Murray Bevan on growing some of New Zealand’s biggest fashion brands

Business is Boring is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. Host Simon Pound speaks with innovators and commentators focused on the future of New Zealand, with the interview available as both audio and a transcribed excerpt. This week, he’s joined by Murray Bevan of Showroom 22.

We’ve just seen the end of fashion week – the annual fashion trade fair that spills over into the media and social pages. It’s where designers traditionally showed their following year’s seasons collection to buyers, but now the time between showing and buying gets smaller and smaller with in-season shows, installations, dinners and events.

Behind many of the shows, unflappable in a week with a lot of potential flap, is a man you’ll often find running the seating arrangements. His name’s Murray Bevan and he runs one of New Zealand’s best and biggest fashion PR companies, Showroom 22.

With clients like Karen Walker, Adidas and twenty-seven names, his team is so good they look after not just his own shows, but many key shows across the week. He’s seen the change in the industry and the growth of some of our biggest local brands – including his own.

Joining us to talk about the journey from one guy and a cell phone to a team supporting more than 45 brands is Murray Bevan of Showroom 22, a longtime friend who’s also looked after Ingrid Starnes since the beginning of the label.

Either download this episode (right click and save), have a listen below or via Spotifysubscribe through iTunes (RSS feed) or read on for a transcribed excerpt.

Over the last 18 years or so there have been big waves that come and change fashion media  – like the rise of bloggers, that everyone was thinking was the end of media, and is now looking like quite a quaint thing because the number of bloggers and their influence was quite small compared to the number of influencers and their following. It seems to be an enormous wave of change in the industry. 

The blogger thing, I suppose came about because of the internet. No one ever did it in New Zealand as well as Stacy Gregg with Runway Reporter and I wouldn’t even say she was a blogger, she was a true editor at a website. You had Isaac Hindin-Miller from IsaacLikes, you had Emma Gleeson at Rag Pony and they were our typical bloggers, Katherine Lowe, etc. Now, with instagram, you’re totally right, it’s easy to get there. We talked before about the hockey stick curve where one day you’re not an influencer and the other day you apparently are.

The thing that grinds people’s gears is that you can say that you are an influencer. People come to us and say ‘I’m an influencer, I want a seat at the show,’ and that, for me doesn’t sit well.

We do a lot of work with a lady in Sydney called Holly Garber at an agency called Golightly, and she said to me last year, she said ‘we’re more interested in people of influence, rather than influencers.’ So she’s just started an offshoot of her agency called ‘People’ where they represent art gallerists, and artists, and writers and chefs and people who actually have genuine communities. You’ve got a great sweater on today. I love the brand, and I’m far more influenced by that than someone who’s gonna tell me #sponsored at the end of it.

I think we’re getting to this critical part of that moment where a lot of people are going to say ‘I don’t believe it.’

Holly’s move towards having influencers who are actually influential is interesting. It is such a change where you’ve gone from the traditional gatekeepers of being an editor for one of the existing magazines, and so quite controlled, to now having all of these people directly talking to their fans and their followers and the people who care about them. That must be an amazing logistical challenge when you’re running a PR showroom.

Yeah, it is, but we had a situation a few weeks ago where one of the people we dealt with had maybe misrepresented themselves a little bit in the reason for borrowing some product, and had done a couple of other things. We weren’t trying to get too bitchy about it but we do work for clients, they don’t come to us and see this big room full of clothes, we don’t fawn all over them.

This is a business and we have to be smart, and so we just said look, our dealings with you for the moment are going to be put on hold, we’re still trying to figure out where this person sits in the landscape, and for that we need time and for that we need a proper presentation so we’ve asked them to come back to us with their statistics, with their reach, with their impressions and everything you’d expect to see from a ‘traditional’ media.

If these guys want to do this and be taken seriously then we will do that but you’ve got to actually pitch to us and say ‘why do I want to wear Ingrid Starnes, why is that a good suit for me? Why should I wear Karen Walker Eyewear, why should Adidas Originals be giving me trainers, why should I get Levi’s? Why should I be flown to Sydney by David Jones for the launch of their collection.

I don’t get overawed by that because I didn’t start in fashion. It’s a take it or leave it kind of business  – all due respect to the people that I work for – but I’m not gushing over this stuff, it’s a business for me and we have to be very pragmatic. I think maybe pragmatism and perspective in this new digital world and this overawed kind of click, like situation that we’re in is maybe moving at a pace that most of us, if we actually said ‘do we want to be here?’ many of us in the industry would say well, let’s just take a step back for a little bit, it’s getting a bit full-on.

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