Meet Sonia Stagg! Sonia is the showroom director at Maryam Nassir Zadeh and has the inside scoop on what has propelled this cult brand to iconic status so fast - a solid team and commitment to authenticity. Sonia started off by asking for what she wanted and has come pretty far since then. Today Lisa Says Gah hangs out with Sonia at the MNZ showroom in NYC's Chinatown to check in with her about prioritizing experiences over materials, avoiding putting all your eggs in one social media basket and working hard to keep life IRL. Enjoy!
LSG: First off! Tell us about your role at MNZ. How did you land this job? What do you love about it?
I started working with MNZ as the store manager and assistant buyer. Before that, I met Maryam while working with a brand she represented, Bodkin. The first time I walked into the store, I felt like I was a kid walking into my mom's cool, worldly friend's house. Everything was at once intimidating and inviting. When I knew it was time to leave my previous job I emailed Maryam to see if there was a chance I could come work for her and was so touched when she remembered me, and by her warmth and strength. I shifted over to become the showroom director in 2014. There are great aspects of both sides—buying and selling—but what I love about my current role is helping the incredible designers we represent achieve their goals. Consulting for and making sales for such intelligent, creative people who care about their processes and bringing in something new and personal is a constant reward.
LSG: Describe your typical workday.
It's a pretty typical 2016 job—I send emails all day. Except during market, which is fashion week and the month following; I meet with buyers and tell them all about our collections, and have a model try everything on. I help them take notes and later help them confirm their orders. Twice a year I travel to Paris with some of the collections to show buyers there too.
LSG: Do you have a morning ritual? What are 5 “must-haves” for a productive day?
1. I do Daily Burn 365 in my apartment. It's for the endorphins mostly, but I have also gotten used to half an hour of an instructor telling me how great I am just for making an effort first thing in the morning. 2. I read a book on the train, 3. Have coffee, and 4. only then I start working. 5. I try to leave for lunch and enjoy the sights and sounds of Chinatown. When I'm done for the day, I try not to work from home unless I'm super behind. I like my work, so it's hard not to keep going, but I've learned that to maximize productivity, it's actually best to only work at work.
LSG: What is your personal style most influenced by right now?
My twin sister. The Chinese fashion exhibition at the Met last year. Prizzi's Honor.
LSG: Describe one of your favorite outfits?
A BCBG woodgrain print long-sleeve shirt, Moschino jeans and Chuck Taylors. My favorite part is a ring my friend Alix Perry made me; it has a Mexican Fire Opal that looks like a soft-boiled egg.
LSG: Did your style change when you got this job? How so?
My style became less "dream it" more "be it."
LSG: Sometimes people land their dream positions then burnout or plateau. How do you keep it fresh and stay inspired?
Practice. I've burnt out at other jobs. Working with a great team makes a huge difference. Talking with the designers and with buyers so much makes it easier to keep motivated.
LSG: What are your tips for maintaining work/life balance?
See above... plus travel. Maryam is a great role model for that. I know it's not something everything can easily do, but I'd rather go to the other side of the world for a week than have nice things.
LSG: What is the first career you remember wanting to pursue? Do you see any connection to what you're doing now?
When I was a kid, I told my parents I wanted to be a sandwich artist. I've diversified a bit.
LSG: Do you relax or blow off steam to unwind?
I love TV.
LSG: Any advice for people aspiring to work in the fashion business? What is the most important first step?
Fashion is a tough, competitive industry just like the movies and the art-world. You have to be the full package. If you have a new perspective, by all means show it off on social media, but make sure you know how to organize, analyze and push yourself too.
LSG: Most valuable lessons learned from a mistake?
When I worked at a museum, I pulled an all-nighter to try to get ahead. I was so sleepy I accidentally deleted all the work I had done that night. Just go to bed.
LSG: What’s next? Speculatively, where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? Wildest fantasies and dream scenarios are accepted.
I just want our company to keep growing. And I want to go to Nigeria, Iceland, India, the American South, Malaysia, Cuba, Morocco, Iran, Turkey, Italy and the Netherlands.
Interview: Olivia La Roche
Photography: Anna-Alexia Basile
Design: Alaia Manley