Fashion in Focus podcast hosts India Leishman (left) and Murray Bevan (right). Image supplied.
New Zealand fashion fans have a new podcast to enjoy with the launch of Showroom 22‘s first podcast series called Fashion in Focus. Director of Showroom 22, Murray Bevan, is a knowledgeable source of all things fashion after launching his PR company 18 years ago and he’s teamed up with journalist India Leishman on this new podcast which is perfectly timed listening for this current lockdown situation. Fashion in Focus sees a range of fashion voices from successful designers like Karen Walker and Maggie Hewitt from Maggie Marilyn to experienced stylist Sally Ann Mullin and editor Grace O’Neill share their thoughts and experiences in the series. It’s a must listen for anyone with an interest in fashion and the first six episodes of the series are available to listen to now on Podbean, Spotify or iTunes.
We caught up with Murray to find out more about the podcast, how it came about and what the response has been like so far?
How did the podcast come about?
The podcast came about off the back of our first series of events which we held in 2019 called Fashion in Focus. The idea was to start a more open source dialogue with the fashion industry and make it less about invite only, private access events that are a sneak peek for the industry and turn the industry towards the public in an enlightening way. Those events covered everything from the business of fashion to influence, access needs and sustainability. Off the back of that we had an enormous amount of feedback from both people who had attended the talks and especially people who couldn’t get there saying please record these and make them into podcasts as it would be great to hear them. We didn’t initially mic everyone up and record those podcasts but as a result I decided it was as good a time as any to start a New Zealand fashion podcast and use a lot of the same people to springboard it and get it going. We started recording them last October and have been doing them ever since. Now, we’ve got 12 episodes and we’ve launched with six initially.
Had you always planned to launch the podcast this month? It seems like perfect timing now with so many people being at home and looking for ways to entertain themselves.
We had planned to have the second series of Fashion in Focus events this month between Easter and Anzac Day and we were going to launch the Fashion in Focus podcast on 8th April. We brought it forward a week because we thought ‘why wait? Let’s get it out there to the world’. So far it’s been really well received.
There’s a lot of conversations that happen internally in the fashion industry but there are a lot of people with an interest in fashion that want to be part of the conversation. Is this your way of including those people?
Absolutely, I think there’s a lot of people that think ‘how could I ever even begin to get my foot in the door?’ and that’s something that I think is a bit sad about our industry. That it feels so hands off and like you can’t sit with us. Whereas in this day and age the opposite needs to be true, we need to be way more inclusive and welcoming than ever before.
How did you go about selecting the people that are in this first series?
We went back to the kind of people that we started the talks with and we went with people that would be a good draw when we launched the podcasts. We also wanted to make sure it was a cross-section of the industry with people from design, styling, makeup and journalism etc. Based on the success of the episodes I’m hopeful we will get contacted by other people who have things to share so it will become a bit more democratic. I would like to turn the podcast into something weekly where we can be reporting on news, trends and happenings, whereas the first six podcasts are talking about how people got started in the industry, what they’re doing at the moment and what they predict for the future. I’d much rather launch on a Monday morning with news, especially big industry news, so it would be great to have a channel that I can do that with.
Designers Karen Walker (left) and Maggie Hewitt from Maggie Marilyn (right) feature in Showroom 22’s fashion podcast. Images supplied.
So you see this as another pivot for your business since you’ve already opened a photography studio and have been more actively involved in content creation?
When we moved into our new premises in 2018 the idea then was to bring more activity into our space because we often react to what the media want or what our clients want but we weren’t being creative ourselves. I’ve always had a creative streak, I studied architecture for three years and I like to make things. So opening the studio and now doing the podcast was us going ‘Why can’t we do this ourselves?’ We’re not a big media company but we have a good social media following and we’ve got a great network of people to share things with and we have the resources to get into a studio and record sessions of the podcast so why not? Let’s make it happen.
Thanks to the internet and social media everyone can share their voice and often the ones that people are interested in are the ones that are most relatable. Is that what you are going for with this podcast?
Yes, I think it’s a by-product of the industry and society in general that there are certain people at the top and it’s thought of that their opinion is the only one that counts. There is a bit of common sense in that as I’ve got 18 years experience in what I do so I can talk from that experience but I’m constantly telling my staff to never think that their ideas won’t be good enough or won’t work because everyone has got an enormous amount of creative thought and I want to encourage people to share that. If I can give people a platform to do that whether they’re an industry leader or a newbie then that’s what I want to do.
There was a really interesting video I watched done by a woman in Britain talking about fashion and the fashion that we have come to know is no longer fashionable. The idea that there’s a few big companies in the world that have these superstar designers that sit at the top of the pyramid who are promoted as being genius talent and untouchable and that create product that’s at a price that’s inaccessible for most people – that idea is very out of touch now. The newest idea is that ideas need to be shared by the people and every idea is valid. You don’t need to have 10 years experience in the industry to be taken seriously anymore and it’s the will of the people that will tell big design companies these days what they need to be designing next season not the whim of one person who sits at the top of the food chain. There’s a lot more power with the group mentality these days than ever before.
We’ve seen some great examples of that with one person starting something that becomes a global movement like Fashion Revolution Week for example.
Yes, and there’s other things that are helping us achieve that which is why I want to share the podcast with as broader group as possible. I’ll always start with my own community but I want them to share it with their communities too, I want to inspire kids that might be at school or young adults that might be at university. I’m not doing it for myself or for my friends, or my clients. From Fashion in Focus we saw this enormous desire from young up and coming creative people saying ‘Thank god there’s a platform where people will listen to me’ so we want to involve them more and a wider group of people.
We’re in a really uncertain time right now but putting out content like what you’re doing that’s really thoughtful and uplifting and is talking about the future in a positive way is great when so much of what we’re hearing is negative at the moment. Was that important to you?
Yes, because a lot of what we’re hearing at the moment is negative, focusing on how many cases of Coronavirus there are now or how many deaths etc. It’s very easy to get trapped into the thinking that the world’s going to end this week. I think there’s a responsibility to not ignore what’s going on at the moment but to plan for what’s ahead. That’s also the responsibility of something like a podcast, it’s not only to inform people about experience, history and where things have come from, there’s also an enormous responsibility to share the possibilities of where things may go.
Liam Bowden and Steven Boyd from Deadly Ponies (left) and fashion editor Grace O’Neill (right) feature in Showroom 22’s fashion podcast. Images supplied
That’s the thing with situations like this, people discover new and innovative ways of doing things that might now have been thought of otherwise.
100%, and some of it will be out of necessity and some of it will be because people see this opportunity and they think ‘now’s my time’. It’s a matter of why shouldn’t I? Kiwis are great at that. I did it myself, I started my business with no loans, no money from my parents, I bought a Gateway PC online, a couple of stainless steel racks and I painted a sign on my wall that said Showroom 22. It took a little while for people to cotton on to what I was doing but I was enjoyed what I was doing and I wanted to make it work. I hope there’s inspiration out there for other people and they think that they can give their ideas a go and try it for six months or a year. If it doesn’t work out it’s not the end of the world at least I would have learnt a lot and I would never look back on this moment and wish I would have tried that. I hope that the podcast inspires people in that way, by listening to Wynn Crawshaw’s story or hearing why Karen Walker is just as excited about what she does today as the first day she started or how Maggie Marilyn is succeeding in growing a business based on sustainability. There’s positive messages all the way through it so I hope people find both information and inspiration in what we’ve done.
I know the podcast hasn’t been out long but what has the response been like so far?
It’s been pretty cool actually. I’m not sure how we judge if a podcast is doing well or not in New Zealand yet but as of today (2nd April) it’s had 234 plays in the handful of days since we launched on the 29th March. I’ve had a few people come back to me from the industry and say that the podcasts are really interesting to listen to and I saw a woman on Facebook say that she’s going to binge listen to all of them which is great. Initially we’ve been promoting them to the people that are in our network via our social media. A lot of the people that are already listening to it are following us there and are fans of fashion so it will be more interesting for me if it starts to permeate outside our network and it reaches people that have never heard of the people featured in the podcast. If it inspires people that don’t know much about fashion that would be great and a real success for us.
We often talk about how we’re in a bit of a bubble at the showroom because the same people get invited to the parties, get the press releases, they all get the same gifts and they all go to fashion week so it must be hard for people outside that wondering how they’re going to break in. I also think one of the downfalls of the way the industry is set up is that we keep preaching to the converted. People that are fans of fashion get the eDMs and the ones that already know the designers follow them on social media. What’s exciting to me is reaching new audiences, starting a fashion dialogue with people who aren’t engaged with fashion right now.
What research did you do about creating your own podcast? Did you already have favourites that you listened to?
Actually no, I’m not a big podcast guy. My wife listens to a lot of true crime podcasts so the idea has been percolating in the back of my mind thanks to her. I didn’t really want to do too much research into what’s out there because to be honest I don’t know how many different ways you can skin this cat so to speak. I wanted to talk to people in fashion and share their experiences and be quite nuts and bolts with it. We’re going to reach out to people around the world with it and we’ve started with fashion editor Grace O’Neill in Australia, next I want to set up a time with Tim Blanks from The Business of Fashion, then British fashion journalist Marion Hume. First of all we’ll find out what works from the people that are listening then we’ll reach out to a wider audience and hopefully be contacted by people who want to be part of the podcast and have something to talk about.
Fashion in Focus is available to listen to now on Podbean, Spotify or iTunes.