Ahlya Fateh is the Managing Director of Amanda Wakeley Ltd. We caught up with her on her career journey so far:
- What encouraged you to study French and Russian? My uncle Syed Usama Rafique was a ballet dancer and studied in the Soviet Union at the Vaganova School in Leningrad as it was then before joining the Kirov. I was ballet mad as a child and so this inspired me to learn Russian and French at school where I fell in love with the language and literature. As a result I went on to read Modern Languages at Exeter University and then lived and worked in Paris as a student and then later in Moscow with Vogue Russia. Being able to communicate in a foreign country enables you to assimilate quicker and endears you (hopefully!) to your colleagues it also gives you a unique insight into all those quirks that have no translation!
- Can you talk me through your career journey, from University to where you are now? I left university to become an audit trainee with a large accountancy firm but I soon realised that this wasn’t the right fit for me so I moved to Conde Nast International where I remained for five years. During this time I was seconded to Moscow for the launch of Vogue Russia where I was Editorial Business Director for two years before returning to London. I was then made Managing Editor of Tatler magazine for nine years before moving into management at Tata Naka, a luxury design house as their Managing Director where I remained for four years before being head hunted to join Amanda Wakeley as Managing Director. There that’s two decades summed up in a few sentences!
- What does a day in the Amanda Wakeley office entail? Depends which day. Mondays and Tuesdays are pretty structured with trade meetings reviewing targets for the week/month/quarter etc; catch ups with Amanda and other heads of department. We are working on up to three collections concurrently so I could be reviewing product; approving the buy; planning the advertising and marketing campaigns – no two days are the same which is why I love it. If I do go out for lunch it is work related and I am trying to make myself get out from behind my desk and get some fresh air even if it just a quick walk around the block. Evenings – I do get invited to a lot of industry events but we also run a lot of instore events – Wakeley Well Being which could see us featuring a leading nutritionist; facialist; mindful yoga and even street dance sessions!
- What is a career highlight? It’s always a huge rush when we see someone in the public eye wearing Wakeley whether it is a film star; the Prime Minister or a member of the Royal family but sometimes the biggest and most rewarding moments are when we receive positive feedback from customers about how wearing Wakeley has made them feel empowered and confident. I have recently taken on more public speaking engagements and when women come up to me after the talk to say that what I said really affected them that is a wonderful feeling!
- What’s the five year plan for Amanda Wakeley? To grow the business internationally via e-commerce which is really evolving into our flagship store as well as explore wholesale distribution – just keep building!
- How do you unwind? I do a ballet class once a week – I discovered this brilliant teacher last summer and it has been a lifesaver. To have to focus on your body, your rhythm, interpreting the music etc etc just doesn’t leave any room for the inner chatter which is a real escape! I also spend time as much time as I can with my daughters when I am not working; they have a marvellous outlook on everything that just takes me out of myself. Finally make time for friendships and nurture them – my friends are a huge wealth of support; laughter and just plain fun!
- Do you have any advice for British-Pakistanis wanting to follow a similar career trajectory as you? Dreaming is good but doing is better – I loved the magazine world but didn’t think I was the right type so I went and became an accountant. But when I actually got brave enough to apply the whole process was relatively simple thereby proving that some industries have a veneer of mystery around them but underneath they are just companies that need staff to work for them. So be fearless in your pursuit of your own career path!
Find out more about Amanda Wakeleyhere