In addition to being Stevie Wonder’s biggest fan, Zakithi Mncwango is also the Africa marketing manager of Safilo. Safilo is an Italian eyewear creator and distributor of global fashion and lifestyle brands such as Fendi, Jimmy Choo, Hugo Boss and Marc Jacobs to name a few.
Zakithi is an economics graduate happily working with the world’s leading fashion brands. She is highly skilled and experienced in luxury brand marketing management across the continent, with an interest in luxury brand strategy.
When she is not building brands, Zakithi mentors marketing graduates and enjoys lunches that turn into dinners with great friends.
Walk us through your career journey to this point of Marketing Manager at Safilo?
In a way, my career journey has been a series of decisions and moments of grace that have arisen as result of my decision to “follow my bliss”. I loved economics in school, the idea that I could have a contribution more meaningful than just an opinion on the workings of the world; lead me to the study in university.
While at university I sort of wandered into marketing, and in the line of my life, I followed my curiosity and throughout the course of some years since I graduated I have been able to work on some of the world’s leading food and beverage, cosmetics and fashion brands.
As a marketing manager, your days are truly never the same. Through the many industries I have worked in, I’ve been exposed to all kinds of wonderful and interesting consumers. Our team must find new ways to communicate our key brand messages in this dramatically changing digital connected age.
Now, I work with the Italian company Safilo that distributes some of the world’s leading fashion and lifestyle eyewear brands. I consider myself to still be in the early stages of my career journey but I’m having fun, reveling in challenges that come and finding new ways to talk about some truly iconic brands. I keep following the great yellow brick road of my career and trusting in my bliss.
Share with us two major lessons learnt climbing your career ladder?
Be authentic. The truest and realest version of yourself as you make your way through your career will get you further than a put-on version of someone else. It’s wildly rewarding to feel valued for who you are, and I’ve learnt in time that it will probably get you further than anything else.
Do the very best you can with what you have and BE YOURSELF. I’ve seen time and time again that as you build a circle of influence throughout your career, authentic connection is the primary quality that directs the power of the relationships you can build professionally.
Secondly, decide. It’s a common state I think to always seek external counsel or opinion before you make any decision. Be it what you’ll have for lunch or whether you’ll take the red pair of shoes or the green pair and inevitably bigger professional decisions such as whether to re-shoot a big budget tv ad or change direction on a brand strategy.
The point is, at one stage or another there will be no one to co-opt the decision making with. There’ll be no time. You may have a set of choices with various probable outcomes and not enough time to explore them all.
Whichever stage in your career, don’t shy away from leading the decision-making process. It could all go wrong. Or it could all go wonderfully well. Either way, at the start of it, you must decide. So, decide.
What do you enjoy most and least about what you do?
I work with some of the world’s most beautiful and inspiring brands. I love this! Every day, our team must find new ways to keep these brands fresh and interesting, I love that challenge.
Everyone wants to be at the top. It’s a constant process of having to re-invent and this is sometimes very difficult. The competition is fast, so we must be faster. A challenge we rise to!
Working at Safilo gives you great exposure to luxury brands, are there times you get star struck or rather brand struck working with some huge brands and how do you manage to keep your cool?
Yeah sure, working with global icons, of course, I get a secret thrill! This doesn’t go away I’m afraid, and I hope it never does.
I think with time I have managed to gasp and shriek a little less loudly in the office environment. But to be honest I love the brands I work with so I really revel in the chance to talk excitedly about them.
What would you say is your major goal for 2017 and how do you plan to achieve it?
In 2017, I would like to get the “cobwebs and dust” off my French. For working purposes it’s fundamental to me as I travel. I’ve already signed up for a class so I’m looking forward to that.
I’m also looking to grow my professional network as I think it’s vital to personal growth to be connected to people especially from all walks of life. The major 2017 goal though is to have fun. Lots of it!
We know you love Alber Elbaz, which other designers do you fancy and why?
I don’t think there are any additional accolades I could give to Ozwald Boateng that he hasn’t yet received. He is truly a pioneer. His design philosophy and how it continues to evolve is truly magic. I’m lucky to be alive in a world where I can witness that kind of genius.
I used to have my own blog and in that time found the work of Aisha Obuobi’s Christie Brown. Her work is truly wonderful. It’s a contemporary African aesthetic that belongs all over the world. I continue to watch and marvel at her work!
What is the most recent luxury item you bought for yourself?
I bought myself a new pair of Marc Jacobs and Fendi sunglasses from the latest collections as well a gorgeous clutch bag!
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