Rebecca Wadey and Zoe Walker Ahwa, co-founders of Ensemble (Image: Tina Tiller)

How two industry heavyweights brought new fashion website Ensemble to life

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. This week he talks to the founders of new fashion website Ensemble.

When Bauer Media announced the closure of its operations in April, a lot of talented magazine and media people were put out of a job and into a state of uncertainty. While some Bauer titles have since been resurrected, the advertising market and the economics of running these magazines are unlikely to be the same as before. But with change comes the chance to have a look and see if old models still apply, and this week’s guests found the standard approach to fashion media was way out of date.

Zoe Walker Ahwa was editor-in-chief of Fashion Quarterly and Simply You, the top commercial and cultural institutions in local fashion media. It was the culmination of 15 years of working in the sector at titles like Viva, Next and, right back in the beginning, Runway Reporter – an online-first media outlet about 15 years ahead of its time. When Fashion Quarterly and Simply You were suddenly closed down, Zoe connected with Rebecca Wadey, who’d been a writer and contributor to Metro magazine and had worked in commercial roles at brands such as Esteé Lauder, Bobbi Brown and Kate Sylvester.

At first, the pair considered relaunching one of the old established titles. But eventually, they decided that so much of what those titles represented was yesterday’s news. Instead, they decided to launch a new online-first, member-supported outlet called Ensemble, covering fashion, culture and life with a more diverse view and class-conscious cultural lens than traditional magazines might’ve allowed.

To talk about how the idea came to fruition, the relevance of fashion and beauty today, the freedom of publishing online and the whole upside-down world we now live in, Ensemble’s editor Zoe Walker Ahwa and publisher and partnerships director Rebecca Wadey joined Simon for a chat over Zoom.

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