SOHO HOUSE EPITOMISES everything that’s hot and mysterious. From its splashy rooftop pools and iconic House Picantes (featuring sexy chilli cube garnishes!) to its “creatives” only membership policy, which has reportedly seen a 98,000 waitlist this August; the private members’ club offers a place for the elusively cool to connect, collaborate and hopefully put away their phones.
In other words, Soho House doesn’t care about how many followers you have on Instagram—although there are a number of celebrity members, from Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, whom apparently had their first meet there—nor do they want you to take a million selfies inside (there’s House rules on that).
“We’re not really influencer-y,” Dominique Bellas, group membership director, told Harper’s BAZAAR Australia/New Zealand during Soho House’s residency at The Old Clare Hotel during South by Southwest (SXSW). “It really is for the makers and creators. If somebody’s not on social media, that’s absolutely fine. It’s more about the person.” And evidently it’s about the city too, following confirmation that Sydney will soon play host to its very own Soho House. Below, read up on everything that we know so far about the country’s soon-to-be most exclusive members’ club.
What is Soho House?
The private global membership club was founded in London in 1995 by entrepreneur Nick Jones as a rival to the stuffy aristocratic members’ clubs in the UK. As per the website, it’s for “like-minded creative thinkers to meet, relax, have fun and grow”. The first House was naturally situated in the heart of buzzy Soho above Jones’ intimate French bistro Café Boheme on Greek Street. Following its success, Jones opened Babington House in Somerset, a charming English countryside version of its original outpost, before heading to New York eight years later. Since then, there’s been a string of Houses opening in Berlin, West Hollywood, Mumbai, and more in the past two decades. There are currently 42 Houses across 17 countries, with the latest openings in Bangkok and Mexico City—and a Manchester residence in development.
Is Soho House coming to Australia?
It’s actually already here—except in a different format. Since 2017, the British private members’ club has run, somewhat secretly, its Cities Without Houses program. In cities where the club doesn’t currently have a permanent physical space, the program takes over popular hotspots around the world with swish monthly pop-ups, events and mixers for members to dine, dance and network. Recent Cities Without Houses events locally have included a cocktail party for the Sydney Contemporary post Collector Preview at Capella Sydney, a preview dinner at Melbourne’s Heide Museum of Modern Art, and even a curated brunch by chef Shannon Bennett as part of an exclusive Splendour in the Grass soirée, which was attended by the likes of Little Simz, Flume and Tkay Maidza. But, there’s never been a permanent fixture—until now.
Where is Soho House Sydney?
While it hasn’t launched yet, it’ll be in the heart of Sydney’s trendy inner city enclave of Darlinghurst—right above retro boozer Shady Pines. On October 4, Soho House revealed it’ll open its first Down Under residence at 256 Crown Street, just off Oxford, “in coming years” to plenty of hype on Instagram. One person commented on the Instagram announcement: “About time!” while another said: “I’ve waited since arriving in oz back in 2004 for you guys to come down under. Yay!!! Excited is an understatement.”
“It’s great to be able to officially say that we’re coming,” Bellas said of the “no-brainer” decision to launch a House in Sydney. “It’s a really amazing feeling. We’re super excited for the next chapter of our Australian journey.”
The long-awaited news follows months of speculation about a possible down under outpost in either Sydney or Melbourne. Rumours initially suggested that Soho House was to open its first-ever residence on Melbourne’s leafy Domain Road in South Yarra, before council and residents knocked back plans, pivoting to a Sydney location. But that’s not to say Melbourne hipsters, musicians and content creators won’t get their own dedicated hub for cold brew and listening rooms, with Bellas hinting “there’s a place for both”. Responding to the rivalry between the harbour city and cultural capital of Australia, Bellas—who has been with Soho House for over 11 years—said: “We’ve got a great membership [in Melbourne] … and been doing some amazing events. It wasn’t a thing of, we chose Sydney over Melbourne.
“And it is different, each city has its own personality,” she continued. “They’re both really interesting creatively and I think there’s a huge opportunity in Melbourne as well. So, I’m excited to see where it goes.”
What can we expect at Soho House Sydney?
So, what’s Soho House Sydney’s “personality?” And when can we (or at least, those cool and artsy enough to fit the bill) get in to mix and mingle? While some reports claim building plans put forward to the City of Sydney at 256 Crown Street include a rooftop pool, cabaret room, gym, outdoor terraces, a studio, bar and various dining areas—in typical Soho House fashion, confirmed details are sparse and mysterious.
“There will be lots of indoor and outdoor spaces for members. It’ll be five floors, and that’s all we can really say at the moment until that’s kind of finalised,” Bellas said of colossal space measuring 1,169 sqm. As for the timeline, “the official and unofficial line is in the coming years”, with a stringent approval process with council needed, as well as various engagement sessions with the local community and existing members in order to design the hottest House—which will need to speak to the beachy Sydney aesthetic as well as Soho’s signature contemporary-chic vibes. Soho House will be working with local artisans and makers to embody Sydney living, with founder Jones also actively involved in the design process.
When it comes to general events and programming, expect daily panels and workshops at Soho House Sydney from a fashion insiders’ breakfast one day, to a “Tarot reading workshop” on another (that, I’m curious about). Members are also encouraged to bring forth their own ideas and talents for various activations, proving Soho House is all about celebrating community. Much like its famous no-phone policy, pretentiousness also stays at the door. “You hear amazing stories of people that have met their husbands or wives, or maybe they’ve met their business partner, or they’ve got chatting to somebody after a gym class and they end up starting a business together. So I think we’ve got so many great stories like that.”
And no doubt there’s been plenty of success stories already last week, with members relishing in a temporary Soho Residency during South by Southwest (SXSW). Held at The Old Clare Hotel in Chippendale, the week-long partnership from Sunday October 15 to Sunday October 22 has hosted a Poolside Opening Party, a Soho Sounds secret performance by Flight Facilities, an Australians in Film mixer (which saw Naomi Watts in attendance), One Night Only Dinner, in collaboration with Soho and Three Blue Ducks, among other industry events. A DISCOTECA party, which spanned multiple levels (aka, from the pool to the basement) naturally closed out the hedonistic affair.
How much is Soho House membership?
Creatives around the country who already have Cities without Houses memberships will get full access to the Sydney location, with the membership directly transferrable upon launch. For those interested, a sign-up to Soho House (which grants you access to all Soho Houses around the world except for Little Beach House Malibu, which requires an additional membership) costs AUD$2,285 annually for those aged under 27, or AUD$4,750 annually for those 27 and over.
Despite the continued ambiguity surrounding official Soho House details, members and those curious are seemingly unfazed. “People are already planning their days,” Bellas shared of the excitement amongst Aussies she’s chatted to, some of whom plan to start and finish their future days at the House. Think gym in the morning, meetings in the lounge, to live music events in the evening. “You can be there all day, all night if you want to. And it kind of becomes that hub.”
A hub which will be unveiled most enigmatically—which is likely part of the allure of signing up to Soho House. What happens in the House, stays in the House. “I know it’s vague and annoying,” Bellas said, after acknowledging they’ve got some ideas about the official Soho House Sydney launch date, “but we keep the mystery though!”
For more information and to keep updated, check out the Soho House website.
A version of this story originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR Australia.