Op-ed: How do you write an end-of-year wrap-up when your year began in August? 

FashioNZ editor Phoebe Watt reflects on four months of the new FNZ, with thanks to the people and stories that came along for the ride

It’s been four months to the day since we relaunched FNZ – a length of time that feels so insignificant I had to manually strike through August to December in my diary with a red pen before I could believe it.

How is it possible that just one-third of a year (or 120 days, or 17 Mondays) has yielded such a volume of fresh, thoughtful, NZ-focused fashion and beauty features, read by a bigger audience than previous iterations of the site had seen in years?

I should say upfront, this is going to be a self-congratulatory piece, and that’s for a couple of reasons. End-of-year wrap ups are currently coming at us thick and fast in the form of earnest social media posts and e-newsletters from our favourite magazines, content creators and brands. And most of these are dutifully acknowledging local and global events that have seen us land suddenly in December with – I feel – more collective ennui than at the height of the pandemic.

It’s been a tough year, and the lurch towards Christmas has never felt more stressful, with cost-of-living a huge concern for a majority of Kiwis.

At FashioNZ, we pay careful attention to the social, cultural and economic context in which we are publishing stories – even when those stories are ‘just’ about fashion and beauty. Some will argue (quite rightly) that matters of national and international importance are way beyond our scope, and that we should (or at least, could) just stay in our lane.

As an editor, this would make my life easier, but it’s not a realistic approach in 2023. We are all part of the global news cycle – there’s no avoiding what’s going on in the world – and while I don’t think it’s necessarily appropriate for myself and others in the fashion and lifestyle space to comment authoritatively on those things, I do believe we have a responsibility to be sensitive about the content we put out around them.

Reporting sensitively and responsibly requires platforming diverse voices, and this is something I’m proud we’re achieving. From our first week, we engaged an enviable community of contributors whose experiences range from those of internationally acclaimed fashion journalists Tim Blanks, Laura Brown, Patty Huntington and Nadine Rubin-Nathan, to everyday readers like plus-size model Misha Healy who, off the back of our controversial interview with Ozempic provider Clinic 42, penned us an op-ed about the fashion industry’s ongoing problem with fat people.

At the same time, we’ve heard from local industry leaders including legendary makeup artist Kiekie Stanners, and millennial beauty tycoon Jaimee Lupton, and partnered with our friends at Metro and The Spinoff to share as much locally-produced style content with as many readers as possible.

We also got a little bit political. In the week following Aotearoa’s general election in October, we published open letters to the new New Zealand Government from a cross-section of industry heads and innovators – Wynn Hamlyn, Murray Crane, Pacific Fusion Fashion Show founder Nora Swann, and NZFW bosses Feroz Ali and Yasmin Farry, whose imperative “Think outside the box and support the New Zealand fashion industry” was a running theme, and not a stance platformed elsewhere.

Speaking of NZFW: Kahuria – this had to be the highlight of all highlights for New Zealand fashion in 2023. FashioNZ had been live for less than a fortnight, and I am exceptionally proud of what we delivered as a new team working on a new platform. Fuelled by Amano sugar cookies and Tank Juice, we produced more than 25 original articles, 35 Instagram posts, hundreds of stories, and clocked up one-quarter of a million Instagram impressions across the three days we reported from the Viaduct Events Centre, supporting established and new-gen designers via in-depth interviews, mini profiles, sneak peeks, show reviews, show reviews in haiku form, street style moments, beauty reports, image galleries and full-length videos.

We didn’t think we could beat our NZFW numbers, but then came our FNZ Content Creators Power List and blew it out of the water. The idea for a Power List germinated after NZFW, when debate was circling online around the relevance and role of influencers and content creators within the local fashion ecosystem.

FNZ has always been about celebrating our fashion community and supporting the groups and individuals that build momentum. It was clear to us that our local fashion influencers do some of the heaviest lifting when it comes to bringing energy and saliency and huge audiences to our best-loved brands, and to give them props for that was a no-brainer.

Published in association with digital strategy agency Powerhouse, the FNZ Creators Power List 2023 was an incredibly exciting feat. Beyond the buzz it generated for the site and across the industry (in just three days of site traffic, we beat both our relaunch week, and our NZFW coverage), it felt wonderful to be a part of something so positive that had nothing to do with pitting influencers against one another, and everything to do with spreading camaraderie and joy. Amid endless conversations around physical and emotional burnout, it felt like the equivalent of a 3pm Diet Coke – a little bit of fizz to perk us all up and get us through to the end of the year smiling.

Now that we’re here, nothing makes me smile harder than looking back on the bread and butter of FashioNZ – those smart, fun, easy-to-read fashion and beauty updates that I hope have inspired you this year, even just to try a new outfit combo, or make a small purchase at a newly-discovered local boutique.

From the unveiling of Emilia Wickstead as the next Air New Zealand uniform designer, to the release of a limited batch of Noa Blankets accompanied by a breathtaking campaign by Holly Sarah Burgess, and the arrival of a sweet new ASICS sneaker, road tested by the models from SUPERmgmt, it’s been a pleasure to bring you (in the words of a great Kiwi presenter) “the f***ing fashion news” in all its forms.

Ditto, the f***ing beauty news – some of our most popular pieces including a round-up of the 8 best facials we’ve actually tried, a list of new-gen SPFs to replace your expired sunblock, and the always crowd-pleasing beauty shopping galleries.

I love fashion and beauty news because these are the daily tid-bits that form a tapestry of what’s been a truly standout year for our homegrown designers, creators and business owners. They deserve a lot of recognition, and we have delivered that this year through regular, behind-the-scenes stories about our local retail scene. This focus on retail kicked off with a deep dive into the movers and shakers behind Commercial Bay, and has been followed by a series of business-focused interviews with retail giants Rickie Dee (Superette), Rachel Sloane (Naveya and Sloane), and the one and only, Kathryn Wilson.

And finally, the pretty things. As a one-time print media purist, the past four months of editing FashioNZ has quickly educated me on the limits and opportunities of digital publishing. Having edited glossy mags for almost a decade, I had a deeply entrenched attitude that the internet was not the place for beautiful editorial shoots or lovely long-form reads. I was wrong, as evidenced in photo essays by renowned Kiwi fashion photographers Derek Henderson and David Shields among others, and the many in-depth fashion reports filed by our London fashion correspondent, Jessica Belle-Greer, whose exploration of WAG-style remains one of my favourite reads.

If this is what four months at FashioNZ looks like, the next year is going to be huge. Please reach out to us with ideas, suggestions and feedback. We do this for you, after all. In the meantime, we are taking a nice long summer break.

Stay safe, stay stylish, and we’ll see you back here soon.