Art Deco Festival - Napier, New Zealand

Art Deco Festival - Napier, New Zealand

by Jo Macdonald

Art Deco Festival Napier

Anytime I get asked the question ‘which era would you most love to visit?’ (which admittedly isn’t exactly a daily occurrence), I immediately say the 1920s. Actually, Paris in the 1920s is more precise because who wouldn’t want to bump into Hemmingway in a bar or sit outside a cafe hoping to catch a glimpse of Zelda Fitzgerald?

So, when I got the chance last weekend to make at least part of my dream come true here in my new home of New Zealand I jumped at the chance.


Napier city is an extraordinary place to visit, and I’m very happy to be living just 10 mintues away, especially as it is the home of art-deco. Having been devastated by an earthquake in 1931 it was rebuilt in the art-deco style of the time and is now a wonderful memorial to this period in history. Everything from the street signs, to the promenade, and the stunning vintage shops is ‘on brand’ and delights your senses, making you fall in love with its easy charm.

Embracing their heritage 100% Napier holds a hugely popular Art-Deco Festival every year, featuring everything from vintage car parades, to charleston dance classes, a Gatsby inspired picnic, balls and parties, and plenty more - there is an endless amount of things to see and do.


And so, donning red lipstick, a giant vintage hat (very handy for this English lass on a hot day) and 1920s pearls to go with my LBD, I found myself swept up in the atmosphere and cheering along with everyone else at the aerobatic display and vintage cars on parade. Surrounded by so many other people in fabulous outfits it felt as if, just for a minute, time had been reversed, and it was impossible not to feel a little nostalgic and wistful looking at everyone in their finery. As my teenage daughter commented wryly ‘How did we go from such elegant fashion to people shopping in onesies and boys not knowing how to use a belt to hold up their trousers?’.

I am definitely a no-makeup, jeans and t-shirt kind of person normally, but there was something magical about dressing-up and I admit that I did perhaps walk a little taller and feel far more sophisticated than usual - and dare I say it, more grown-up! A strange confession at nearly 44, I admit, but I do often still feel like a teenager pretending to be an adult (and doing it badly) most of the time. Even my husband, who generally tries to avoid any kind of ‘costume’ events, enjoyed himself, and we both agreed that those who had dressed-up seemed to be having a much better time than the few who hadn’t. After all, if you’re going to go you might as well throw yourself into it!

Having been once I can’t wait to go again next year and do it in even more style - a vintage car perhaps and maybe an evening date with a flapper dress, feather headpiece and some charleston-esque dance moves, hmm I wonder if I can get Anton Du Beke to come to NZ for a visit and teach me?

Don’t forget to add Napier to your Travel Bucket List, and if you come in February let me know and maybe I’ll see you at the Festival.