183 Karangahape Road
Kia ora and welcome to the Karangahape Road Fashion Strip Walk.
We are starting at St Kevins Arcade and will take you on a walk to discover some of the road’s great fashion stories from the last 100 plus years. Just a heads up that some of these stories have a bit of background and can be quite detailed so you can skip on to the next stop at any time. You might notice too that we are often on the opposite side of the road from the place we are talking about, that's because you can see it better from there.
So let's get started and introduce you to Karangahape Rd, which is unique today in Auckland city, in that 85% of the buildings on the road are pre-1940 which means that many of their stories are still visibly present and can be imagined from the architecture and the signage that has survived.
Its earlier history too is significant and it was already a major thoroughfare in pre-European times which makes it much older than Queen St which was only developed much later by the colonial settlers.
Until the mid-20th century Karangahape Road was actually the only street in central Auckland with a Māori name and there were many attempts to change it to something European – but it proved tenacious and the closest that it got to an easy English language alternative was K'road. Until the 1960s it was Auckland’s busiest shopping street and beside shops selling essential supplies like hardware, bicycles, furniture, fish, meat, vegetables and dry goods it was the place for all things fashionable – tailors, dressmakers, milliners, corsetiere, jewellers, hairdressers, barbers, beauticians and then a slew of photographers and photo studios to document you looking your best. In its day St Kevins Arcade has been home to all of these fashionable things. Wise’s Street Directory for 1926 lists tenants including the Powder Puff Salon, “Pretties” Frock Shop, Mrs Bell’s Portrait Studio, John Walker hairdresser, Penrith Dining Rooms and The Winsome which also had its hemstitching, pleating and embroidery workroom on the first floor.