Five of the best places to shop in Auckland for New Zealand fashion, jewellery, beauty products and homewares

New Zealand’s biggest city is booming, and so are its designer fashion and beauty boutiques –some of them destinations in themselves. With New Zealand Fashion Week under way, we’ve got the lowdown on five must-have shopping experiences

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2018, 3:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2018, 10:03am

Twelve hours by air from Los Angeles, and three-and-a-half from Sydney, Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest city, with a population of over 1.65 million people.

Long called the City of Sails – Auckland is said to boast more boats per capita than anywhere else – it was revitalised by a sailing competition in the late 1990s.

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After Team New Zealand won the America’s Cup in 1995, Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour underwent a multimillion-dollar facelift in anticipation of the team’s defence of the trophy in the city in 2000. Team New Zealand won that regatta too, and the America’s Cup returned to Auckland in 2003.

Come 2021, the America’s Cup will be returning, after Team New Zealand won the ‘Auld Mug’ back in Bermuda last year.

In the nearly 20 years since that first title defence, New Zealand has experienced record population growth and Auckland in particular is booming, with NZ$14 billion (US$9.35 billion) worth of construction projects under way across the city.

These include the NZ$681 million Commercial Bay development and the NZ$790 million Westfield Newmarket, which will include the second New Zealand branch of Australian department store David Jones, after one in Wellington that opened in 2016.

Luxury brands and other big international retailers have arrived in Auckland in earnest, opening a series of large stores on the now buzzing lower end of Queen Street, near the harbourside Britomart development.

A number of New Zealand fashion brands have also opened stores in Britomart, including Karen Walker, Huffer, Deadly Ponies, World, Juliette Hogan, Kate Sylvester, and Zambesi. Stores selling other New Zealand brands can be found in some of the city’s other shopping precincts, including Ponsonby, Newmarket and K Road.

Go to the following five places for some of the city’s best shopping.

1. The Department Store

The Department Store caused a frisson when it opened in October 2009. Monocle magazine crowned it No. 1 in its list of the world’s top 25 Shopkeeping and Retail Stars in April 2010.

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A joint venture between New Zealand’s best-known fashion name, Karen Walker, New Zealand multi-brand retailer Black Box Boutique and Auckland beauty entrepreneur Stephen Marr, with interiors by New Zealand architect Katie Lockhart, the 1,285 square metre (13,800 sq ft) multi-level space in the Auckland North Shore suburb of Takapuna aspires to be on a par with the world’s best stores, such as Colette (now closed) in Paris, Milan-based 10 Corso Como and London-based Dover Street Market.

The store’s lineup has changed since 2009, but it remains one of Auckland’s best retail stores. The Karen Walker and Black Box boutiques are still on deck. There is also New Zealand organic baby-products concept Nature Baby.

The Department Store, 10 Northcroft Street, Takapuna  

2. The Shelter

The suburb of Ponsonby has long been a favourite of Auckland fashion shopppers. In September 2014, one of New Zealand’s hottest luxury retail stores – The Shelter - opened there.

Founded by fashion designer and retailer Vicki Taylor, who launched her Taylor fashion label in 1999, The Shelter is a gallery-like space that offers clothing, jewellery, food, beauty products and homewares.

A former laundromat fitted out by Auckland architectural firm Pennant & Triumph, it is part department store and part incubator. It stocks international fashion by the likes of Danish designers Barbara Gongini and Henrik Vibskov, MM6 Maison Margiela, Germany’s Bernhard Willhelm, and British label Marques’Almeida alongside top local labels, including Maggie Marilyn, Jarrad Godman, Wynn Hamlyn and Jimmy D.

The Shelter also sells Muuto lighting from Denmark, Beldi glassware from Morocco, and New Zealand hair and body products line Sans [ceuticals].

The Shelter, 78 Mackelvie Street, Ponsonby

3. Simon James Concept Store

Launched by interior designer Simon James, it began as a pop-up on the ground floor of The Department Store. Since then, the Simon James Concept Store has become a retail brand in its own right, with two outlets, in the Auckland suburbs of Herne Bay and Newmarket, offering a mix of homewares, fashion, accessories and beauty products.

Opened in September 2017, the Newmarket store is considered the company’s flagship. A temple of minimalism, like its sister store, the exteriors were done by Cheshire Architects and the interiors by Rufus Knight.

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Its stores stock brands including Simon James, Tom Dixon, Minimalux and Resident – an export-focused furniture and lighting spin-off founded by James with Scott Bridgens. It also has jewellery lines Sophie Buhai and Jessica McCormack; Australian and New Zealand beauty brands Aesop, Sans [ceuticals] and Maryse; and a selection of New Zealand designed-and-made fashion brands, including Penny Sage, Mahsa, Georgia Alice, Paris Georgia and Ovna Ovich.

Simon James Concept Store, 2 Kent Street, Osborne Lane, Newmarket

4. Tonic Room

The natural beauty market is booming – in 2016 Persistence Market Research predicted it would nearly double by 2024, to US$22 billion.

With a “clean and green” reputation to rival Australia’s, it is no surprise a raft of natural beauty lines have launched in New Zealand in recent years.

One of the country’s best curated selections of natural beauty lines is to be found at Auckland’s Tonic Room, a wellness clinic and beauty store founded by naturopath Heidi Billington.

Tonic Room sells beauty lines such as Maryse, Sans [ceuticals], Clemency Alice, Triumph & Disaster and The Dark Heart Beard Co., alongside herbal vinegars from Plant Medicine Epicurean Tonics, organic chocolate from Flint Chocolate, Misty Day Plant Potions and the store’s own Tonic Room Teas.

The store is also the exclusive New Zealand stockist of international beauty lines such as Tata Harper, MV Organic Skincare, Sodashi Skincare, May Lindstrom Skin and Vintner's Daughter.

Tonic Room, 465 New North Road, Kingsland

5. The Keep

Auckland’s busiest shopping strip in the first half of the 20th century, until motorways carved open the inner city in the 1960s, Karangahape Road – “K Road” to locals – was for decades afterwards a red-light district, home to strip clubs, adult shops, and tattoo parlours. Drawn by its low rents and bohemian allure, it also boasted a score of small bars, galleries, vintage stores and second-hand bookshops.

Gentrification may be well under way, but the strip has not lost its gritty edge, and it is a haven of independent cafes, bars, clubs and shops. One of its highlights is the St Kevin’s Arcade at No. 183.

Another must-see is The Keep, an open studio and concept store founded by fashion designer Lela Jacobs in March 2012 which takes transparency to the next level.

With a cutting table and machines installed in store, customers can watch Jacobs crafting her sustainable fashion collections from scratch and also take in exhibitions from visiting artists-in-residence and makers such as Kenneth Männchen, Meighan Ellis, Tanja Nola and Kairava Gullatz.

The Keep, 504 Karangahape Road, Auckland

Getting there

Cathay Pacific, Air New Zealand and Hong Kong Airlines operate direct flights between Hong Kong and Auckland

The writer travelled to Auckland as a guest of New Zealand Fashion Week