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SAVOIR FLAIR: Exclusive Interview with Editor Haleh Nia

Based in Dubai, with contributing editors in London, Paris, New York and surprisingly Oklahoma,  Savoir Flair delivers a delightful array of fashion content for the aspiring fashionista. With a daily dose of features and articles as well as a virtual magazine you can browse through, they’ve garnered enough unique content to put themselves on the “virtual” map.

The name, a double entendre the Founder and Editor in Chief Haleh Nia created, is inspired by the popular French term savoir faire, which means the art of knowing what to do or say at the right time. And flair is exactly what this magazine has. A flair for showcasing the bright, the beautiful and of course, the fashionable.

The inspiring Haleh Nia tells us how she made it in the industry, her biggest inspiration and why the magazine will never go into print.

What motivated you to create Savoir Flair?

I sensed a niche in the industry and wanted to be the first to create an online fashion publication for the Middle Eastern market. I began setting up the business in the August of 2008, after years of wondering why no one else had thought of an international fashion magazine before. The concept behind Savoir Flair is that everything you see on the website is available to you, whether you live in Dubai, Paris, New York, London, or even Zimbabwe! We were the first online fashion magazine to come out of the region, and to this day are still one of the only publications worldwide devoted to delivering content for an international audience.

How did you start your business?

I always like to say there’s no better way to test your patience than to start a website from scratch. It was, to this day, the single most challenging thing I’ve done in my life. Thankfully, the very lovely and talented team at Needmore understood what I was looking for and put my exact vision onto paper – rather, the web.

How do you manage your business on a day to day basis and keep it running?

I’m extremely blessed to work with a team of very talented and enthusiastic individuals who are heavily invested in our brand. We also have the pleasure of working with the industry’s finest fashion houses, all of which have been tremendously supportive of Savoir Flair since day one. And of course, advertisers are the life and blood of our business. Some of them, such as Hermès, set the precedent for online advertising in the region by running a month-long campaign with us. We were one of only ten websites in the world on which the campaign ran, and the only one in all of Asia.

Who is the active team behind SF?

Our editorial, art, and ad sales departments are based in Dubai, while our web design team is based in Portland, Oregon. We work with a vast network of editors, writers, stylists, and photographers – some home-based, some international – to get exclusive content from the world over. Just this week we added five freelance writers to our team.

What was your breakthrough moment?

When we began getting tweets from celebrities and supermodels telling us they loved our magazine, I knew we were on to something amazing.

Have you had any exclusive features in your magazine?

Currently, we have at least five exclusive features per month, ranging from photoshoots (our first was with Diane Kruger) to interviews (like this month’s special, with the one and only Karl Lagerfeld). In the last few months, we’ve interviewed Julia Restoin Roitfeld, Erdem Moralioglu, Markus Lupfer, Anne Valerie Hash, and so many other brilliant individuals. We also frequently get online exclusives from fashion houses, which means we publish a new collection or video a week or two before it’s even sent to anyone else in the region.

What has been your proudest accomplishment in your work so far?

I would say getting the interview with Karl Lagerfeld was one of the proudest (and happiest) moments of my life. I also happened to be eating my favorite food (Japanese) at the time, which made the moment even more perfect.

What’s the toughest thing about being the Editor of a magazine?

The immediacy of content on the internet has made the amount of information we have to keep up with out of control. I would say that on a daily basis we’re exposed to over tens of thousands of images and tidbits of information, all of which have to be edited down so that we can present well-curated, up-to-date content for our readers.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Everywhere! It starts with visiting the shows at Fashion Week and taking in the trends for the new season. From there, we plan our editorial calendar around specific features for each issue, and supplement this with daily pullouts from online retailers to determine what’s being stocked in stores.

Who are the people that inspire you?

Above all, my mother, who’s also my BFF. Despite her very petite frame, she’s the strongest person I’ve ever known.

What is the best and worst thing about working in the fashion and publishing industry?

The best thing is going to Fashion Week and meeting some of the most creative and talented individuals in the world. The worst is coming back from Fashion Week exhausted, and with the flu – every season without fail.

Name three trends you’re looking forward to for Spring/Summer 2011.

I’m really looking forward to the LWD and lace trends. And I’m thrilled about color-blocking, though I’m usually known for my head-to-toe black ensembles.

Favorite…

Fashion designers?

At the moment, I’m heavily obsessed with Lanvin, Celine, and Carven. And I could never say no to Alexander Wang for my office attire.

Accessories designers?

Eddie Borgo, Charlotte Olympia, and Camilla Skovgaard are some of the designers I can’t get enough of right now. I’m also a years-long devotee of the incomparable Monsieur Louboutin, and a die-hard Chanel and Hermès fan when it comes to bags – though I’ve been dabbling with some Celine and Dior (particularly the Lady Dior) on the side.

Artists?

I’m currently fascinated with the Occidental collection by contemporary Iranian artist Aydin Aghdashloo. It’s genius.

Shopping destinations and shops?

Being a firm proponent of the online industry, I’m naturally addicted to online shopping. Net-a-Porter.com and Boutique1.com are my absolute favorites. I especially love Boutique1’s one-hour rush delivery… it’s literally instant gratification!

Other than fashion, what are some of your interests?

I love working with children and animals. I would have opened either a kindergarten or, even crazier, a petting zoo, if I weren’t doing this.

Finally, any advice to young entrepreneurs who have talent and aspirations?

Do one thing a day that scares you. And do what you love so your job feels more like a hobby than a career.

What are your plans for the near future when it comes to SF?

Due to popular demand, we’ve just announced a new Dubai edition of the website, for which we’re throwing a glamorous cocktail party with Boutique1, Kiehl’s, Okku, NBar, and Kitsch. This new edition is dedicated to the latest and greatest in fashion, food, and fun in our hometown. I’m so excited to be giving coverage to all our wonderful homegrown labels and designers!

Would you consider launching a print version of Savoir Flair?

Never. Print is, very sadly, a dying medium.

 

– Alya N. Al-Othman

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