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Murray Bevan: number 22Murray Bevan: number 22

Known as one of the country’s best PR reps, Murray Bevan is the man behind the success of many a New Zealand label by Jack Yan
From issue 23 of Lucire


IF YOUR DEALINGS with Showroom 22 boss Murray Bevan were exclusively online, you would assume that one of the fashion industry’s most successful public relations’ experts, and the man behind Klikk, a fashion and portrait studio, was in his 40s, given his output. You would have seen his name as the PR rep for Karen Walker at the turn of the century. After Showroom 22’s founding, his name would come up helming the PR for countless labels—almost all of which hit it big in New Zealand through his nurturing. It’s hard to believe, then, that Bevan is in his mid-20s, and harder to believe that, despite his long hours, he looks exactly the same as when he began Showroom 22, aged 22, in 2002. (His birthday, we should note, falls on May 22.)

It doesn’t surprise us that Bevan has made it big—and it wouldn’t surprise us that his ventures will grow grander still. He’s been featured in plenty of mainstream media, in which he has substantial contacts. These have all been forged through hard work, delivering images, clothing and press information on demand. Ask any of our colleagues in the fashion media: the words delay and Murray Bevan are never used in the same sentence. You also never hear arrogant and showy, either, even if lesser PR and fashion types would exhibit those behaviours. Perhaps it is humility and hard work that have earned Murray Bevan his reputation, proof that values have not necessarily deserted the fashion industry.

Naturally, Lucire caught the Showroom 22 bug first. On its founding in 2002, Lucire interviewed Bevan for its web edition, in what was his first published profile in his new capacity. Five years on, we ventured back to enquire more of him. We needed to understand more of what made him tick. Last time round, he told us more about Showroom 22’s impetus and how it flowed from his time at Walker’s, with an unassuming ‘I enjoy PR and people tell me I’m good at it.’ Today, Murray Bevan is a big player in the field, even if he does not recognize it. And that deserves greater insight than what he offered in his 2002 explanation.

PR wasn’t always the intent. ‘I originally wanted to be a chef, then a hotel manager, then an architect,’ says Bevan. ‘Funnily enough, my desire to follow in my Dad’s footsteps and become a pilot never made it past about the age of nine. I did a full secondary school run and left after seventh form, and was accepted into both Auckland University and Unitec’s Bachelor of Architectural Studies.

‘I chose Unitec as it was gaining a very good reputation at the time even though it hadn’t had any graduates yet. Some of the country’s top firms were lending their backing to Unitec, so I gave it a shot. After three years, I lost some motivation so I decided to take a break.

‘I’d been working for Karen for two years part-time, sometimes in the office and sometimes out at her orchard over the summer, and when she learned I was stepping back from my studies, she offered me a full-time position as her personal assistant and wholesale manager.’

That was probably when most people knew Murray Bevan as the man to go to for anything Karen Walker-related. Today, he remains close to Walker, occasionally promoting her products and new lines. While there, he discovered his passion for PR. Soon, most of the email releases were coming from Bevan’s email address at Karen Walker dot com.

‘Just working with Karen in a totally new industry helped me to realize what was out there. It helped that I didn’t have to deal with any of my old tutors and hand in assignments, too, so I really just absorbed a whole set of new information and thrived on it,’ he recalls.

That passion drew him to examine the industry, and discover that, in 2002, there was nothing quite like Showroom 22: a fashion showroom and PR agency combined. It could have gone in a completely different direction: Bevan was offered positions at other PR companies outside New Zealand at the time, but chose to stay.

It is hard to believe that Bevan’s idea was unique in New Zealand only five years ago. Others may have tried, but they lacked the hipness of Showroom 22’s initial labels—or did they only become hip thanks to Murray Bevan?

Starting off with the then-little known Little Brother, Tango and Cohen et Sabine, Bevan built up his operation to such an extent that he is now looked at as a “lightning rod” for new labels.He had timed Showroom 22’s founding well, arriving mere months before L’Oréal New Zealand Fashion Week that October, timing his clients’ publicity into the event. We wrote at the time, ‘With these labels, it’s not hard to see that Bevan has done the right thing.’

He seems to have remained true to his principles. In 2002, he stated in Lucire: ‘Showroom 22 will always be the first [high] fashion showroom in New Zealand and it is up to me to move forward and try to enhance the industry where I can.’

Bevan does have “the knack” when it comes to PR, having maintained clients while some others fall victim to consolidation with their Australian counterparts, or designers deciding to bring their publicity in-house.

‘Some media have even gone so far as to refer new labels to us so they can have representation in Auckland, which is fantastic. What this leads to is a self-sustaining level of work where people come to us as much as we go to them, if not more so,’ he tells Lucire. Before turning 30, that is a great place to be.

‘What we’ve found is that the very basis of PR for the clients we represent takes care of itself, due to the reputation of the brands we have in here. Sometimes the perception of our Showroom can come as much from our clients as it does from me and the work we’ve done. I’m very lucky to have worked with and become friends with a lot of great people.’

Those ‘great people’ include his present clients, which are far more numerous than in 2002. These include Beth Ellery (to be profiled in a future issue) and Kathryn Wilson (herself a Lucire subject, whose first-ever article was in this title). In fact, Bevan counts as his main highlight in the last half year his Showroom 22 Presents show at Air New Zealand Fashion Week (ANZFW) last September, featuring Des Rusk, Jaimie, MAW, Ellery and Wilson.

Bevan puts on his PR hat when discussing the show. ‘[Pieter Stewart, ANZFW director] was keen to get our brands on board and give the industry a good show at the end of the week.’ It turned out to be a wise decision: the danger at Fashion Week is that journalists get “catwalked-out” toward the end, attending shows out of duty rather than excitement. Bevan was able to overcome that fatigue.

‘I’m a firm believer that group shows are only ever as good as their weakest designer, and for that reason our show always had a head start—all five of these young designers are exceptional. The show was a huge success—the only complaint being that people wanted to see more!

‘Other highlights would include working with some great and talented people on some very exciting projects: Marion Hume and Peter Hunt for The Observer and B magazine, Vogue Entertaining & Travel at the Central Otago Food and Wine Festival, Tamila Purvis, Derek Henderson and the team at Russh, Rene Vaile and Intersection magazine in London, and, of course, some of our best designers here like Karen Walker, Murray Crane and the young talent like Des Rusk, Love Lies Bleeding and Kathryn Wilson.’

Having racked up numerous successes—one only needs to look at the Showroom 22 client list and study their growth—Bevan is not sure if PR can be learned or taught. ‘You’re either good at it or you’re not. You love it or you hate it. Studying PR and communications will show you the ropes, but if you want to be good at PR you just have to know how to communicate effectively to people in a succinct manner and be good at making something out of nothing.’ He adds parenthetically, ‘I can hear all the PR sceptics laughing now.

‘For me, I could be doing PR for Michelin tyres and I’d still be having fun.’

While we’re sure that Bevan would do well for the French tyre-maker, we’d rather see him stay in our field and set an example. After all, we wouldn’t want people to think that fashion PR is ‘all air-kisses, chiffon blouses and Moët’—a misconception that Bevan describes. ‘Believe me, it’s not. Not all the time anyway!’ •


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Murray Bevan of Showroom 22 as photographed by Mimi Gilmore

Murray Bevan, photographed by Mikhail Gherman

Photographed by Mimi Gilmore and Mikhail Gherman respectively


Ask any of our colleagues in the fashion media: the words delay and Murray Bevan are never used in the same sentence. You never hear arrogant and showy, either, even if lesser PR and fashion types would exhibit those behaviours



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