#198 Why so much media coverage of Fashion Week?

Noelle McCarthy

I just watched Media 7’s post-Fashion Week report on TVNZ ondemand. Russell Brown sat down with guests Deborah Pead, Noelle McCarthy and Trish (?) for a good chat about the high level of media coverage of NZ Fashion Week.

It was an interesting discussion – it’s true that there’s a disproportionate amount of coverage on Fashion Week. As Noelle said, fashion brings in lower export earnings than onions. But people will always jump all over something a bit glitzy, and Fashion Week is definitely as glitzy as we’ll ever get here in New Zealand (now that those Louis Vuitton races have long since departed our shores).


But I did think one thing was left out – in my opinion, all that mainstream media coverage is due in part to all those mainstream media people – the reporters, the journalists, the producers – wanting to get out of their offices and along to New Zealand’s only glitzy event. It’s hard to resist the pull of the goody bags, the celeb spotting, the free alcohol, the chance to dress up and celebrate the fact that, hey we’re media, and we have access to things Joe Public doesn’t, so let’s milk it till it’s dry. And the more coverage those media groups promise, the better their seats are, the bigger the goodie bags, the greater the chance of sitting next to a celeb.

Deborah Pead

The standard of fashion reporting in this country is ludicrously low; for a place that prides itself on a semi-thriving fashion industry, there are very few people in the media willing to go out there and put their names on the line and say – that NZ designer is ripping off that international designer, or, having a Kate Sylvester dress in the main Fashion Week campaign was a PR mistake. So it seems we have (some) world class designers but we certainly don’t have world class fashion media!

I had one reporter tell me in the media room that she hadn’t liked the show we’d just seen, but her editor had told her she had to write a nice review about it because the designer had called to complain about a slightly scathing review of a previous collection.

If such a disproportionate amount of coverage is going to continue to be given to Fashion Week and fashion in general, I hope that some of the mainstream media might begin to take an objective look at what’s actually going on here. Isn’t the role of the media to take an unbiased approach to news? At the moment most fashion reporting reads like rehashed press releases. Media 7 seems to be the only group taking an educated, responsible look at the New Zealand media coverage of the event.

Something has to change!

Thanks to Paul Blomfield for the heads up about the interview.

All photograbs from TVNZ ondemand.

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  1. Anonymous says

    That’s a good point Isaac. Very good point. But you should be able to take your own advice. How would Murray Bevan feel if you started being completely honest about some of the labels in the Showroom 22 stables? Being in cahoots with them doesn’t exactly put you in an objective position either.

  2. says

    This is also a good point. It’s up to me to be as objective as possible, otherwise I’m not doing my job properly.
    I endeavour at all times to be objective, regardless of the label or PR.
    I’m not going to say it’s not difficult to do this, New Zealand is a very small place and it’s easy to offend people here. But the media has to take responsibility for their actions.
    Thank you for your comment.

  3. says

    Dear anonymous,

    Isaac has started this blog without our help and continues to grow it at quite a steady, and comparitively fast rate.

    Showroom 22 has decided to assist Isaac with his promotion, as we have with a lot of small fashion-based companies in New Zealand, because we believe he has talent and that blogs like his will help bolster the depth of the fashion industry here in NZ. We feel it’s important to back the little guys as much as we do some of the bigger labels we represent.

    Isaac can be as objective as he wants, and he’s a good enough writer to be able to make constructive criticism without being nasty. I don’t think he’s saying that fashion media need to be bitches, he’s just saying that media need to be honest.

    The fashion game has certain pitfalls that you have to accept if you enter into the game. You are judged on your work constantly, by the media, your peers and the public, and if they don’t like what you do, you just have to get back on the horse and try again. Most designers are big enough to take criticism.

    What also happens, regardless of the reaction the designer has to a ‘bad’ review, is that it will no doubt sharpen their game for next season. Any business person worth their salt should look at criticism and praise from people they respect and take on board bits of it that can help them progress.

    We have designers who have done exactly this. Some that we have worked with for 4-5 years would not have come nearly as far as they have without taking on board good and bad comments and adjusting their collections and brand image for the good. And more often than not, we here at Showroom 22 are their biggest critics.

    Keep up the good work, Isaac, and we’ll take your honest feedback any time you want to give it to us.

    Murray Bevan
    Showroom 22

  4. Anonymous says

    This is getting quite interesting now, thanks for that Murray. I appreciate you candor. I agree that Isaac is a talented writer and I trust that when he decides to criticise something it will be constructive.
    But can you see the point I am trying to make here, is there likely to be a post about Karen Walker Eyewear being retreaded and boring (purely hypothetical here) when there is an ad for said eyewear running down the side of the blog? Obviously in this hypothetic example he’d choose words with a lot more tact than that, but is this scenario ever likely to play out, and can the viewing public trust that we will get the unfiltered truthful opinion?

  5. says

    I’ll answer this one.
    I approached Karen Walker as a potential advertiser because I have a huge amount of respect for the work that she does. I wouldn’t have approached a company that I didn’t want to align myself with.
    I like what Karen Walker does. We all have different tastes and are always going to be positive about the brands that we feel passionate about.
    I have always been a big fan of Karen Walker’s clothing. When she was making menswear through Crane Limited I bought just about all the pieces that came out.
    For that reason, I felt comfortable having her brand presence on the site.
    Does that answer your question?

  6. Murray Bevan says

    We have also had the discussion about ignoring fashion-based ads on this site to avoid any conflict that may arise, but in its infancy IsaacLikes is taking as much support as it can get, and that support so far has been overwhelmingly positive and forthcoming.

    I do get your point, Anonymous, but in any media source these days there almost always has to be ads to make the medium a commercial reality. I think Isaac has enough sense to pick and choose fitting brand partners.


  7. Anonymous says

    I think at the end of the day it’s going to be virtually impossible for any fashion commentator in New Zealand to be completely objective. It’s just too small. To qualify that I mean that if you are in a position to be commentating publicly on NZ fashion then you are going to be part of ‘the scene’ which is very small, so chances are, long before you started publishing your opinions on things, you struck up friendships and perhaps business relationships with the very people who’s work you are now commenting on. It’s always going to be hard to be brutally honest with someone you consider a friendly acquaintance, or whom you have a working relationship with. This could perhaps also be part of the reason that we aren’t getting unbiased fashion reporting in New Zealand as well.
    Isaac is himself an example of this hypothesis; last year (I believe it was last year, could be wrong though) Isaac wrote a review of Sydney Fashion Week for FQ Men. In the article he was quite open, honest and critical with his views on the collections he viewed, he wasn’t nasty for the sake of it, not nasty at all in fact, but he made it fully aware that he was very underwhelmed by everything he had seen, even the much touted return to the catwalks by Ksubi didn’t impress.
    But would he (or anyone else in a similar position) be able to write something not necessarily positive about NZ Fashion Week and the collections on show without alienating themselves from the people concerned?

  8. says

    As I recall I said that going to the Ksubi show was one of the more exciting moments of my life to date, but you do have the gist of the article.
    Back to the point, you’re 100% correct. New Zealand is very small and we don’t take criticism well here either. I remember working with a German girl who used to constantly tell it like it was – and she constantly offended her Kiwi colleagues in the process.
    The question is this: do NZ fashion journalists want to be liked, or do they want to be respected? It’s near impossible to write honestly about people you know and are in regular contact with. And therein lies our dilemma.
    The media is so intertwined with the designers because they all combine to make up this small fashion scene. Who can bring themselves to step on people’s toes or write badly about them when they’re friends?

  9. Anonymous says

    You would obviously remember what you wrote better than I did, but I remember the after taste of Ksubi was that it was a great show, and exciting to be at, but as far as clothes go it fell short of the mark, and you made a suggestion that perhaps they should even just produce people’s shows from now on instead of designing clothes

  10. says

    I’m more than impressed with your memory. It was a long time ago, and you’re probably right, I’ll dig out the article and have a look tonight.

    May I ask, you’re not posting anything offensive or inappopriate, so why post under the ‘Anonymous’ tag?

  11. says

    Is any reporting, whether it be fashion or entertainment or even possibly hard news, ever really objective?
    Regardless of my cynicism, I respect what you’re saying Isaac. Let me know when you get your first designer hissy fit, and let’s compare notes! :)
    x Zoe

  12. says

    I’m not going to tell you I’m not scared of stepping on toes, that would be a complete lie. And yes, I know you’ve had a few run ins Zoe, feel free to tell us about them here!

    I’ve only had one designer call me and tell me they didn’t like what I wrote, but I’m sure as time goes on it’ll happen more.

    Thanks Zoe

  13. Anonymous says

    Zoe raises a good point one I can completely agree with. Nothing is ever going to be completely honest.. Everyones going to have some bias here or there, that’s why it’d be a good thing if there were more blog’s such as Isaac’s focused on Fashion in NZ, so there could be some kind of aggregate of opinion on what NZ designers are doing. But right now it’s a relatively small pool.
    I’m of the opinion that Fashion is the most compromised of industries in terms of the integrity of the writing.
    The Fashion World is very closed off and private compared to say music. Anyone can go to a gig, pay your 5 bucks on the door, and you’re just another face in the crowd, you don’t have to know the band to get invited if you know what I mean? And people can’t start blogs and write what they like and not really worry too much about who’s toes are getting stepped on. There’s a much larger sense of anonymity with it.

    But to go to a fashion show you more often than not have to be invited, and it’s all fairly industry specific, and everyone knows everyone. If you can see where I’m going here?

    I’ve really been enjoying discussing this conversation.

  14. Rebekah says

    Everyone knows everyone, apart from you, Anonymous!

    Why the secrecy? Is it so you can go on saying what you want and not be held accountable?

    It must be very exciting being a secret agent, but we’re all very interested to know who you are.

    Are you shy? Nervous? Ashamed?

  15. Murray says

    I know there are more people reading this than there are making comments, and I’d really like some of them to make a note here and there.

  16. Murray says

    Haven’t watched it yet. Too busy arranging all the AMAZING new karen walker jewellery into the showroom that just landed.

    But I will. I think Noelle’s got a great style of writing and speaking, and she certainly doesn’t pull any punches. Deborah’s no slouch either.

  17. Anonymous says

    Quite frankly, as an immigrant, I think a lot of NZ designed menswear is really lacking in style and innovation – Yeah, I know it’s all a matter of taste. However, as someone with a different worldview, what I’ve seen here, for the most part, doesn’t suit mine.

    It’s either goofy looking (that so called “hipster” look) or so damned dark, drab and depressing looking that I’d want to shoot myself if I wore it. Where’s the flair; the colour; the style?

    Speaking of dark, what’s up with all the black clothes NZ’ers wear? Is this a nation of Goths?

    Yeah, I know this look gets called “edgy and intellectual” by the NZ media. But, quite frankly, I think that’s a cop out, and they don’t like to challenge the designers on it. It’s easy to throw black (clothes) on white (skin) and pretend it looks good, because it’s high contrast.

    Somebody will probably write in telling me that if I don’t like it here then go back to XYZ. However, I do like it here. I just want NZ menswear designers to up their game.

  18. Anonymous says

    NZFW gets coverage because people love looking at other people, and this sells more papers/gets more online traffic etc. More readership means more advertising revenue…

    No matter how many journalists (fashion or otherwise) want to believe that they are unbiased and objective, at the end of the day one can’t bite the hand that feeds you and if a designer is spending thousands of dollars in advertising with a magazine or newspaper, a bad review will not go to print (whether it’s the editor or journalist that makes the final call) because small NZ publications can not afford to lose such revenue at the expense of writing a critical and unsavoury review.

    It happens all over the world, just on a larger scale in New Zealand because we are small and there is virtually no disposable money in our fashion industry. Every New Zealand editor must ‘keep the advertisers happy’ if they intend to continue to make a profit, whether it’s for APN, APC, TVNZ, Pacific or an independent publication/blog, whatever, as long as advertising subsidies journalism, there is never going to be any ‘true’ objectivity in mainstream media when it comes to our small fashion scene.

  19. says

    Okay so I’ve been reading and even following these comments. I like the points you raised Isaac, the coverage is disproportionate but fashion’s a lot more exclusive than onions and got a lot more addicts(I think. This fact may be questionable.) Plus for the duration of FW, those sheds are a haven for booze and glamour, which person wouldn’t want a slice?

    I think it’s all too easy to alienate yourself and even your publication as a journalist in such a small and incestuous industry. Being diplomatic is altogether essential and that’s why we’re so kind or criticism is often done in the form of omission of opinion or omission altogether.


  20. says

    The last three comments are all correct.
    First off, to the foreign guy, I’m sick of the whole black/intellectual/moody ugly-cool thing everyone does to death here in NZ too. Why does everything have to be ripped, plaid or vintage looking to be ‘edgy’?

    Second, it’s absolutely true; in a small nation like ours, there’s a small amount of advertising money to go around, and when the designers are your main advertisers it’s very difficult to write bad reviews… because Hey Presto! They’ll pull their ad dollar and take it elsewhere. That said, what’s the point of doing a magazine if you can’t put your opinion out there? Are your advertisers paying for a fluffy publication with no real editorial voice other than: “ooo that’s lovely… ooo that’s lovely too! ooo everything’s lovely!” OR are your advertisers paying to advertise because they respect your publication and want to align themselves with it?? Does buying ads automatically buy you good reviews?

    And thirdly, you’re right, everyone wants a slice of the glamour pie – and last time I looked fashion had a bit more pulling power than onions!

  21. Anonymous says

    *not the original annonymous

    Having seen first hand the bias and fluffing of such reviews on New Zealand fashion., Fashion Week being a pearler of an example, witnessing writers true thoughts of a show, followed by a weak and sickeningly nice review.

    As much credibility as you lose by remaining anonymous and making anonymous comments and reviews, maybe New Zealand needs more anonymity so what needs to be said can be.

  22. says

    I wholeheartedly disagree. What New Zealand needs is a bunch of journalists, proper journalists, who are willing to get out there and tell the truth and put their names to it. I think posting nasty or honest things about anyone under an anonymous name is cowardly and promotes bad feelings rather than promoting journalistic integrity – which is what we need so badly!

  23. Kate says

    Hi Issac. I discovered your blog a few days ago and I am really enjoying it.

    I do think that what you bring is a fresh perspective on New Zealand fashion. I’ve yet to watch the media7 video (it’s not working for me at the moment) but I do think some of the points raised here are really valid.

    This year in particular I was bored of the continuous, monotonous, fawning coverage of Fashion Week, without any real insight or comment.

    In a country as small as New Zealand, everyone knows everyone, and to be biased is human. That said, I do think we could all do with toeing the line a little more and putting more (constructive) criticism of fashion out there.

    I think you are doing a great job, and I hope others follow your lead.

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