War of words over fashion weeks

WAR OF WORDS: Cameron Sneddon, managing director of Wellington Fashion Week.
WAR OF WORDS: Cameron Sneddon, managing director of Wellington Fashion Week.

Fashion industry leaders are cutting Wellington Fashion Week down to size, saying it does not warrant the title "fashion week".

The powers behind the Auckland-based New Zealand Fashion Week say the Wellington event should call itself a festival instead, and another prominent fashionista suggests it could be a "carnival", or even a "circus".

But the Wellingtonians, backed by legal advice, are not buckling.

The branding dispute appears to have been prompted by this year's invitations, headed "Wellington Welcomes You To Fashion Week!"

NZFW brand manager Myken Stewart has written to Wellington organiser Cameron Sneddon, saying confusion was arising between the two events.

Stewart said NZFW had trademarked the words "Fashion Week" and Sneddon should not refer to his event as such "without the Wellington in front as it's just too confusing and misleading".

Lawyers were consulted last year about Wellington using the words fashion week, "and they said we [NZFW] are totally in our rights to ask you to cease using it".

"We don't want to cause a war as we have always supported you and anyone else who supports the fashion industry, but I have always been very clear that we must protect our brand."

NZFW director Dame Pieter Stewart said she did not want a legal battle. She supported the Wellington event, but took issue with its name.

"The format of the Wellington event is more like fashion festival, similar to New Zealand Fashion Festival, or Melbourne Fashion Festival."

Fashion weeks are typically trade events, showcasing couture for the season ahead, with designers showing their collections, and are open to domestic and international delegates, such as media and buyers, but not the public, she said.

But WFW is open to the public, features predominantly current season shows, and is focused on the domestic market.

Ata Te Kanawa - founder of annual Maori fashion competition Miromoda, winners of which show at NZFW - said Wellington did not meet the quality and ethos of a fashion week, and should instead be called a "carnival, festival or circus".

"And for those of us that definitely know the difference between NZFW and whatever it is that he's putting on then I don't think it's fair to the public, actually."

Wellington spokeswoman Melissa Pearson said organisers had no plans to change the name.

Their legal advice was that the words "fashion week" were descriptive and no one person had the exclusive right to use them, she said.

The early April event, which will run over five days at Odlins Plaza on Wellington Waterfront, features 36 New Zealand designers - including Starfish, Robyn Mathieson, Moochi, Trelise Cooper and Kathryn Wilson. Tickets start at $35.

NZFW will be at Auckland's Viaduct Events Centre in September.

The Dominion Post