Photo: Molawin Evangalista

Why singer-songwriter Niko Walters is the vibrant new voice you need to know

If you listen to the radio with any regularity, you’ve probably heard the song ‘Not My Neighbour’ by Niko Walters. An upbeat yet relatively spare melody with strumming guitar and a lazy percussiveness, Walters’ voice slips from honeyed falsetto to textured mid-range with the effortlessness of somebody born with natural talent. 

Having released his debut album Escape in November 2020, the singer-songwriter is quickly gaining momentum and recognition from the masses — ‘Not My Neighbour’ has gone Gold in New Zealand, sitting comfortably within the top five on the local Spotify chart and peaking at 32,000 streams a day.

Needless to say, Walters is pleased with how his music has been received. “The response has been more than I anticipated,” he says. “I’m pretty ecstatic to hear everybody playing it and receiving amazing messages from people saying how much they like the songs.” 

Music has always been an important part of Walters’ life. He grew up loving it, playing instruments and singing for the sheer enjoyment of it, and his older brother Matiu Walters is the lead singer of ultra-successful New Zealand band Six60. While the younger of the two siblings had never considered a career in music as an option, now he’s off to a successful start he’s excited to continue on this trajectory. 

Photo: Dexter Cheng

“I genuinely love the whole process of creating music, and I always have,” he says. “Even if people didn’t like it, and it wasn’t financially feasible, I’d be making music for fun.”

Walters describes his sound as “contemporary soul”, combining elements of RnB, Hip Hop and Pop to create music that is smooth and catchy, yet still alive with unexpected moments of interest. His mother exposed him to a lot of poetry growing up, he remembers, and he used to write his own. When it comes to crafting songs, a fragment of poetic prose or even just a word will often be the starting point, and from there he’ll work with a studio team to expand on a sound or a mood. “That’s the fun part, not knowing [where it’s going to go].”  

While ‘Not My Neighbour’ is playful and narratory, the rest of the songs on Escape vary in tone, often drawing on both personal and challenging aspects of Walters’ life. It’s an intimate approach to songwriting that moves listeners to reflect and feel seen.   

Currently, Walters is back in the studio recording new tracks — and on the cards later this year is a tour around the country, with dates still to be announced. His journey so far has already imparted some important lessons that he’ll be taking with him as he continues on his way. “One is dropping your inhibition a little bit, and being brave. It takes courage to release music, and also to create music — you’ve gotta back yourself.”

The other, he says, is not taking strategic and business decisions too personally. “Just leaving ego at the door, considering everyone’s perspectives and doing what’s best for the ultimate goal — which is just to create beautiful music, and get it heard.”

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Wondering which novel to read next? Pick up one of these new page-turners

When it comes to winding down, there’s nothing like an engrossing page-turner. Escape from daily life by putting down your devices and picking up a good book — here are four we have on our radar at the moment.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro 
In his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, Ishiguro tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend who observes the behaviour of customers from her place in a store and holds out hope that one day she will be picked. An emotional tour de force that asks what it means to be loved. 

Milk Fed by Melissa Broder 
Food, sex and God combine in this riotously funny, erotic and irreverent novel about the journey of a woman who counts calories religiously. A tender tale at its heart, the story unfolds after embarking on a detox unveils her true appetites. 

Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler 
Delving into ideas of community, relationships and gaslighting online, this sharp, funny novel (the author’s debut) follows a woman who discovers her boyfriend to secretly be an internet conspiracy theorist, a revelation that gives rise to a series of bizarre twists and calls contemporary culture into question. 

We Run The Tides by Vendela Vida
Both a suspenseful mystery and a tribute to youth, this novel takes a poignant look at female friendship. Best friends Eulabee and Maria Fabiola ‘run’ their small seaside town until becoming witnesses to a horrible act changes the course of their relationship.

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Mr Morris
Harbourside
Jervois Steakhouse
Amano
Masu

How to get up to $300 of exclusive dining benefits at the country’s top restaurants

As the saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch, but for American Express Platinum Card® Members, by simply spending $150 or more on their American Express Platinum Card at one of its extensive list of Dining Collection restaurants, they’ll receive a dining credit of $150, twice a year, up to $300 per year.

With a broad and enticing list of participating eateries, there’s something for everyone. From the eternally popular Italian all-day restaurant Amano to Jervois Steakhouse, Michael Meredith’s acclaimed new eatery Mr Morris, the seafood-centric Harbourside or Nic Watt’s Japanese eatery Masu at SkyCity — to name just a few.

The Platinum Card dining credit is just one of the many benefits of being an American Express Platinum Card Member. And what’s more, with the recent launch of its shiny new metal card adding some style and cachet to the Card Member experience, if you’re not currently an American Express Platinum Card Member sign up today to reap the benefits.

Exclusions and T&Cs apply. 

Apply today for the new metal Platinum Card® by clicking here.

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Here’s why Dior’s new sneakers are poised to become the ‘it’ shoes of the season

A pair of chic, white sneakers is about as essential to a well-curated wardrobe as a black blazer or some perfectly-fitting jeans. In fact, we would argue that without them, any sartorial line-up would feel distinctly lacking, left to suffer from the absence of shoes that can transport their wearers from casual occasions to more dressed-up affairs with very little effort.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that renowned Parisian Maison, Christian Dior has unveiled its own take on the classic white kick, recently releasing its new Dior-ID sneakers to guffaws from new-wave shoe enthusiasts and longtime followers of the brand alike. Bold, contemporary and distinctly ‘Dior,’ this highly-anticipated new style is only adding to the brand’s upward-trending sneaker cred, which was given a recent boost in light of last year’s major moment with the Dior Air Jordan 1.

Offering a structured take on the style we know and love, the new Dior-ID sneakers are made in Italy from luxurious, calfskin leather and boast a low-top silhouette and platform sole. The design reinvents vintage motifs with interesting, tonal details that work (while retaining the style’s necessary simplicity) to ensure these sneakers feel like a fresh evolution.

Available now from Dior’s Queen Street boutique, the Dior-ID sneakers come in a range of colourways, from a simple navy, white, black and nude to more playful green, red and silver, and are rapidly establishing themselves as the sneakers of the season.

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We discover an Auckland-first oxygen facial treatment that’s a gamechanger for tired skin

Auckland’s Park Hyatt has many luxurious feathers in its cap, not least is its suitably refined, restorative Spa. With a range of top quality treatments on offer, and some of the most indulgent surroundings ever seen in this city, an afternoon here is the antidote to life in the fast lane. The eponymous Spa’s treatments run the gamut of relaxing to utter restoration, and in an Auckland first, they offer a facial treatment that promises to be a gamechanger for tired, ageing skin.

The Haute Couture Facial employs the highly active algae-derived V-TOX cream from London’s revered facialist Linda Meredith. V-TOX is designed for those who want to see visible results, without undergoing invasive cosmetic procedures.

The facial combines the effectiveness of V-TOX with oxygen. Oxygen was first introduced as a powerful ally in the beauty industry in the 90s and is still considered one of nature’s most powerful healing elements, having been used in the medical industry on various skin conditions for many years.

The Haute Couture facial sees oxygen applied to the face and neck, before a fine layer of V-TOX is applied all over the entire face and neck. The product is then infused into the skin by a continuous steady flow of oxygen. The production of collagen is dependant on the presence of sufficient quantities of oxygen, which is why oxygen therapy plays such an important role in the future of skin care.

The results from a 90-minute facial speak for themselves with skin feeling substantially plumper and smooth. Incredible results can be achieved with a course of six treatments close together, which will see lasting effects that remain for months.

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Meet Isaac Burrough, the Kiwi superyacht designer who should be on your radar

The world of superyachts is shrouded in the kind of uber-luxury that most can only gawk at from the shore, but for Isaac Burrough — a Kiwi designer for whom these vessels have become a professional pursuit — it’s a world of opportunity. “I grew up around boats, and I knew that I wanted to be a boat designer from a young age,” Burrough explains, crediting his entrée into superyacht design to landing an assistant-designer role at Dutch company, Feadship, creating some of the world’s most impressive seafaring vessels from scratch. (Feadship is one of a very small global contingent who can truly claim to make custom superyachts.)

After cutting his teeth in lofty places, Burrough eventually decided to start his own studio, which has seen him continue to consult as a superyacht designer for other companies, where he helps them move from concept to completion. So far, his expertise has contributed to the completion of eight superyachts, with a few more still being built. Under his own name, Burrough has also developed a number of intriguing superyacht designs, the most notable of which became something of an Internet sensation when it was unveiled last year. 

Named Kiwa, (after one of the Māori Gods of the sea), Burrough’s conceptual superyacht garnered attention for its emphasis on sustainability, something that others of its kind haven’t historically deemed a priority. “Superyachts use diesel generators to produce power,” Burrough explains, “but there has been a push in the industry towards more efficient hulls and powertrains to reduce environmental impact.” The way this idea manifested in Kiwa, was via a series of solar panels, applied by Burrough in such a way as to enhance the yacht’s sleek aesthetic (rather than being a necessary eyesore, as they so often are). “Now, I just need a client who wants to build it,” says Burrough, steadfast in his vision to develop Kiwa beyond concept alone. 

But, as Burrough says, building his own design studio while still consulting as a freelancer on live projects affords him the freedom to dream up ideas like Kiwa, that serve to push the boundaries of expectation and cement his innovative reputation in the industry. “I want to encourage people to think about things in new ways and to encourage the industry to do better,” he says, “to use different materials and processes from the ones superyacht designers have been using for years.” 

Having recently relocated from Amsterdam back to New Zealand, Burrough is bringing his wealth of knowledge from working in the European market to a new audience and client base, for whom the idea of sustainability on the sea is already pushing to the forefront.

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Sofitel's Opera Suite

Craving that holiday high? Plan a luxurious staycation at Auckland’s best hotel suites

If there’s one thing we’re taking away from Auckland’s influx of beautifully-appointed new hotels, it’s that our current inability to travel abroad doesn’t mean we should deny ourselves a luxurious escape. So, in the spirit of encouraging everyone to indulge in a sumptuous staycation, we have rounded up our favourite hotel suites around Auckland. Whether for a special occasion or just for the feeling of a break from the daily routine, these are the best rooms to book for a night or two (and you don’t even have to get on a plane).

Sofitel — Opera Suite
Having recently undergone a thorough revamp, the Sofitel Hotel in Viaduct Harbour should be high on any staycation list. Particularly now that it boasts an opulent new spa, which just happens to be the exclusive stockist of cult French skincare brand Biologique Recherche. In the Sofitel’s Opera Suite, floor-to-ceiling windows offer spectacular city views that allow guests to feel as involved in the action as they are away from it all. Here, contemporary design is entwined with delightful touches of luxury and considered objets d’art that deliver a modern, Parisian vibe. With a lounge and dining space separate to the bedroom as well as an oversized bathroom equipped with Hermès amenities, this suite makes for an escape like no other.

The Hotel Britomart’s The Rangihoua Suite

The Hotel Britomart — The Landing Suites
Nestled in the heart of Britomart, downtown’s newest hotel offers five exquisite suites designed to provide a calm respite from the bustle of the city. Our pick? The Rangihoua Suite — 65 square-metres of sumptuous, contemporary luxury on the top floor of the The Hotel Britomart, boasting north-facing views to the Waitematā Harbour as well as its own sprawling terrace and outdoor fireplace. With warm, modern interiors, a generous living space featuring a curated library, an ensuite bathroom complete with a deliciously deep bathtub in which to soak the day away, and the option of ordering room service from none other than Kingi, this suite will have you forgetting you’re in the middle of Auckland — if only for a night or two.

Park Hyatt’s Presidential Suite

Park Hyatt — Presidential Suite
With an enviable waterfront position affording its guests’ unmatched views across the harbour, the Park Hyatt takes the idea of staycationing to new heights. Its Presidential Suite offers 245 square-metres of penthouse privacy, complete with separate living and dining areas, a fully-equipped kitchen, internal boardroom, private outdoor garden, personal gym and secure VIP access (if you’re feeling extra). If all that seems a bit much, the Chairman’s Suite and the Executive Suite both offer similar experiences with slightly smaller footprints. Oh and while you’re there, be sure to indulge in a meal or two at the Park Hyatt’s restaurant Onemata. We recommend the risotto.

The Convent’s Superior Suite

The Convent — Superior Suite
Retreat to this cosy corner of Grey Lynn at beautifully-finished, boutique accommodation, The Convent. Once a community for nuns (hence the name), this petite hotel packs a punch on the design front, and its Superior Suite is the perfect place to spend a quiet night or two. Ornate ceilings meet arched windows in a space that feels at once luxurious and charmingly eccentric. With a plush king bed, a private balcony, a separate lounge area and all the expected trimmings one might expect from a hotel stay, but with a distinctly curated twist, The Convent feels like a home away from home. Any stay here should be accompanied by a dinner at The Convent’s lauded (and extremely popular) restaurant, Ada.

QT’s Viaduct Balcony Suite

QT — Viaduct Balcony Suite
Few places make the outside world drift away as swiftly as a QT Hotel. The renowned chain, best known for its intriguing, modern fit-outs and undeniably ‘cool’ take on hotel luxury, has recently opened a brand new outpost in Viaduct Harbour, and it’s proving the ideal staycation spot. In QT’s impressive Viaduct Balcony Suite, guests can expect harbour views from a private balcony, a spacious, carefully-considered floorplan, warm, textural touches, a super luxurious Super King bed and a generous bathroom with a rainfall shower and standalone bath. Oh, and QT is also home to acclaimed chef Sean Connolly’s new venture Esther, as well as only a short walk to all the bars and restaurants Viaduct Harbour has to offer.

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Celebrate the Auckland Rainbow Pride Parade with the best places on the Ponsonby strip to catch all the colourful action

This weekend, the Auckland Rainbow Pride Parade and the Ponsonby Street Festival are finally going ahead after a series of postponements due to Covid-19 restrictions. On Saturday, 27th of March, the much-anticipated, all-day event will see folk from all around the city coming together to celebrate the history, courage and diversity of our rainbow communities.

Fun for the whole family, the carnival-style parade will move on its colourful way on foot and un-motorised floats — starting from Tole Street, down Ponsonby Road to Williamson Ave, encompassing dancing, performance and music, and key messaging from the community.

The day’s proceedings will begin from 11am with the Ponsonby Street Festival kicking off with market stalls and pop-ups. Ponsonby Road will be closed to traffic from 4:30pm, and the Parade then begins from 6pm, with live music, dancing, performances and on-street dining from 7pm. 

Why not make a day of it, and get out there to support local retailers and hospitality businesses at the same time as our rainbow community? We suggest parking up at one of Ponsonby Road’s many excellent bars and eateries — peruse our list below and we suggest you make a booking quicksharp, or get there early to secure your spot. 

SPQR
This iconic Ponsonby Road restaurant is bound to be heaving from the get-go, but if you can suss a table it’ll be one of the best places to be. Keep the espresso martinis coming.

Blue Breeze Inn
Blue Breeze’s outdoor tables are the perfect vantage point to see all the action, with a side of the fusion eatery’s delicious dumplings and bao buns.

Prego
Got hangry children in tow? Pasta or pizza at stalwart Prego is just the ticket, and the vibe is sure to be humming.

Ponsonby Road Bistro
Another icon of the strip with excellent outdoor seating, Ponsonby Road Bistro will have you sorted with its comforting menu of bistro fare. We’re particular fans of the chicken liver pâté and the confit duck.

Elmo’s
Heading out for the day with a group? Elmo’s will cater to you with its varied menu of sharing dishes and pizzas. We can’t go past the burrata bar, either.

Chapel
It’s an institution for a reason — park up at this iconic corner site for drinks in the ample sun. A great option for when you’re in it for the long haul.

Ockhee
This Korean cutie will have you sorted with its tasty yet wholesome fare and drinks menu of natural wine, beer and clever twists on classic cocktails. Snag an outside seat and catch the parade near its starting point.

Conch
Easy and inviting, Conch is just the place to relax with a beer in hand, and some tacos or other South American-style bites and watch the colourful action go by.

Rainbow Pride Parade & Ponsonby Street Festival
Saturday, 27th of March
Ponsonby Road

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Feeling tense? East Day Spa’s new Thai massage is heaven for fans of deep-tissue and acupressure techniques

When it comes to massage, there is certainly a time and place for a gentle method that lulls the recipient into a state of soporific bliss. However, sometimes a firmer hand is required, and when this is the case we will be turning to East Day Spa’s brand new Thai massage. 

The most recent addition to the world-class spa’s roster of beauty and wellness treatments, this oil free massage is not for the faint-hearted. A firm, strong massage that combines pressure point and acupressure therapy with assisted stretching, the East Thai massage is performed by master therapist Wii, whose experience hails from spa royalty palaces like the Mandarin Oriental and The Four Seasons Hotels.

Designed to relieve tension and improve flexibility, this massage is performed on a fully-clothed recipient (loose, comfortable clothing is encouraged, with East Day Spa providing soft pajama trousers to wear), and is recommended for those who love a strong, deep tissue experience. 

To begin with, the body is warmed up through a combination of acupressure and deep compressions, before the therapist begins working through yoga-like stretching exercises that are tailored to each individual need. Whether the problem area is a tense neck and shoulders, sore legs or back, this highly-bespoke massage will be customised to address it, with no two sessions the same. 

The effects are almost instantaneous — expect an increased range of motion, better posture and reduced joint pain. Rather than feeling like you need a nap afterwards, the East Thai massage will leave you feeling elongated, invigorated and energised, for far longer than just the duration of the appointment.

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Collective Modular Sofa by Nonn

Why Simon James’ latest sofa is the piece your living room has been missing

A sofa might be somewhere to put your feet up after a long day, and will inevitably end up being the place where you spend most of your time at home, but its merits should extend beyond comfort alone. The best sofas are the ones that weave comfort seamlessly into their inherent design while ensuring that considerations of the latter remain front and centre. In short, they should look as good as they feel. And from experience, finding pieces that fit that criteria is no mean feat.

Lucky then, that we have the design maestros at Simon James on hand to help us get that balance right. Recently, the team welcomed the new Collective Modular Sofa by Nonn into their showroom, and it has made a swift and impressive impact. Designed by Cameron Foggo — a New Zealand designer who now calls Australia home, and whose brand is known for its subtle, understated luxury — this sofa pairs soft, generously-proportioned upholstery (made uniquely from feather and foam) with a light, uncomplicated form. Its quality is evident in the fine craftsmanship that went into its creation, from the refined, steel base to the pinched corner technique used to give the sofa its sumptuous appearance.

Available in versatile finishes and configurations to suit a range of requirements and spaces, the Collective Modular sofa is set to be a design asset in any home, and will prove a piece that turns heads as much as it is the perfect place to put your feet up at the end of a long day.

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