Nespresso’s latest Unforgettable Recipes campaign is an exercise in hyper-localisation and fashion relevance

Teeks, Hercules Noble, Zeenat Wilkinson and Polly Marcus star in a campaign that blends modern coffee culture with Aotearoa fashion & culture mavens

Kiwis have never been big on celebrity endorsements for local brands, unless of course those celebrities aren’t from here.  We’re a fickle bunch, but one thing is almost certain: we will almost always rate global talent over our own home-grown stars.  To that end, Kiwi fashion and accessory designers have almost always opted to use the latest local models as the canvases for their photo shoots in order to make the product the star of the show, never to be out-done by the talent.

I think it’s part of our tall poppy syndrome, where we never have the budgets to pay a global superstar for the use of their face, nor do we really vouch for local talent until they’ve done something special overseas first.  Only then do we leap to say how much we’ve always loved their work and supported their journey.  Dan Carter has probably been the exception to the rule, as we have a special place in our hearts reserved for our sports men and women who ‘make it’ on the international stage.

In a fashion sense, there have been few examples of local New Zealand brands using big names to endorse their work, but there are some that stand out and have pushed us out of our humble comfort zone.  Huffer brought rapper Desiigner to New Zealand for their NZFW show in 2018, and included him in a campaign for their outerwear.  Karen Walker has often used off-the-beaten track talent like 1983 Miss NZ winner Lorraine Downes, international choreographer Parris Goebel, Israel Adesanya (before his meteoric rise), Toast the King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, and the late, great Iris Apfel as part of her Advanced Style campaign.  In recent days we’ve seen UK-based Kiwi jeweller Jessica McCormack sign on Zoe Kravitz as her first ever global ambassador, but I wonder if this move would have ever even been considered if the brand was based in New Zealand.

One big reason that I suggest Kiwi labels don’t use local celebrities in their campaigns is this:  we don’t tend to look up to local celebs for their fashion choices.  We admire them for their athletic prowess, their musical talent, their cook books or their business acumen.  But when’s the last time you really saw a local celeb in your favourite magazine or social media platform and instantly said “I want to dress like that!”  It’s just never really been part of ‘Brand New Zealand’.  This is particularly prevalent for men – until Gen Z came along, there were few times that Kiwi blokes would have felt comfortable discussing how much they want to up their suit game to look more like Michael Bublé.

That’s why Nespresso’s latest campaign, styled by Kayla Jurlina, assisted by Becca Haegar (of That Looks fame) and photographed by Paddy Foss is a cool and subtle move towards celebrating some of 2024’s favourite creators.  And yes, our IG stars are kind of like our new celebrities – the achievement of Hercules Noble being followed by 244,000 people around the world, including Gordon Ramsay, isn’t exactly like Lorde winning a Grammy, but it’s a big achievement all the same.

The latest Nespresso campaign ‘Unforgettable Recipes’ asks four local stars to invent a coffee creation that they love.  Better still, local stylist Kayla Jurlina pulled local samples and worked with a local team to bring the vision to life.  It’s a small but important example of how global brands can hyper-localise themselves, rather than using their international homogenised brand mark to force their global stars on us.  Polly wears Harris Tapper, Zeenat wears Father Rabbit, and Herc wears Wynn Hamlyn.  Personally, I’d much rather take fashion and lifestyle advice from Zeenat and Teeks than George Clooney and Julia Garner.