Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Shops that pass in the night 5

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As a change from my previous "Shops that pass in the night" posts, I'll move away from the Cuba/Ghuznee district to the Lambton Quarter. Lambton Quay itself is not usually known for small independent shops, but there's one little side street that's been home over the years to a number of little shops with more personality than the chain stores that are increasingly dominating the Quay.

The top of Plimmer Steps is just metres from the Golden Mile, yet it seems that the steep ascent is enough to keep most punters away, thus avoiding the soaring rents nearby. There's a cluster of three shop spaces right at the top that have seen a number of tenants over the years (Genevieve Flowers being one of the most long-lived and memorable), and at the moment they're home to a cluster of three interesting businesses.

Stand Up Aotearoa in Plimmer StepsOne of these is Stand Up Apparel Aotearoa, which opened at the beginning of last month. They stock clothing with a Māori flavour, some of it bearing designs based upon traditional patterns, and others with a contemporary urban edge (as the graffiti-style sign on the building would suggest). The shop was started by the people behind the local Blackberi and Localitees labels, and it stocks their products along with pieces by other designers, such as graffiti-covered kete that are a nice collision between traditional craft and urban expression.

Speaking of Localitees, it's interesting to see the focus of local-pride t-shirts becoming more geographically specific with time. First there was the widespread appropriation of homage to Colin Simon's 1974 Commonwealth Games logo and Orlando's favourite "I (Huffer) NZ" shirt; then OTC's "WE (heart) WGTN" slogan; now there's Localitees' suburb-centric and even street-level (Cuba St) designs, as worn by all the staff at Epic Café. Logically, the next step must be to wear your address or building name on your shirt, so I'm off to get a custom-made "St Peters Apartments" tee. Not only will I get ahead of the cutting edge of fashion, but if I've had too many Martinis I can just get in a taxi and point to my chest.

Isa Lei Tapa in Plimmer StepsNext up the hill is Isa Lei Tapa (link currently down), which also has a Pacific theme, but with less of a hip-hop angle. This is either a new branch of a shop that's been in Riddiford St for a while, or the shop has moved here: can any Newtowners confirm whether the Riddiford shop is still open? As well as the obvious tapa cloth, it also sells ceramics, paintings, carvings and, um, Ben Lummis CDs.

Mazzola Jewellery in Plimmer StepsRight at the top you'll find Mazzola Jewellery. From the street it has a slightly mysterious appearance at night, due to the gauzy curtains and subtle lighting. One of the photos in the window is of the owner's ancestors from Massalubrense, and this adds to the European feel of Plimmer Steps. I know it sounds ridiculous to compare an alley squeezed between Wellington high-rises to an Italian hill town, but that's exactly what it feels like to me at times, with its terracotta paving, steep winding footpath and patches of greenery. Having a group of independent shops completes the impression, and it's an appealingly charming mini-neighbourhood just around the corner from the mirror glass of Lambton Quay. And if the trudge up the hill is too much, just take the lift that's hidden at the back of the AA Centre and walk down.


At 9:33 am, March 29, 2006, Blogger Martha Craig said...

I don't know if it is still there, but there used to be an escalator that would take you halfway up the steps, where the hotel is.

I love those shops. Minnie Cooper was there for ages, and it was much better.

At 2:05 pm, March 30, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Yes, the escalator's still there, and it can take you pretty much right to the top. And thanks for reminding me that Minnie Cooper was there too: I haven't been into the Hunter St shop much, since they don't do so much men's stuff.

At 12:32 pm, January 10, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...


for anyone wondering what happened to Mazzola Jewellery since this blog was written, well, i've moved! I've now reestablished Mazzola in a very nice location at the northern entrance to featherston in the Wairarapa in a beautiful old shed which was once the town's bakery. I'm still designing lots of nice new jewellery including some very nice leather cuffs, earrings and chokers - not of the punk and heavy metal varieties but much more feminine using lovely Italian leather. I'm open every weekend. To find out more visit www.mazzolajewellery.co.nz if you are passing through featherston look out for a really nice chocolate coloured sign on your left as you head north out of featherston

cheers! david


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