Auckland's Most Influential: In Society

by Simon Wilson / 21 July, 2015

Help us find and write the stories Kiwis need to read

The A List, right now, in events, fashion, beauty, health, food, buying houses and going to church.

This story first appeared in the June 2015 issue of Metro. Photographs by Karen Inderbitzen-Waller and Delphine Avril Planqueel.


Who decides on the VIP lists at 1885? Who does the invites for the Black Club parties? How do you get asked to the Heineken Baseline tennis parties? What about the Fulltimer parties at Roxy? The Born Too Late Chopper Show? Who sits front row at Fashion Week?

Matt McKenzie and Myles Taylor (aka DJ Mac Mylo) are FortyLove, a digital creative agency with half the cool brands in town in tow, including Rogue Society Gin, Uber, Red Bull Studios, Showroom 22 and various Britomart venues. They do everything from brand identity to videos, social management and events, and where they go, the cool kids go.

That is, if it isn’t Wednesday and they’re not already at Roxy, where Max Key and his Fulltimer Society crew — mostly graduates of Kings, Grammar and Dilworth — get down and dirty with their magnums of Veuve and Moët. They are the A List in the making, and it’s possible not all of them have even heard of Key’s father.

Tatum Savage, who does PR for M.A.C cosmetics, and her husband Gavin Pook of Redbull are the insider names in “Tier One”, a loose grouping of fashion and PR hotshots. With the backing of their respective companies, those two can fund a luxe event almost on their own.

Jade Hurst and Rebecca Lawson at Raw PR are also big in the events world: Casio’s G-Shock, the Festival of Tennis Heineken Baseline parties and Nike Training Club events are theirs. Lawson knows everyone and everyone adores her (or so they say), and she’s a superb juggler of seating arrangements.

Matthew Crawley is the guy to know if you want to jump the queue at Golden Dawn. He books the music and is a part-owner. Of course, an awful lot of people already know him, so you may have to join that queue too.

Rosie Horton is still Remuera’s grande dame; Gretchen Hawkesby is a powerful fundraiser; and Marc Ellis shows no signs of shrugging off his lovable rogue persona anytime this millennium. His “men’s club” off K’Rd, in certain circles, inspires more FOMO than anywhere else in town. If you’re getting married, go see Johnny Mantell. If you want to kick-box or sort your life out or whatever, you want Richie Hardcore.

Sid Fuck You is a guy who rides Harleys and dates models and has been known to turn up to an opening, drink the beer, smash his bottle on the ground and tell everyone: “This is fucking boring.” We mention this because he’s part of the Born Too Late crew, along with tattooist Stefan Spider Sinclair, and their Chopper Shows are bike rallies with trimmings, attracting half the people you’d more normally expect to find on Ponsonby Rd. It’s bogan meets hipster. Strange but true.

Millie Holmes, Makaia Carr and Libby Matthews all make good money from social media sponsorships. Holmes can fill a room in seconds, and will have everyone in tears when she talks — 300 women queued to get a selfie with her recently.

And Jennifer Souness runs Bon Ton, named the “best brothel in the world” by some outfit overseas (honestly, how do they know?). Presumably that gives her some influence.


Karen Walker (with mastermind/husband Mikhail Gherman) rules the fashion world in undisputed splendour, especially now she’s diversified and succeeded overseas with eyewear, homeware, perfume, stationery, bicycles and even dog collars. And she helped bring us Topshop. Juliette Hogan cruises in her slipstream.

But enough of the kids. Trelise Cooper has a lock on the more mature market, and the sponsorship dollars that come with it. Murray Crane at Crane Bros and Chris Dobbs at Working Style put Auckland men into suits, Steve Dunstan at Huffer put them into hoodies and Jamie Whiting and Paul Biddle at Barkers had the genius to realise they could wear both at the same time. The Barkers guys are also the Topshop guys.

Murray Bevan does PR and events for most of the fashion stars (and the seating plans for Fashion Week). Louise Pilkington brought the New York idea of a blowdry and cuppa to Auckland, Amy Sznicer bought Dry & Tea from her and made it big, and between them they changed the hair salon business.

Skateboarder Chey Ataria is so influential there was a “Chey Ataria Appreciation Week” earlier this year. He’s behind the skate brand Def and he has the ear of some of the good folk at Auckland Council.

And for true niche chic, there are the Were sisters (Carter and Harriet): models, photographers (Harriet), organic food and sock-knitting moguls. Perhaps you eat Carter’s Organic Sprouted Bread. Perhaps you admire Harriet’s work for Lonely Lingerie on Instagram. Actually, underwear isn’t really niche, is it? (They were our cover models in January.)


In a good year, Annabel Langbein accounts for a third of all cookbooks sold here, and her influence has been profound on other food writers. Simple dishes assembled on the plate, as opposed to being more traditionally assembled in the oven (you know, cooked) account for a great many recipes now.

Nadia Lim is the face of My Food Bag, but it’s CEO Cecilia Robinson and her husband James who have really built up the business, with governance and mentoring from Theresa Gattung. Their secret? It’s not about the food. We hate the constant shopping.

Not so essential in Grey Lynn but with 77,000 Facebook fans nonetheless, Jaz and Vance from Feed a Family keep the budget-conscious happy in their eating.

Cavemen are influential, but the only parts of the paleo diet that will survive are less bread and more nuts, and we knew about that anyway. Megan May has done more, with her Little Bird vegetarian taste sensations.

The restaurateurs? Al Brown (Depot) addicted us to oyster bars and sliders and eating gorgeous food with our fingers, Mark Wallbank and Che Barrington (especially The Blue Breeze Inn and Woodpecker Hill) redefined cool on Ponsonby Rd and in Parnell, Jackie Grant and Scott Brown give us wonderful all-day dining (Ortolana et al), Simon Wright (The French Café) is the chef who inspires all the others and, at Burger Burger, Mimi Gilmour has made a meal in a bun magnificent.

More influential than any of them, Simon Jamieson is the guy who made SkyCity’s Federal St precinct happen. Simon Gault has been influential on TV and with his restaurants, and also as a gourmet foods importer. Good balsamic, vine-ripened tomatoes, Alaskan king crab: Gault gave us them all.

Dr Libby Weaver is the biggest name in health and Phillip Mills is the king of fitness. Kirsty Godso, with 60,000 social media followers, is the “master trainer” who runs free Nike Training Club classes at Les Mills Britomart: they’re always packed with women eager to learn from and train with her.

Martin Snedden is the king of all sports: maestro of both the rugby and cricket world cup, he’s now with Duco Events and blue-skying ideas like New Zealand hosting  football’s World Cup. If anyone can, as they say.

On the Shore, Mike Stanley runs AUT Millennium, the high-performance sports centre, and also heads up our Olympic Committee. And how do you measure the influence of Lydia Ko?

Want to sell or buy a house? Peter Thompson is organising your world. His firm Barfoot & Thompson has a colossal 33 per cent share of the market. John Bayley is also a big mover and shaker in real estate, and both firms have a major, dedicated impact on the charity world.

Looking for spiritual succour? Patrick Dunn heads up the biggest church — he’s the Catholic archbishop — and gets far more headlines these days than Brian Tamaki. As for the formerly mighty Anglicans, they get more than their share of the big funerals at the Parnell cathedral, but that’s a very limited way to influence a city.



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