Simon Plumb is a journalist for the Herald on Sunday

New catwalk crew promise that the show will go on

Fashion Week backers want to quash talk of event's demise.
All Blacks DJ Forbes, Malakai Fekitoa, Andy Ellis, Scott Curry and Hikawera Elliot pose with Jockey ambassador Nikki Phillips. Photo / Nick Reed
All Blacks DJ Forbes, Malakai Fekitoa, Andy Ellis, Scott Curry and Hikawera Elliot pose with Jockey ambassador Nikki Phillips. Photo / Nick Reed

New cash has been pumped into New Zealand Fashion Week - investment which is hoped will kill off chatter about the event's demise.

The financial future of New Zealand's flagship fashion expo has been consistently questioned in recent years, so much so that it was feared 2015 could have been the last strut down the catwalk.

Those rumours were fuelled in September when Dame Pieter Stewart, who has been Fashion Week director for 14 years, announced she was selling the show.

However, five months later, new investors have put pen to paper in a deal hoped to stabilise the annual event.

Fashion Week has been one of the hottest tickets on the Auckland event calendar and has attracted the likes of supermodels, Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson and a host of Kiwi celebs - including Sally Ridge and half-naked All Blacks - to its catwalks.

Dame Pieter, the wealthy businesswoman dubbed New Zealand's first lady of fashion, will stay on as a director and 50 per cent shareholder in private company NZ Fashion Week Ltd.

The other 50 per cent is now held by Valerie's Inner Circle Ltd - three investors who want to end instability and start modernising the show.

One of those investors is Vinny Sherry, Fashion Week's communications manager for the past nine years who has also become a director beside Dame Pieter.

And Mr Sherry insists putting his wallet behind Fashion Week is no fool's errand.

"Does Fashion Week have a secure future? Absolutely, we wouldn't be getting involved if it didn't," he told the Weekend Herald.

Fashion Week's three new co-investors (from left) Lance O'Grady, Anna Hood and Vinny Sherry. Photo / Michael Craig
Fashion Week's three new co-investors (from left) Lance O'Grady, Anna Hood and Vinny Sherry. Photo / Michael Craig

"It's a privately owned company and I take my hat off to Pieter having taken the event through a massively challenging economic time. Fashion was one of the industries hit hardest by the global financial crisis.

"But it's come out the other side and the event over the past couple of years has had a renewed energy. It's certainly vital for the future and we're really interested in how the event can evolve and become more consumer-focused."

Mr Sherry's business partners are communications colleague Anna Hood and Lance O'Grady, managing director of fashion-focused digital agency Pocket Square, who will be tasked with working directly with designers.

While Mr Sherry says the main objective over the next five years is guaranteeing the event is financially sustainable, growth strategies are already being worked on.

Some of the options being investigated are making Fashion Week less Auckland-centric and also trying to lure more celebrities to New Zealand, with the biggest brand in recent years a visit from Pamela Anderson in 2008.

"Celebrities and big names in fashion are always something we're looking at, but there's always got to be a reason for it," Mr Sherry said.

"The Pamela Anderson appearance certainly did have that gimmicky side to it but the designer [Richie Rich] wanted to launch the collection at that time and it all came together. It was a crazy week, certainly."

Mr Sherry said he expected the group's new investment would be well received by sponsors, Auckland Council's major event funding arm - Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development - and be good for the local economy.

An evaluation by Fresh Info said Fashion Week's overall gross domestic product contribution to Auckland was $1.19 million in 2015 with attendance up 12 per cent to 32,100 from the previous year.

- NZ Herald

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