New Zealand has held the America's Cup, yachting's Holy Grail, since 1995. Starting on October 1, nine challengers from six countries, including the United States, Italy, and Sweden, will compete for the preliminary Louis Vuitton Cup and the right to take on Team New Zealand in next year's America's Cup finals. The races take place far out in the Hauraki Gulf, some five miles offshore, and are best observed from spectator craft (for a selection of race-viewing options, from 70-foot catamarans to luxury yachts, visit www.purenz.com). The lean racing yachts are berthed downtown in the specially constructed Viaduct Harbour. If you want a ride on a Cup-class vessel, two ships built for the 1995 regatta offer two-hour excursions (Viaduct Harbour; 64-9/359-5987; $58 per person).
Like Belgium before Dries Van Noten, New Zealand hasn't exactly been known as a fashion capital. But recently Kiwi designers have begun showing in Sydney and London; now their clothing is sold in shops around the globe. Here, a few of the city's best boutiques for gauging local style. • With collections for both men and women and even a line of house paint, Karen Walker is set to become the Donna Karan of New Zealand. Her women's wear, sold at her namesake boutique (15 O'Connell St.; 64-9/309-6299; www.karenwalker.com), is full of inventive juxtapositions: innocent Hollie Hobbie pinafores get an urban edge in murky-colored washed-out cords; simple round-collared shirts are festooned with appliqués made from wooden beads the size of martini olives. And the cut of her trousers is particularly admired—Madonna wore a pair at a recent MTV awards show. • "My clothes are not for shrinking violets," says Trelise Cooper (Ground floor, Hewlett-Packard Bldg., Quay St., Princes Wharf; 64-9/377-6240; www.trelisecooper.com), who, judging by her vibrant, color-splashed dresses, has never met a hue she doesn't like. She's also partial to French lace, ropes of pearls, and silk organza (as is the wardrobe stylist for Sex and the City, who recently snapped up 10 of Cooper's outfits for the show). • With its Pepto-Bismol-pink fitting rooms and matching Victorian tufted sofa, Ruby (4 High St.; 64-9/303-2128), a store that carries inexpensive slim skirts, baggy trousers, and bomber jackets, is style central for the young and hip. • The 1949 navy supply store Gubb & Mackie (10 High St.; 64-9/309-4151) has been updated by new owners Jonathan Duder and Wayne Sorensen, who have designed a collection for men based on naval dress codes: No. 1's (tailored looks), AWD (Action Work Dress), Leave (casual clothes), and PT Rig (gym and training gear). • The pared-down interior at Crane Brothers (4 High St.; 64-9/377-5333) matches the clothes: slim-fit tailored men's suits, subtle English-style dress shirts.