “cave”, complete with fake stalactites. Melbournians have been coming here since the ’70s for good value, family-style giros and souvlaki.
177Lonsdale St. [tel] 03/9663-3316. www.stalactites.com.au Mains $18-22. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

For more information on what to do and see in Melbourne, check out www.frommers.com, www.johnwiley.com.au or head to your nearest bookshop. The very first Australian editions of the popular Frommer’s Day by Day guides for Sydney and Melbourne will be released in April.

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