Fashion Quarterly - - Profile -

If you’re a brand look­ing to make a splash on the New Zealand fash­ion scene, few would dis­pute that Mur­ray Be­van is your man. With an en­vi­able client ros­ter, this mas­ter­mind be­hind some of the coun­try’s most stylish events and ac­ti­va­tions — not to men­tion gate­keeper of ev­ery im­por­tant NZFW guest list — is like the god­fa­ther of the lo­cal fash­ion in­dus­try; his PR com­pany, Show­room 22, the Cor­leone com­pound. Of course, big sis­ter An­gela Be­van has an­other way of putting it. “He’s a bit like the Pied Piper,” she re­marks. “As in, lots of peo­ple fol­low­ing and lis­ten­ing to his whis­tle and do­ing what he says.”

Fit­tingly, if there’s one per­son Mur­ray could be said to have fol­lowed in the foot­steps of, it’s An­gela. A model scout and founder of non-tra­di­tional Auck­land-based mod­el­ling agen­cies Hoipol­loi (1999-2001) and more re­cently The Oth­ers (es­tab­lished 2016), An­gela dis­cov­ered many of New Zealand’s break­out mod­el­ling stars, in­clud­ing Zip­pora Seven, Derya Par­lak and Sophia Frank­ish. Also a free­lance writer with com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mar­ket­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, she was ap­pointed head of edi­to­rial at Brit­o­mart Group in 2016 — a role that in­volves edit­ing the cel­e­brated fash­ion, food and busi­ness precinct’s self-ti­tled, bian­nual mag­a­zine.

Be­fore all of this, how­ever, An­gela made her start as a sales as­sis­tant at Karen Walker — and set her younger brother’s ca­reer in mo­tion while she was at it. “At a staff meet­ing one night,” re­calls Mur­ray, “Karen and [hus­band and busi­ness part­ner] Mikhail Gher­man asked if any­one knew of some­one who could come in and do odd jobs. An­gela vol­un­teered me and the rest is his­tory.”

The facts of that his­tory are as fol­lows: Mur­ray spent two years at Karen Walker, de­liv­er­ing stock to bou­tiques, helping re­tail staff and per­son­ally as­sist­ing the big boss. Dur­ing this time he es­tab­lished the con­nec­tions (in­clud­ing with Karen and Mikhail, who re­main close friends and key clients) and de­vel­oped the skills he needed to go out on his own. And that’s ex­actly what he did — open­ing Show­room 22, which cel­e­brates its 16th birth­day in April, when he was just 22.

It was a bold be­gin­ning that, to this day, An­gela talks about with pride. “Mur­ray took a big leap as a very young man to start this thing that no­body re­ally un­der­stood, and that lots of peo­ple prob­a­bly thought wouldn’t work.” But work it did, and as a con­se­quence Mur­ray has been able to re­pay his sis­ter’s favour on many oc­ca­sions. “Auck­land’s a small town so An­gela and I open doors for each other in dif­fer­ent ways. Some­times a quick in­tro­duc­tion over email blos­soms into an op­por­tu­nity years down the track,” he ex­plains.

Work­ing in the same in­dus­try has other ad­van­tages. “We are good sound­ing boards for each other be­cause we are never go­ing to go, ‘I don’t know that per­son,’ or ‘I don’t get it,’” says An­gela, adding that a mu­tual un­der­stand­ing of and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for each other’s work means she and Mur­ray can be very gen­uine in their en­cour­age­ment. “And with the in­dus­try land­scape ever-chang­ing, we know what chal­lenges our fu­tures might hold so we can nut those out to­gether too.”

With no short­age of shared work ac­quain­tances and over­lap­ping projects to dis­cuss, An­gela ad­mits that keep­ing shop talk to a min­i­mum at family events can be dif­fi­cult. “But we would never let it con­sume us and it would never have the power to chal­lenge our friend­ship.” Both agree that An­gela’s three sons — in par­tic­u­lar 20-year-old Myer, who Mur­ray is es­pe­cially close to — keep them grounded. “That’s the main thing that keeps us from drown­ing in in­dus­try gos­sip,” says An­gela. “We’ve al­ways had much more im­por­tant things to talk about.”

And in­deed, An­gela’s proud­est pro­fes­sional achieve­ment isn’t fash­ion in­dus­try-re­lated. It’s to do, in­stead, with bring­ing about a me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing be­tween com­mu­nity and family ser­vices char­ity Life­wise and the YMCA, which has al­lowed home­less youth in cri­sis to be housed quickly while wait­ing for per­ma­nent help. “She com­mits many per­sonal hours to helping oth­ers less for­tu­nate than her­self — namely the home­less and im­pris­oned — catch a break,” says Mur­ray.

It’s a trait that he has al­ways ad­mired in his big sis­ter. An­other is her pa­tient per­sis­tence. “So many peo­ple ex­pect overnight suc­cess, but Ange isn’t one of them,” he says, adding that peo­ple new to the in­dus­try “don’t get it un­til they’ve been in the trenches for a while”. And on the odd oc­ca­sion that Mur­ray for­gets his own words to live by? You can bet it’s An­gela giv­ing him the re­fresher course. “Where our work crosses over, there’s no con­flict,” she says, be­fore Mur­ray cuts in with one ex­cep­tion. “Maybe when I think a story de­serves a cover and a six-page spread and my sis­ter tells me I’ll get 50 words and a thumb­nail im­age!”

Sib­lings An­gela and Mur­ray Be­van.

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