I’ve always been fascinated by street culture. Window shopping is a national obsession. Probing deeper for an even more engaging perspective is definitely a concept that appeals. So, when I had the opportunity to join model agency owner Patric Seng (Bintang) as he ventures from tailor made to street wear – highlighting the breadth of men’s fashion in the hip High Street precinct on Man Friday, I was in. “Glean styling tips and fashion wisdom.” I’ve always had a thing for men’s tailoring: the apparent, but not so simplicity, the bold, neat lines of stitching, crispy collars with surprising reverse detail, crunchy fabrics, smooth feel-good textures and exquisitely polished leather. Time to grab my bestie and lose ourselves in manly chat (possibly) for a few hours of bubbles and fun.
The Heart of the City’s Modern Man’s Fashion Tour did not disappoint. From the moment Patric entered the showroom of our first stop, Farrys, we sensed our small group was in for a treat. Some people are just meant to be hosts. The TGIF vibe combined with the bubbles instantly elevated the mood as Patric introduced himself. Ex-model and agency owner, passionate about the fashion business, keen to share his knowledge in the nicest possible way.
Briefly it was Farrys turn. Located in High Street for 8 years, though originally a South Is company, they’d operated out of Wellington for 20. Selling noteworthy collections like Paul Smith, Ted Baker of London, Ben Sherman, Scotch & Soda plus hip new NZ label Wayward Heir. A brief note on trends: a lot more checks, blues to black and charcoal. Jackets are going more blouson and casual. There’s a slimmer silhouette with sleek side pockets and a lot more texture and pattern.
Down an alley, around a corner – Parlour - somewhere I’d never noticed before. Cute young DJs discreetly conjuring up chill out sounds, our numbers swelled inside. It relaxed into an intimate party atmosphere as we were handed glasses of Old Mout. Parlour, according to owner Phireya, is all about beautiful casual wear, limited edition shirts, products from all over the world. It’s not just a retail store but a communal space for artistic people to gather and showcase their work - everything from music to art, performance and photography to cinema and parties. A barber has also added to the performance atmosphere at times. Today, a photography exhibition lined the walls – The Art of Youth by Molawin Evangelista – friends and acquaintances who had chosen the lifestyle of collecting tattoos and their tattoos had become a unique integration of their individual personalities. As a chill-out multi-media place that taps into the energy of the youth culture - such a compelling place, worth a visit.
A cut throat razor shave was on the agenda at Bespoke Barbers – where craft meets style in O’Connell Street. Started by Londoner Paul Bartolo, Bespoke Barbers exudes a deliciously authentic moody traditional vintage atmosphere, where everything feels slighted aged and nothing is shiny and new. Paul has been here a year and continues to refine and modernise the cut throat shave process. Matt demonstrated the edited version, starting with the hot towel tucked in across the neck. We were slightly mesmerised, standing there swilling our tequila, as he flipped the knife to gently stroke along the throat hair. Our medicine of choice was slipping down well thus far as Paul launched into the list of products and cosmetics that make for the perfect shave – one that apparently lasts several days longer than an ordinary home shave. It’s easy to see why the service is popular. I fancied lying in that chair myself, beardless as I am. Last month Bespoke clocked up a mammoth 615 shaves. It’s catching on.
Then onto 3 Wise Men – where cotton shirts line up on shelves to the ceiling, rainbow coloured soldiers marching across wooden hangers in the middle of the room. The interior fitout is clean and simple. Started by Richard Miles and his two wise mates – the store makes it easy for business men to find well-designed shirts at affordable prices. The company has 9 stories, 6 in NZ. They’ve now been around for 10 years. And so have many of their customers. They spent lots of time identifying problems with shirts and getting them right. Many customers now come in to buy a shirt specifically for a job interview. They return with flowers to say, they got the job. Did you notice every store is manned by women? It’s a successful formula that works. You can see why. The women are classy, astute and they know what they’re talking about. Beer in this store, but I knew when to stop.
But it’s late - time to head next door to the Art Deco House Bar at DeBretts Hotel now restored to its former glory. Haven’t been here for years but it feels like home with all my new best friends. Two great chardys – Gisborne’s Odyssey Reserve and the Passage Road – later. Much deep and meaningful discussion. Ideas sparked. Superb!
Do try it. You’ll love it.