A local guide to shopping in Wellington
Wellingtonians behave differently from the rest of the country. There’s an inherent air of freshness surrounding them as they cruise through town, earphones and unconcerned about what other people think of their style. Or at least that seems to be the case for an outsider. In an ironic reality, there’s a lot of consideration that goes into looking so effortlessly cool.
Perhaps more than anywhere else in the country, Wellington celebrates individuality in style. This is the city where not being cool makes it even cooler, and when it comes to shopping, you can’t get enough of it.
The shopping in Wellington alone is worth the trip. From the vintage shops that line Cuba Street to Lambton Quay’s Golden Mile, to the intimate boutiques you’ll find tucked in between, Wellington really is the only place you need to go for therapy or complete indulgence.
So, from someone who’s spent more than my fair share of time ‘browsing, thank you’ through Wellington’s stores, here are the top products to put on your radar the next time you’re in town.
* How New Zealand dresses: the urban style of Karangahape Road
* This is the coolest street in Wellington (no, it’s not Cuba St)
* Suburban Spotlight: Why You Should Visit Petone, Lower Hutt
* Te Hīkoi Toi: Cuba Neighborhood Retail Art Therapy
good as gold
If you’re looking to encapsulate the Wellington look with a quick shop, Good As Gold should be your first port of call. This store is where streetwear meets international fashion, where you’ll find a carefully curated collection of under-the-radar labels under one roof. Since opening in 2004, Good As Gold has developed something of a cult following, in the best sense of the word, where they’ve brought together a community of creatives with a common goal: cool clothes for cool people.
Perhaps one of Wellington’s most well-known success stories is Kowtow, the clean label that puts sustainability and simplicity at the heart of everything they do (and did for a long time before it was cool too ). The College Street flagship is a beautiful experience in itself, where the design and layout of the space reflect the values and designs you’ll find hanging from the shelves. Think square shapes, timeless patterns, beautiful fabrics and wonderful working conditions for their artisans.
For timeless, gender neutral shapes, mostly made in Aotearoa, Service Depot is the one stop shop. In its new home on Ghuznee Street, this divinely curated boutique that fits effortlessly with Wellington’s edgy aesthetic, features designers like Jimmy D, Lela Jacobs, Meadowlark and Ovna Ovich. What makes this store so special is its rarity; you’ll be hard pressed to find a store like this anywhere else in the country.
When Thrift opened in early 2017, it was immediately at home on the Cuba Street thoroughfare. Offering a curated collection of amazing used and vintage clothing, Thrift is quite different from the traditional opshop you’re used to. In a pre-pandemic world, some of the staff used to travel to California to stock up on clothing on offer, and the other shelves belong to consignment items – a handpicked selection of a few on offer through the city.
New to the scene, Monty’s prides itself on “providing only the best second-hand clothes” and claims to be the cool older brother you’ve always wished you had. The space, tucked away at the back of Forresters Lane, houses an ever-changing collection as well as a curated range of clothing, jewelry and homewares, all made right here in Aotearoa. And as if it couldn’t be cooler, the Knit Club is held every Tuesday from 5.30pm, all levels of experience are welcome!
Most people in Wellington have sold their clothes to Recycle Boutique at some point, and they probably bought a new piece from there too. You’ll find outposts of this wildly popular consignment store across the country, where much-loved clothing is breathed new life. The Vivian Street store is one of the biggest in New Zealand and it’s always bustling with people trying to find the best bargains. There are designer, vintage, and downright cool sections, so no matter your budget or style, you’re sure to find something you’ll love.
Bringing together some of the city’s most beloved stores, ENA and Precinct 35, Kaukau is a boutique-gallery space that showcases beautiful clothing, stunning homewares, and a holistic shopping experience for everyone. The space showcases designers, makers and artists coming together with an offering that encompasses all tastes.
Whenever I return to Wellington to visit, Caughley is a place I always have to stop. When it opened in 2016, the city had seen nothing like it, offering the season’s picks from some of the country’s top designers (and a few international ones too), for men, women and non-binary people across the city. It’s part Seatoun-mom aesthetic, part youth, and I can’t get enough of it.
For fine leather suppliers, Yu Mei will be a household name. This Wellington brand can now be found in stores around the world. However, a visit to their hometown is the best reason to visit Yu Mei Salon. Here on Victoria Street you’ll find a collection of their leather goods – handbags and wallets – as well as an art collection to inspire your experience.
Hunters & Collectors
It’s the holy grail of vintage wear. Home to a carefully curated collection of cowboy boots, sequined dresses transported straight from the Roaring Twenties, and a few vintage designer pieces if you’re lucky, Hunters & Collectors is everything you’ve ever dreamed of. On Cuba Street (of course), right next to the best pastaria in town, this store may be pricey, but you’re promised a piece you’ll cherish forever, where no one else has anything like it.
Stay safe: New Zealand is currently under Covid-19 restrictions. Follow the instructions on covid19.govt.nz.