Meet the creative force behind Wellington’s Kaukau store

Nadya France-White and Prak Sritharan champion design in their new concept store and gallery; Kaukau store

Kaukau store, Nadya and Prak

Kaukau store is the sum of two great parts – Nadya France-White and Prak Sritharan. Who, before embarking on their joint venture, were each responsible for two of Wellington’s finest concept stores; ENA and Precinct 35, the former run by Nadya and the latter by Prak. Five years of managing their stores, which were directly across the road from one another, eventually led them to the conclusion they could achieve even more if they joined forces. So, after closing their respective stores, Kaukau opened its doors in early 2021 and revealed a thoughtfully and expertly curated retail space dedicated to art and design, and showcasing emerging and existing talent in the industry.

Talk us through the name of the store. Kaukau in te reo translates ‘to swim’ or ‘to bathe’. The ‘au’ is pronounced as a ‘ow’, so it rhymes with flow. With Kaukau we were drawn to the fluidity of the moana, the idea of things ever-changing and moving – one body of water being the element that binds us all together. With this in mind we designed the store to be modular, we wanted the space to have the capacity to adapt and change and to be able to react with the objects in it.

What do you want people to feel when they enter your store? And what do you hope they feel when they leave? We want them to feel an appreciation for seeing something out of the ordinary and take the time to learn why and how that is. In doing so, we hope they leave with a lasting impression, knowing that they can support a very special community in Aotearoa.

Who are some of the makers you are currently featuring in the store? We have just received a series of ceramics from Josh Taylor of Ford’s Factory. The range was made while Josh was on a residency at Driving Creek Studios in the Bay of Plenty. Each piece is magic. We are also currently preparing for our first offsite exhibition, with Billie Culy and Dayle Palfreyman. We have a work by Billie Culy currently on the walls, Assorted II (2021).

What are some of your favourite pieces in store at the moment? The Sour Fog Song lamp from Ford’s Factory is a current favourite. I would love to take it home and have it hung on the wall as a light box. I adore the gold Sand Castle rings from jeweller Meave Woodhouse of Hera Saabi. They resemble soft, yet strong sand castles, with each piece hand-cast using Muriwai black sand.

What excites you about what Kaukau is doing? Kaukau has allowed us the opportunity to work together, which is exciting, and share the complexities of running a small business. It also allows us to step into certain roles within the business, something that we struggled to do confidently when we were operating on our own. Through us fostering some strong partnerships between us and our makers, we are incredibly excited about where we can take Kaukau.

Tell us about who your models are and what inspired the style of photography you use to capture the clothes you sell? The people that we are lucky enough to shoot with are our friends or are friends of friends. When conceptualising Kaukau we knew that we wanted the clothing offering to be about the people in them, as much as the garment itself. We wanted to use the people we see every day – they are the ones who bring the clothing to life. This influenced our decision to shoot in a style that is reminiscent of portraiture. Nothing too fussy, just real people in everyday settings.

What inspired the choice of the lilac walls and the plaster display cabinets? We knew we didn’t want another white-walled space. So, we started with the colour of the floor; an earth-toned, deep mahogany called Whakapapa. From there we wanted a complementary colour that felt confident. A tone that was warm and soothing to sit in but also a colour that felt like it had a purpose in the space, it didn’t need to be quiet. Mauve was perfect. Our plinths are a commissioned piece from designer Matan Fadida, an incredible young maker based in Tāmaki Makaurau. They are made from polystyrene and plaster, a modular set of three cabinets.

What’s your favourite part of the space and why? The wooden shelving structure that runs along the windows. It was built by our friend Tom Martin, which makes it even more special. We designed it with the idea of privacy in mind and took inspiration from a traditional Japanese joinery technique called kumiki. It’s made from macrocarpa with details of purple heart. There are so many beautiful moments in the structure, each join and angle has been crafted with so much care. It’s the perfect piece to frame the space.

Words by: Bea Taylor. Photography by: Anna Briggs.

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