Revelations from Viva's first editor

By Zoe Walker

When Viva was launched 15 years ago, Jane Phare was in at the outset.

Jane Phare, the original editor of Viva,   photographed at Roxy restaurant. Photo / Babiche Martens
Jane Phare, the original editor of Viva, photographed at Roxy restaurant. Photo / Babiche Martens

Viva launched in May 1997, with Jane Phare at the helm as editor. The elegant blonde worked with the original team to develop the section, reminiscent to what Viva still looks at today: fashion, food, beauty and the good things in life. Phare started at the Herald in the late 1970s, and has helped launch various sections that make up the paper today: Viva, The Weekend Herald, new magazines inside the new Herald on Sunday when it originally launched, and now works on special projects for APN, the company that publishes the NZ Herald.

Phare takes us back to Viva's early days, and opens up about her style today.

What was the idea behind launching Viva in 1997?

To give women a section of their own that would make them smile, give them an idea or just give them an excuse to put their feet up and have a good read. At the beginning we were right at the back of the paper, behind motoring.

Our first issue was a Mother's Day special. The cover was a beautiful, oiled semi-naked young man wearing a white frilly apron round his waist with a feather duster slung jauntily over his shoulder. We had the rights to the Dot cartoon so the first one showed Dot standing over the kitchen table holding a baseball bat while her children ate dinner. The caption read, "Dot always offered the children a choice: fish fingers or unimaginable violence." Not very PC today, but still funny.

We had a "Dear Sharon" agony aunt column written by a journalist, Colin Hogg. We thought it hugely funny that our agony aunt was a bloke. He used to write things like, "Now listen, Barry, you need to get over yourself."

And we'd do investigative pieces like "The bottom line on undies", with questions such as "how come an average bum needs a size large pant?", a question I still ponder today. So the whole thing was designed to be loads of fun. We did fashion spreads and lots on food. Looking back at that original issue, the food was not all that different to today - sashimi, creme brulee, yellowfin tuna carpaccio. I think bok choy had just been discovered because it seemed to be served with everything.

My strongest memory of my time at Viva was the night the rugby-mad news editor forgot to run a fashion scoop by Barbara Rogers. Four Kiwi designers - World, Zambesi, Karen Walker and Nom *D - had been invited to show at Australian Fashion Week in Sydney in 1997. We wanted to cover it but for some mysterious reason there was no money in the budget for an airfare to Sydney even though we sent sports reporters all round the world for weeks covering rugby and cricket tests.

So Barbara cadged an airfare from a sponsor and went anyway, filing a great story and pictures that night. But the news editor forgot to run it! He was mortified the next morning when we eye-balled him and demanded an explanation. Of course, our own New Zealand Fashion Week was launched in 2001 and these days we wouldn't dream of not covering it.

My work wardrobe consists of fitted skirts, tailored dresses and heels. For a more casual look, black leggings, boots and a silky top. I like to wear colourful jackets and interesting coats in the winter. And scarves. I've got a long neck and it needs covering up!

"Off-duty" I tend to wear jeans in the winter - ideal for school pickups and running around a muddy field when the soccer coach fails to show up for practice. And tapered three-quarter pants in the summer, for the same reason.

My shopping habits are sporadic and impulsive. I loathe shopping when I have to find a particular item and I have very little time to shop. So if I see something I like, I buy it.

The day this photo was taken, I was wearing Italian boots bought in Wellington, a Giordano shift dress bought in Kuala Lumpur on a work trip, a Kookai merino top, and a wool Visage jacket swing and necklace bought in Arrowtown. I was helping a girlfriend with the Christchurch Ronald McDonald House appeal, and wasn't having much luck on the street. So I did a tour of the shops. It worked well. They put $5 in my bucket and I in turn spent money in their shops.

My style was shaped by years of trial and error, and the advice of a great stylist Susan Axford, who used to be the NZ Herald's fashion editor. She did my colours, body shape, proportions, everything from what hem length suits to what neckline is most flattering. I can now sweep into a shop, have a quick glance down the racks to see if there's anything worth trying on and when the shop assistant says "This would look great on you", I can tell her, with confidence, why it wouldn't. I now know why perfectly good clothing hangs in my wardrobe unworn, and how to fix the problem.

I look my best in fitted, tailored clothes and clear colours. Muddy, muted colours sap all colour from my skin. I look like a cadaver that's just woken up.

The least "fashionable" thing I do is to eat a boiled egg and toast soldiers wearing my cuddly dressing gown and slippers when I'm too exhausted to even think about cooking dinner.

Latest discovery in fashion is just how many clever Kiwi fashion and shoe designers there are. Just take a walk round the Britomart precinct.

The most treasured item in my wardrobe is the most glorious inky blue, velvet swing coat by Akira Isogawa. It's nearly as old as Viva and still looks terrific. I went to do a story about Jo Gould's new shop, Muse, in Newmarket and ended up buying an outrageously expensive jacket. Still, cost per wear it's gradually going down.

My approach to beauty is to get as much sleep as I can squeeze in, never go to bed without cleaning my face, and I always wear sunblock.

In my makeup bag I carry an odd assortment because I'm not loyal to one particular brand.

I collect fine china cups, saucers and plates so I can play ladies every now and then when I have friends for afternoon tea. Ron Sang, an Auckland architect and great supporter of the arts, introduced me to Peter Collis' work years ago so I have a few Collis vessels.

And more recently I've started collecting gorgeous three-dimensional vases by Alice Rose. I'm intrigued by them. I've already sent two to Manchester and one to Sydney as wedding presents.

- NZ Herald

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