RNZ podcast My Heels are Killing me presents part two of a panel discussion on the future of fashion. In this episode - different approaches to sustainability and the importance of collaboration.
New Zealand is part of a global society. That comes with better access to goods and services, but it also means local brands and businesses face greater competition.
International brands are more accessible than ever before. Exposure to the latest offerings through instagram and social media creates a frenzy for newness at the high and low end of the market.
Murray Bevan, founder of New Zealand’s foremost fashion PR agency Showroom 22 says our consumer patterns have become more diverse in recent years.
“People like to shop local, as well as aspire to buy global,” he says.
And even at the luxury end the demand is high.
“[The General Manager of Louis Vuitton] on Auckland’s Queen Street has customers that come in every week demanding something new. [But] for other designers [here] that’s very difficult to do unless [they] drip feed product in,” he says.
The PR agency founder says when Topshop arrived on our shores, some in the industry were sent into panic mode, worried that it would threaten our local industry. Others saw it as an opportunity to take more risks and do something completely different.
Bevan believes there will always be room for a range of price-points, and he says the arrival of fast- fashion chains in New Zealand hasn’t damped our appetite for locally made and owned brands.
“It’s just appetite, and it’s money - we call it a share of wardrobe. Wardrobe is becoming bigger in people’s share of what they dedicate their time and money to in their life,” he says.
Today, Showroom 22 works with international labels, but the PR agency has built the core of its business by helping local brands to grow, and anyone involved in business will know that it isn’t possible to become successful all on your own.
Bevan has been working with shoe designer Kathryn Wilson for 14 years. Their collaboration began when they were both in the early stages of their businesses.
The importance of relationships and collaboration
“You’re not in this industry if you’re out to make a quick buck,” says Wilson, who had a long term game plan for her business right from the outset.
She says focusing on a long term vision fed into her choice of partnerships and the people that she wanted to surround herself with.
“It’s all around making that stick [and] it truly came out of what feels right to me… that still exists 15 years on in terms of who we sit with, and why, and where,” she says.
“It’s about whether I can make them proud and whether I’m the right fit for them,” Wilson says.
The garment industry is the second largest global polluter, only topped by the oil industry
Minimizing waste is one way that garment manufacturers are addressing the issue, but there are other parts of the manufacturing process that require attention. While smaller businesses and new brands can afford to slow down their rate of production, for others it is a matter of looking across the board from how the fabrics are produced to what happens when the garments are no longer wanted.
China is also doing its bit, according to Belinda Watt, Head of Fashion at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design, which also runs a sustainability programme as part of the fashion degree course.
“They closed down something like 15 thousand dye houses that used bad dyes,” she says.
H&M has also launched a global textile recycling initiative where anyone can bring in unwanted garments and textiles to their recycle stations. These will be sorted and either fully recycled, or shredded and pulped down to produce new textiles.
“Fashion has always been revolutionary,” says Watt.
“Now, fashion really is in a position to revolutionise again. Fashion designers are often activists in some form, so our young designers coming out, they are the creative thinkers; they are the innovators. They are going to be the change makers.”
Listen to the full episode of My Heels Are Killing Me to find out more about changes in the fashion industry, why designers are the new rock stars and why we need to keep supporting New Zealand brands.
Special thanks to FashioNZ and New Zealand Fashion Week for making the panel presentation possible.