Zoe Walker Ahwa (left) and Rebecca Wadey
This week we’re digging into the new online fashion, beauty and culture online magazine Ensemble, founded by two local fashion media experts.
One of the crop of new local media flourishing post-Covid, Ensemble was founded by former FQ editor Zoe Walker Ahwa and fashion, beauty and wellness maven Rebecca Wadey – a familiar face around Britomart in her previous incarnations as head of sales and press at Kate Sylvester, and brand manager at Jo Malone London and M.A.C. The first stories to hit the site are great reads – we particularly enjoyed this profile of film producer Chelsea Winstanley, featuring gorgeous clothes by designer Kiri Nathan.
Congratulations on the launch of Ensemble! For the uninitiated, give us your elevator pitch about the new magazine.
Our byline is ‘for both intelligence and whimsy’. We believe that people who care about beautifully made clothes and the latest in style/trends/beauty products et al also want to engage in important issues, and that the two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. There’s also a lot going on in the world right now; our local fashion and retail industries are going to need a lot of support to get through the next little while. If we can help tell some of those stories and invigorate business we’d consider it a win. Many of the country’s top designers have helped us in return, by lending their support to the optional membership program that will help fund us.
You're both long-time fashion media insiders, so please spill the tea: what aspect of traditional fashion publishing drove you the most crazy, and how do you plan to do things differently with Ensemble?
Rebecca: I think for me, personally, once I reached my 40s, I started to feel invisible in most media, and yet I felt my age group had a very strong buying dollar to spend! But representation in general is a big issue we are keen to address.
Zoe: I’ve spilt a lot of tea here.
Ensemble is online-only – do you think the fashion readership prefers this format to the gloss magazine these days, and if so, why?
We will always hold a huge place in our heart for glossy magazines. But sadly it feels almost nostalgic these days. Production costs have climbed while ad revenue has dropped. We decided to move on, rather than wait for a return to the glory days that will likely never come. And we know where our audience is – we would be crazy not to meet them there. Our aim is to be very shoppable and really support the conversion aspect of marketing, rather than focused on brand awareness. Embrace our medium in a way that works for everyone.
It's no secret that fashion is a tough industry to make a living in, especially here. What gives you hope that new independent fashion and beauty media can thrive here?
We're both realists, and have seen the local landscape evolve a lot over the years – so fully aware of the challenges. But we sense a hunger for newness, from readers as well as the industry; especially now when everything is being questioned and moving so quickly. We're also convinced that the future of media (and fashion in general, actually) is collaborative, which is much easier to embrace for independents who answer to themselves.
What's a New Zealand-specific aspect of the fashion industry are you keen to talk about more?
Rebecca: We’re definitely keen to have discussions around how people shop. It’s not as simple as buy New Zealand-made; there are many considerations that could contribute towards ethical purchasing decisions. And there’s certainly no right or wrong way to shop, but knowledge is power so we’d love to be part of the education process.
How often will you be publishing new content?
We will have new content go up most days. But that said, we want to be sustainable; we've had a lot of conversations around 'sustainable content'. We are a tiny, self-funded team, working from home during lockdown for a global pandemic. It’s important to us that we look after ourselves, so if it’s a slow grow, so be it.
How has the reception been to the magazine since you launched?
The response has been overwhelming, and some of the amazing messages we’ve received on social media from people who feel the content has really resonated with them have made all the pain worthwhile. Plus the support from the fashion industry itself has made the whole thing possible.
Are you taking story or shoot pitches? Who can aspiring creatives contact if they have brilliant ideas to share?
Yes! We’re always keen to hear from our audience about anything, and we are excited to find out about new creatives and perspectives – get in touch at Hello@ensemblemagazine.co.nz