High rents on High St force labels out
Friday 1 Mar 2013 9:07 a.m.
If you're out and about in Auckland this weekend, you might want to don your best threads because fashion is in focus.
The Britomart Fashion Sessions are on, a two-day event that showcases some of our top designers.
Britomart is the brainchild of private investment firm Cooper and Company.
"We wanted to create something that was really welcoming, and people felt really comfortable about coming to and somewhere beautiful to come and be, shop and relax," says Sarah Hull.
For 30 years this area lay derelict and forgotten. Now it's a hub of activity, and on completion will also be the largest heritage restoration project ever undertaken in New Zealand.
"We're lucky to have 18 heritage buildings just in this one area, and we've restored nine of those so we're half way through that process."
Today there are over 100 businesses in the area, with that number set to double by 2015. Filling up a lot of these spaces are some top-end New Zealand fashion labels, like Kate Sylvester, Karen Walker and Zambesi.
"You only have to see the critical mass that's here, and it's undeniable that it is a fashion and cafe, culture hub of Auckland," says Zambesi co-founder Neville Findlay.
That title was previously held by High Street, just a few hundred metres up the road, but rocketing rents and a lack of cohesion between the street's landlords has seen major labels move away.
Zambesi was the first to set up shop in Britomart, leaving the High Street area after 25 years.
"I must admit it was a huge risk to come down here because we were the first, and that was a very strategic thing from their point of view - they wanted a key tenant to make it more attractive for others to come down here," says Mr Findlay.
Debrett's is one business which hasn't moved. Owner Michelle Deery admits High Street has changed, but remains positive.
"Cities grow up. If they don't change they become a bit boring, so places move on and make space for other places to move in."
Business organisation Heart of the City has earmarked $10 million to develop High Street, but Ms Deery says it's not just money they need.
"I think the landlords in High Street need to realise they're competing with other landlords who probably have deeper pockets, and they need to make it attractive for fresh new people to come into the area."
New people who could soon be setting the trends in real estate, as well as in fashion - where as we all know, one day you're in, and the next day, you're out.