Wellesley Boutique Hotel: rugby, fashion, politics and me

Isn’t it funny how things happen: in Wellington for nearly two years, I had never heard of The Wellesley Boutique Hotel when in less than ten days I find myself attending three events there – rugby, fashion, and a soiree.

At the first, I was invited by  Peter Cullen (The Employment Law Firm) to breakfast to hear the great Hugo Porta (legendary Argentinian  No.1 fly half ) speak along with the All Blacks coach Steve Hanson, and Los Pumas former player and now coach, Santiago Phelan, talking before the 2012 Rugby Championship match in Wellington, New Zealand.  I enjoyed hearing all of them talk and especially, Hugo talking of the charity he runs – he is in the New Zealand Rugby Hall of Fame.

A week later, also by invitation to breakfast from Peter Cullen, I was there to hear Dame Suzie Moncrieff talk about WOW, the World of Wearable Art, due to start only days later. I have not been to a show, yet, but have been to its Gallery in Nelson  – I have also seen the touring exhibition when it was showing in Christchurch – at the museum – recently.

Dame Suzie, the founder of the World of Wearable Art (WOW) show, has made an outstanding contribution locally, nationally and internationally in the arts scene.

Once described as “Mardi Gras meets Haute Couture at a Peter Gabriel concert directed by Salvador Dali,” WOW twists conventional perceptions of art and fashion. WOW creates a world where art and the human form combine, and where dance, music and lighting blur the lines of fashion and art.

WOW is proudly a New Zealand event, but the extravaganza attracts thousands of visitors and dozens of entries from all over the world each year. Now in its 24th year, this year has been a big year for Dame Suzie:

  • She has been made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to the arts in the New Years Honours;
  • She was a finalist in the Kiwibank New Zealander of the year;
  • She took WOW to Hong Kong for its first public show overseas where it played to sold out audiences.

She was an inspirational speaker.

The following day I was back at The Wellesley Boutique Hotel  for a celebration of their hotels in the greater Wellington region, and which is now part of the Heritage Boutique Collection, a division of Heritage Hotel Management.

As someone new to Wellington it was good to meet travel industry people from the Martinborough  and Wairarapa areas – they have convinced me I need to head over the hill for a few days to explore the region – and it’s great that summers coming!

I’m told the “Heritage Boutique Collection Hotels are designed for corporate, leisure and the conference traveller, and offer guests a certainty when selecting boutique accommodation because of our high and exacting standards” said Ronnie Ronalde, General Manager of Heritage Boutique Collection.

The Wellesley is a four-story Georgian Revival building (seems it won an architectural gold medal in 1932) that sits solidly on a quiet corner in the CBD – perfect for any guest to Wellington – handy to everything in this great walking city.

I haven’t eaten at the Wellesley’s Maginnity Restaurant – once I have I’ll let you know about it!

So there you go – never heard of a place and suddenly I’m a regular –and I’m back there later in October to hear the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key.

NG welcomes Madras Street reopening after quake

NG is in a historic warehouse building and was originally on the fringe of the fashion district. On the ground floor is a  boutique, and as well as avant-garde jewellery and fabulous clothing from Europe, it’s also home to designer Sharon Ng’s quality label.  NG is said to be ‘contemporary European with influences from her Chinese heritage while paying homage to the colours of her South Island landscape.’

When I last went to NG , earlier this year,  it was funny to enter the space  of one of New Zealand’s great designers via an uneven, stone-strewn car park – a car park that was where my home was over 50-years ago, the Christchurch Central Fire Station that ran from Lichfield through to Tuam Street.

We entered that way as the shop front is on Madras Street which has been closed to traffic other than those working on the quake demolition or repairs of buildings in neighboring streets. However once over the stones, it’s great inside the fabulous and historic building that many of we older Cantabrians remember as Bain’s Warehouse. While post-quake strengthening work was carried out in her building, Sharon Ng had a store in Merivale but I’m sure she was happy to return to the wonderful ambience of this building and a front door that’s open.

The gallery upstairs is open with Christchurch Art Gallery using it,  and while C4 coffee is across the road in Tuam St, it will not be long before NG has a cafe again  . . . with  the scene from the huge arched windows very different since the quake.

Once the word is out I’m sure this will soon be a meeting point for all fashion and art lovers once again. Sharon is just one more of the Christchurch heroes who has put her money and heart back into the city she loves. So, if you love edgy fashion, head to NG  where you will be sure to find something  – something perfect for your next party or occasion.

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