The corportate gentrification of Britomart and the working man’s beer.

28 Sep

New Zealand is experiencing a rebirth. So far it has been concentrated here in Auckland, where the Britomart development seems to be spreading like the Early Roman Empire. It’s a distinctive style – a look and feel born of design agency, Shine. A look and feel that has been emulated by everybody since.

For the most part, it’s good. Auckland is looking better than ever. You’re never far from a half-decent cafe with a funky fit-out. The new retail spaces are quirky, but slick. Pop-up spaces are popping up, and interesting things are popping into them.

I remember the first time I visited Shaky Isles in Kingsland – the first of Shine’s interior projects. It felt great, special, like nowhere else in town. I remember wishing that more spaces in Auckland looked like that cafe. And now they do. All of them. Even the High Street fashion designers – Karen Walker, World, Kate Sylvester – have upped and moved, adopting the Britomart style in the process. The ubiquitous ‘slick and quirky’. The look and feel of New Auckland.

Premium design? I call it corporate gentrification.

And recently it’s reached the threshold where instead of making Auckland a nicer place to be, it’s making it feel conformist, devoid of spirit, actively shittier.

I feel the same way about New Zealand beer. As the craft community has risen from obscurity, mainstream brands have been attempting to take on the small guys by positioning their faux-craft beer in the premium space. The packaging? Slick and quirky premium design. All the while, the very same brands have been driving their generic lagers into the premium space to compete with Heinekin. The premium space is occupied. It’s full. There is no more room here for new entrants.

After a decade of breweries harping on about ‘premium mass-produced lager’ (as if that even exists), they’ve succeeded only in creating for themselves a competitive gridlock. A Mexican standoff. And no one is willing to back down.

My incredibly stylish cool-hunting brand genius pal Laura Ford and I have been discussing this conundrum, and what New Zealand beer brands ought to do about it. The solution is part comms, part design restoration job. It involves bringing heritage brands back to life – harking back to simpler days, when beer was cheap but hard-earned.

The working man’s beer. A lost cultural artifact in the over-gentrified Auckland City.

Here’s an American brand that is doing it well.






And as far as Auckland cafes go – I’ll stick to the usual, thanks. Mmm. Dank.

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2 Responses to “The corportate gentrification of Britomart and the working man’s beer.”

  1. Ambie September 28, 2012 at 2:58 am #

    Milkbar is in London, my friend!

    • jonoaidney September 30, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

      One of these things is not like the other!

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