NZ-made treasures at a store near you

By Libby Nicholson-Moon

Kiwi innovation and creativity is alive and well and deserves to be supported, writes Libby Nicholson-Moon.

The Licorice Allsorts range from Dimples baby wear. Photo / Supplied
The Licorice Allsorts range from Dimples baby wear. Photo / Supplied

I'm completely sold on anything New Zealand-made. The six businesses chosen for this story are all favourites of mine, and what better day than a cruisey Sunday for a return visit.

The first time I tasted Kohu Road's heavenly icecream I was addicted and I have been a fan since. Minnie Cooper and Wunderkammer are conveniently next door to each other on Auckland's Ponsonby strip, and I have several stunning pieces from each designer as cherished accessories.

Newmarket's The Poi Room is a joy to visit, the perfect place to buy that special gift and be inspired by the immense creativity New Zealanders have to offer. The Carpenters Daughter has been clothing curvaceous woman for more than 20 years and I have added a few of the designer's classic and black creations to my wardrobe. And finally, I have bought many a tiny Dimples singlet for friends' newborns over the years, adorable pieces with pink rosebud motifs for the girls and a cheerful bee for the boys.

The resurgence in supporting New Zealand-made has grown steadily over the past few years. Let's embrace it as our way of the future and celebrate the creativity of our fellow Kiwis while supporting the local economy.

Dimples
23 Crowhurst St, Newmarket, ph 09 523 4161, and 25 Surrey Cres, Grey Lynn, ph 09 360 2000, both open Sunday 10am-3pm, Mon-Sat 10am-5pm.

Auckland-based mother, wife, grandmother, and entrepreneur Jane McAllister is a truly inspiring woman, and I'm sure her family of 14 children and 15 grandchildren would agree. Jane is the CEO of Dimples, a New Zealand-made range of baby wear and accessories.

The company was launched in 1992 after friends admired the clothing Jane designed and made for her own children and suggested she start her own brand.

Her initial designs were baby berets which she cut, sewed and hand embroidered herself between raising her children, and often while pregnant. The berets were sold in select stores throughout New Zealand, and when they became popular McAllister's mother pitched in to help.

Soon design ideas began to flow and Mcallister progressed from the berets to creating a range of baby clothes. Shop-owners approached her to stock her Dimples label.

Today the Dimples range is sold in shops throughout the country, including stores in Newmarket and Grey Lynn, can be bought online and in eight overseas markets, including Harrods in London. McAllister's company makes more than 80,000 garments a year, all in New Zealand, using soft-textured cotton-rich fabrics, merino wool, organic cotton, and natural silk for luxury items. The fabrics are manufactured at Lavana Textiles in Levin, and McAllister employs 25 hand-embroiderers to add her trademark rosebuds and bumblebees.

Most of McAllister's family involved in the business, including husband Sam and many of their children, and there's never a shortage of grandchildren as models to showcase the Dimple range.

"I'm passionate about staying New Zealand-made because I'm able to produce chemical-free and high-quality baby wear that you can't guarantee from overseas sources," says McAllister. And local manufacturing supports the economy, she says.

The Poi Room
17 Osborne St, Newmarket, ph 09 520 0399, open Sunday 11am-4pm, Mon-Fri 10am-5.30pm, Sat 10am-5pm. Pop-up store at Britomart Central, ph 021 899 562.

Melanie-Jane Smith and husband Clayton's desire for a lifestyle change led them to leave their respective careers in law and construction and open The Poi Room, a design store and gallery. Their flagship store, which opened in Newmarket in 2007, celebrates, exhibits and sells New Zealand art and design. Melanie-Jane chose the name for the store in reference to childhood memories of her paternal Maori grandmother, Kathleen, of Ngati Porou descent, and the poi she used as she sang and performed.

Five years on, and with a newly opened pop-up store in Britomart, The Poi Room continues to showcase works from artists throughout New Zealand, including jewellery, sculpture, glassware, ceramics, original paintings, homewares, textiles, and prints. The Smiths represent both established and emerging artists, and keep in close contact with many of them by visiting their studios and homes throughout the country.

"Some of them live in very obscure places with no computer connections, so our visits can be incredibly adventurous," says Melanie-Jane.

Life for this couple is how they dreamed it could be - colourful, creative and incredibly satisfying.

Wunderkammer
76A Ponsonby Rd, ph 09 360 4090, open Sunday 11am-4pm, Mon-Sat 10am-6pm.

The German name Wunderkammer translates as "wonder chamber", or "a place where a collection of curiosities and rarities is exhibited". Mark Crane opened the store 10 years ago on Auckland's Ponsonby Rd, to showcase and sell high-end men's fashion by labels such as Comme des Garcons, Ann Demeulemeester, and Costume National. A collaboration with local artist Zora Boyd saw the space also become the perfect theatrical backdrop for Zora's intriguing collection of handcrafted jewellery.

Boyd designs and creates each piece of Wunderkammer jewellery at her Muriwai studio on Auckland's west coast. The range is described as "beautiful jewellery, created in New Zealand, for the people of the world". Working in sterling silver, bronze and gold, each setting is unique, and often includes unusual one-offs created by the "beautiful abnormalities of nature". Boyd travels overseas to source precious and semi-precious gemstones and minerals, and has been known to go underground into mines to obtain the gems she is passionate about. Quartz, pyrite, topaz, diamonds, rubies, raw opals and sapphires are just some of the gems incorporated into her stunning settings. Her collection includes rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Boyd considers the energy emitted by the stones as integral to her designs; buyers not only receive a unique New Zealand-made piece of jewellery, but also one with its own inspiring energy.

Minnie Cooper
78 Ponsonby Rd, ph 09 376 3058, open Sunday 11am-3pm, Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-4pm. Also in Wellington at 29 Hunter St, ph 04 473 7946, and in Christchurch at 111 Cashel Mall, ph 03 377 8232.

Sandy Cooper is the woman behind the 23-year-old brand Minnie Cooper, and she adheres strongly to the principles of sustainability in lifestyle and industry. That's why she is a huge advocate for New Zealand-made; she believes Kiwis are committed to quality and style, as opposed to quantity and mass production.

Auckland born and bred, Cooper attended art school and entered the craft circuit selling beanie hats for children. Baby shoes were next and then handmade adult shoes.
She did a course on footwear design at Sydney Polytechnic and, after arriving back in Auckland met Australian Paul Clough, a small footwear manufacturer, who made her initial styles, before work was outsourced to another local manufacturer, David Elman, for 15 years.

Three years ago Cooper had the opportunity to manufacture her own shoes. She now employs 10 at her Avondale factory.

Minnie Cooper styles are classic, strong designs, incorporating a select colour palette, with minimalist detailing and subtle variations. Shoes and bags are the strength of her accessory collection, with functionality and comfort paramount. Most of the leather is sourced in New Zealand from Tasman Tanning, with the remainder from Italy and Spain.

"The customer ultimately decides what lives or dies," says Sandy, "and we rely on people to make that choice. My commitment is to make great products that excite my customers, and I'm also very passionate about keeping skills and jobs here in New Zealand."

Kohu Road Creamery & Cafe
44 Portage Road, New Lynn ph 09 827 9990, open 7 days 8am-4.30pm.

Part of Kohu Road's philosophy is to "revel in simple pleasures" and the founders and owners of the ice cream brand, Greg Hall and his wife and business partner Yayoi, are doing just that. The couple are passionate about their handmade luxury ice creams and sorbets and, where possible, source ingredients from local suppliers to create a product that is free from artificial flavours, colours, preservatives, stabilisers and emulsifiers. The organic milk they use comes from an independent dairy farm at Mangatawhiri and their free-range eggs from a small farm in Pukekohe. After living in Japan for 10 years, where Greg was in IT and Yayoi worked as a high-end kaiseki chef, the couple and their children returned to New Zealand. A longing for a healthy version of a childhood treat resulted in the purchase of an ice cream maker. Family and friends so enjoyed Greg's experimental batches of ice cream that they encouraged him to consider selling it. So began the couple's love affair with ice cream, and Kohu Road became a business, selling first at farmers' markets, then from a factory space in Newton.

In 2009 they opened their bespoke Kohu Road Creamery in a renovated historic building in New Lynn, having picked up an export contract to sell their ice creams across Australia. Last year, they opened their cafe and flagship store in the same building.

"We wanted people to have an experience, not just make a transaction," says Greg. "That's why we've created a space so our customers can feel comfortable, soak up the ambience, have a coffee, enjoy a meal, and taste our ice creams."

The cafe side of the business is Yayoi's dream, incorporating her love of cooking, as she creates a fusion of Japanese and New Zealand flavours. The cafe interior is an eclectic mix of old and new, with an open kitchen, a retro caravan for children to play in, and Greg's vintage car by the entrance.

- Herald on Sunday

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