Walk into Ponsonby Rd's Dizengoff cafe on a weekday morning and you'll likely spot several creative types in casual meetings.
The popular cafe - affectionately known as "Dizz" or "Dizzi" - has become a sort of unofficial meeting place for some in the Auckland fashion industry, and we suspect that many New Zealand Fashion Week decisions were made over one of their deliciously strong coffees, plates of mushrooms on toast or filled bagels.
Huffer's Steve Dunstan is a regular, while fashion collaborations have begun here too: it was a conversation between artist Karl Maughan and Stolen Girlfriend Club's Marc Moore that led to the fashion label's brilliant fabric print using Maughan's work.
Troy Mentor owns the cafe with Mark Huggard, having run it for almost seven years, and their love of art is obvious: they exhibit work from local contemporary artists - currently a piece by Dan Arps, represented by Michael Lett Gallery.
"Dizengoff has always had a strong connection with the contemporary art scene," explains Mentor.
"The last owner, Matt Austin, was an art collector and often had his own Colin McCahons and Michael Parekowhais gracing the walls.
"When we took over I really wanted to maintain this. We have since become friends with a lot of our customers who are artists and I like to think we support them as much as we can."
This love of art and appreciation for creativity is reflected too in some of Mentor's favourite things, from sculptures to pieces picked up on travels.
* Dizengoff, 256 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby. Ph (09) 360 0108.
10 FAVOURITE THINGS
1. Diptyque collection
I've been obsessed with Dipytque ever since my first acquisition in the 1990s, the Philosykos scent. All their fragrances seem so exotic and unusual and are based on memories of the two founders' travels to foreign, intrepid locations. The story behind each fragrance kind of transports you to these places with each whiff. Last month I was lucky enough to visit Diptyque's original store at 34 Boulevard St-Germain, which was one of my Parisian highlights.
2. Erica Van Zon "Kremlin" sculpture
I own a few of Erica's works but this is definitely my favourite. It makes me think of someone's dreams of travel to exotic, luxurious locations around the world. Aspirations, which I share.
3. Jennifer Mason - Shard
One of my current favourite works is this photo, Shard. I love the soft pastel "flesh" palette and the eternal resonance of the monolith.
4. Richard Orjis Dumb-bell
This wooden dumb-bell was part of a large "candelabra gymnasium". It talks about mortality. I love how this work evokes the magic and ritual of a fictional earth-cult, Orjis' "Empire of Dirt". I also like the contradiction of materials; how it's made of wood and modelled on a heavy weight, but is actually fragile and lightweight.
5. Paul McCarthy Chocolate Santa with Tree & Bell
Paul McCarthy is quite a notoriously twisted artist based in California. About five years ago he transformed a 560sq m gallery space in New York into a fully functioning chocolate factory, producing these sculptures of Santa. It is based on a giant version on display at a Rotterdam museum. I bought mine from Michael Lett Gallery here in Auckland. What I like most about this work is that it is a work in constant transformation. I like the fact that over time it will slowly decompose into nothing. I don't know if this is the intended message. I might need to house him in a glass display soon, as he is starting to grow mould.
6. Mayan mask
While on travels through Mexico and Guatemala, my partner and I visited many amazing temple and pyramid complexes throughout the Yucatan peninsula. Jennifer and I are total ancient history nerds and the Mayan civilization is definitely one of the most intriguing and amazing to me. Near the end of our trip, on our way home from the Coba ruins near Talum, we came across this amazing Mayan sculptor called Alfredo Gonzales. He is about 70 years old and goes through all these old archeological books and throughout the ruins to make replicas of ancient Mayan carvings. Our one is carved from an old sketch of a temple at Tikal in Guatemala, one of the largest cities of the ancient Mayans.
7. Pottery from Nasca, Peru
On another of our intrepid travels we were in Nasca, Peru visiting the famous Nasca Lines. Another thing they are famous for in Nasca is their amazing ceramics. On our tour we pulled up to this ceramic studio of a family who have made beautiful ceramics in the same manner since the first century AD. Unfortunately it was on our second day of a three-week tour, and Jennifer had to have the biggest and most elaborate pot in the shop. Amazingly I carried it all over Peru for three weeks of intrepid travelling and it arrived home unbroken.
8. Mid-century cork lamp
I went through a phase of collecting 1950s cork lamps and had this idea of creating a "Wall of Cork Lamps" in my lounge on shelves. Unfortunately, because we live in an old art deco house with a lounge that has only two power outlets, this never materialised, but the dream lives on. It conjures up feelings of the carefree days of the 1950s with a cheerful tropical print.
9. Liz Maw Dirty Harry print
Liz Maw is one of my favourite painters at Ivan Anthony Gallery, Auckland. This work features an apparition of Tutankhamun's death mask floating in a serene forest of giant redwoods. There is a speech bubble with a quote from Dirty Harry about keeping your "big city hot shot" ideas out of our business. I love this work as I love all things Egyptian, but also because, for me, it's like a conversation between imperial civilisation and nature or the indigenous world.
10. J'aime les Macarons
Every now and then I'll sneak some of these bad boys home from work. We get them sent up from Christchurch by J'aime les Macarons but they are so worth the effort. Last month in Paris I did a lot of research into macarons, i.e. pigging out, and I think these are just as good - actually, better - as the best French ones.