For millennials who grew up consumed with print magazines and the rise of digital content, you’ll know of Zara Wong, and her dream career.
Starting out as an intern at Vogue, Zara quickly landed a job at Harper’s Bazaar, before working her way up the ranks at Vogue Australia.
Zara initially studied arts, commerce and international business – areas that are all capitalised on in her current role as head of content at Australia’s beauty and retail giant, MECCA. ‘I’m really pleased that this role is leaning more in the ‘numbers’ side,’ Zara says. ‘Even when in fashion editorial, I was really interested in the commercial and financial side, and while there are way more talented numbers people at MECCA, it’s something that is required in my role as well.’
This multifaceted position sees Zara working across the marketing, design, and visual merchandising teams, with daily tasks that range from writing for the MECCA Memo, planning new episodes of the MECCA Talks podcast, and developing social media content. Her favourite part of the job is conceptualising new campaigns (to be rolled out in-store and across multiple digital platforms) and devising the annual trend report. ‘This encompasses beauty of course, but also the zeitgeist, culture, style and lifestyle,’ Zara says. ‘I’m always interested in what’s popular, and why it’s popular (even if it’s not to my personal taste, I’m still intrigued as to why people are into it) – basically what makes people tick.
With Covid hanging around and a baby on the way, Zara is currently working from home most days, which is where we joined her for a day in the life!
I wake up between 6.30am and 7.15am. I try not to look at my phone, but I end up looking at my phone. I do the Wordle, and check the weather (I don’t understand people who can walk out of the house without checking the weather!)
I’m not a morning person, but I’m a “get on with it” person! I’m better once I’ve had time to ‘ease into’ the morning.
I start work around 8am either at my dining room table, right next to my kitchen, or I get to the office by driving. I used to walk to work pre-Covid, but honestly, I’ve just become more and more lazy.
My first tasks are usually checking emails, going through my calendar, and making sure I’m prepped for everything coming up. Depending on the day it could be reviewing the upcoming week’s worth of EDMs, Memo stories, the website homepage, or having catch-ups with teams to see how campaigns are progressing.
If we have major shoots happening I attend them, usually in Melbourne or in Sydney. This happens approximately every four to six weeks depending on the scale and focus of the campaigns.
The afternoon is normally lots of meetings! We might sometimes visit stores too to see how a campaign has rolled out, and speak to store team members in our MECCA stores for their feedback. We try to learn from each campaign and improve on them each time.
I finish up anytime between 5.30pm and 7pm, but sometimes it means catching up after hours as well.
I get bored easily, so I try to cook a wide range of different types of food for dinner. It might be baked salmon with salsa verde, lemon and citrus; sheet-pan chicken roasted with olives; steamed eggplant with rice and chicken soup; or stir-fried beef with eggs and peas with rice that my mum would make for me and I love. I cook a lot of Chinese food as well because of my heritage, so I ask my parents for tips, or there are great Chinese cookbooks by Fuchsia Dunlop for basics or Cecilia Chiang’s amazing book that’s no longer in print, but I found a secondhand copy online.
My husband and I enjoy cooking so we do some meal prep on the weekends and freeze portions that can be used later, so if we’re both busy for work and need something quickly, we’ll defrost something we made in advance like ragu, meatballs, or jiaozi dumplings.
I genuinely enjoy cooking, and even when I’ve had a stressful day, I’m often happy to cook because I find it quite meditative to just focus on the task at hand and get a great result. My family always knows when I’m a bit stressed when I just randomly whip up a banana cake!
To switch off I listen to music, read a novel or feature articles online, browse TikTok, or work on my Substack newsletter Screenshot This that comes out once a week. I started the newsletter in one of the many Melbourne lockdowns because it helped me count down week by week It’s a compilation of what I’ve recently loved to read/watch/experience/listen to.
I go to sleep between 10 and 11pm. I did enough all-nighters when I was in high school or uni, so eight and a half hours of sleep is my ideal!
Right now I’m listening to, watching, and reading…
Listening: For music, Haim, Caroline Polachek, Maggie Rogers, and Thelma Plum. For podcasts, Celebrity Memoir Book Club, Freakonomics, How To Build A Happy Life, The Great Women Artists, and Second Life.
Watching: The Dropout; Succession (I genuinely feel like it’s one of the best television shows in years); and How I Met Your Father (this is pretty terrible but I like Hilary Duff so I’m persevering. I’m very into high-low culture!)
Reading: At the moment I’m reading The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris. I also regularly read newspapers through Apple News; and longform articles in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, and Vox.
I’m the kind of person who is always sending tips or recommendations to friends if I watch/read/see something I think they might like, so I started a newsletter to pull it all together! I’ve also got book recommendations saved in my Instagram highlights.
Something I’ve learned the hard way is…
Doing work last minute with your back up against the wall gives you an amazing outcome, but it is usually an unpleasant experience!
Also, that I really need to eat properly in order to function. I used to travel extensively in my last role overseas (New York, Paris, London, Milan) and because I would be on the run, jet lagged, and tired, I’d be all over the place with my food. I would grab a choc chip cookie for breakfast (I’d be up since 5am because of jet lag or working, and be thinking ‘sugar, energy!’) as I ran out of my hotel room to meetings and shows. Lunch would be whatever and whenever I felt like (grilled cheese toastie? Sure!), before a heavy, rich dinner at 9pm. Then post-event/dinner drinks with friends? SURE! Then I’d come back to my hotel room for a late night with my laptop, as that’s when Australia would be awake. I
’d go hard and fast – I’m a very ‘work hard play hard’ kind of person – and then, I’d feel horrible, get really sick, and just wouldn’t be able to function at my optimum. You could do that a bit in your 20s, but I really couldn’t keep on going like that.
I really love food so I’m certainly no health nut, but I really have to eat sensibly with lots of protein, fruit and vegetables with plenty of sleep to function!