What do two Russian academics, a maverick Kiwi businessman, a London watering hole and a champagne-splattered napkin equal?

Prada on Waiheke Island.

Residents and visitors to the popular island east of downtown Auckland have been smiling this festive season after two replica Prada signs were fixed to the former Crocker family general store above Onetangi Beach.

And smiling is just what the man behind the signs - 2 degrees founder and potential Auckland mayoral candidate Tex Edwards - wants to see.


Edwards owns the former store, which doubles as a extra bach next to his summer home on the corner of Marine View Rd and Eden Tce, and he paid Pukeko Signs owner Stu Velvin "about $200 or $300" to make the Prada signs.

"For every hundred dollars I get 20 smiles back so it's worth it ... summer is the time to smile."

The New Zealand Herald emailed representatives of the Italian fashion house, but received no response before deadline. Big-name companies have come down hard on copyright infringements, but Edwards isn't worried. Prada had bigger problems, such as its revenue being down 25 per cent in Asia-Pacific.

It might appreciate the extra publicity in this part of the world, Edwards said. Besides, he had a champagne-stained napkin giving him "rights" to use Prada's branding, he said, tongue firmly in cheek.

The idea to convert the store facade to an imaginary Prada shop was prompted by a conversation with a New York street vendor who sold him a picture of the Prada Marfa art installation. The installation is a replica Prada shopfront in rural Texas.

It was boosted by a meeting with two Russian academics at the Botanist pub in London, with the Russians asking if there was a Prada shop on Waiheke. Keen to promote tourism on the island, Edwards said there was, and invited the pair to visit on their superyacht. An Italian friend named Frederica stepped in to sign the agreement - written on a napkin - on Prada's behalf, Edwards said. "There was a lot of Veuve Clicquot spilt over it, but [the napkin] was real."

The signs would likely remain for the summer, he said.

"As long as people are laughing and smiling, I'll keep it up."

Other Kiwis have fallen foul of high-end multinationals over the use of their branding. Last April French fashion giant Dior threatened action against Auckland man Sirous Dior, after the photographer registered his company as Dior Fine Art in New Zealand. The Kiwi backed down after legal costs began mounting.

And a West Coast watering hole won a legal battle against Hilton International after the hospo giant objected to its renaming in the 1990s as Blackball Hilton. The then-owners of the 1910 hotel, which is opposite Hilton St, changed the name after Hilton International paid an undisclosed sum - but the hotel's next owners named it Formerly The Blackball Hilton.