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New Zealand's Biggest Dress-Up Party, Napier's Art Deco Festival, Is Bringing 1920s Glamour to the Bay

The famous wine region has so much more to offer than just their grapes, particularly at this roaring long weekend festival.
By Emma Clark-Dow
January 22, 2024
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By Emma Clark-Dow
January 22, 2024
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Napier's Art Deco Festival is making a triumphant return to the Hawke's Bay after three year hiatus courtesy of Covid and Cyclone Gabrielle. But celebration is in the air in 2024 as glitz and glamour descend on the wine region from Thursday, February 15—Sunday, February 18 2024.

This four–day extravaganza will have over 200 free and ticketed events for art- and fashion-loving fans to enjoy, from vintage car parades, fashion shows and Great Gatsby themed picnics, spanning across the whole bay, including Hastings, Hawke's Bay and Napier. The festival is set to be a massive weekend for the region, which has garnered a fanbase of over 40,000 attendees since its first iteration in 1988.

The collection of eclectic Art Deco buildings that first inspired the festival were erected following the 1931 Napier earthquake, which caused mass devastation and more than 200 deaths across the small towns. The structures were built in a time of new beginnings, as the town tried to rebuild both physically and mentally.

These buildings have now become a defining feature in the region, with visitors from all over the world flocking to wonder at the iconic design principles of the Art Deco era, while remembering why the buildings were made in the first place. One of the most iconic buildings is the Art Deco Masonic Hotel, located in the middle of Napier and right next to the Napier Soundshell, which will serve as a festival hub for both music and 1920s themed activities throughout the weekend.

One of the key parts of New Zealand's biggest dress up party is, of course, the fashion, which doesn't just include the general events throughout the four-day celebration but to the festival-goers themselves. Everyone is encouraged to embrace their inner Jazz Age, whether they're delving deep into their grandparents closets or into a full-on carefully constructed costume.

To help punters pick what kind of fabulous outfit they might wear, Kiwi actress Antonia Prebble has been appointed Chief Costume Officer, providing inspiration in her uniquely chic way.

"I have been a fan of this era for a long time and own many Deco-inspired items myself," Prebble says. "There is something so timelessly elegant about Deco: finger waves, cloche hats, drop-waisted dresses, I love it all and I can't wait to see what all the attendees of the festival wear, it's going to be fantastic."

"There are some simple ways to Deco-fy your outfit. The most traditional way to elevate your outfit is to incorporate a matching hat or headpiece (depending on the time of day) in a similar shade. Then you can add a flower, trim, or ribbon and you are instantly Deco."

Napier's Art Deco Festival takes place from Thursday, February 15—Sunday, February 18 2024, spanning across Hawke's Bay, Hastings and Napier. For the full programme of events, head to the festival's website.

Published on January 22, 2024 by Emma Clark-Dow
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