I worked studiously on Labour’s small business policy for over a year. When the time came during the 2014 election campaign, I joined our leader for its launch. Journalists, cameras and microphones turned up. I had planned the launch in a fireworks factory.
My policy redirected hundreds of millions of dollars. But it didn’t secure one single column inch in any newspaper. Nor a single sound bite on radio or TV. The fireworks went off, but the policy was too sensible to compete with other political happenings that day.
The flight home to Dunedin generated more publicity. I sat next to Aaron Smith. The “selfie” I posted to Facebook went nuts. Later I discovered I’d inadvertently announced his re-signing with the Highlanders. I’m pretty sure neither of us realised during our chat that while his All Black future had been declared publicly, his Highlanders one hadn’t. Newspaper columns followed.
Lesson learnt. Worthy policy won’t always capture the imagination.
I took a different approach when I wanted to support Dunedin fashion. My friend Tamsin Cooper is a local designer. She was happy to help. After winning the Dunedin North seat at the election, I simply wore a red silk blazer to the formal sign-in ceremony at parliament. Dozens of more dour suits formed the perfect backdrop.
There were column inches everywhere. Obscure rags in towns I’ve hardly heard of carried my picture. Both major news channels gave me coverage. And there were follow-up articles. People love celebrity and fashion.
ID fashion week captures the imagination. There’s an edgy insider feel — even on your first visit. The railway station’s grandeur seldom finds a better expression. The Dunedin personalities — old and new — who pack out the event have faces lit with possibility. It’s expensive, but plenty of students find their way in as models, designers or interested friends.
The fashion industry is pregnant with possibility — especially in a country heavily dependent upon dairy (prices dropping 51 percent since February 2014) and tourism (an industry heavy with low-wage jobs). Diversification of our economy is crucial to our country’s future prosperity. We are a long way from many of our trading partners, and some of our best opportunities lie in the high-tech weightless economy. Design is an important part of that.
In our local community there are already fashionistas, both struggling and successful. They are good examples of small businesses worth supporting.