A Day in the Life of Savoir Flair’s Editor-in-Chief, Haleh Nia

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In honor of Savoir Flair’s seventh anniversary, our editors each reveal a day in their lives. Read on to learn about the making of a luxury magazine and what goes on behind the scenes as we work — day in and day out — to reveal the Middle East’s most inspirational faces, places, and spaces to our readers.

Meet Savoir Flair’s Founding Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Haleh Nia.

GIF: Courtesy of Giphy

7 a.m.

I’m a terrible sleeper, so I tend to have trouble waking up early. My sleep gets ‘heavy’ around 6 a.m., so by the time my alarm – usually my favorite song of the moment to get me energized – rings at 7 a.m, I’m inclined to hit snooze several times. I’m currently averaging 2 snoozes… a huge improvement from years past.

7:30 a.m.

The thought of a hot cup of coffee is usually what encourages me to get out of bed. I don’t actually enjoy most types of coffees as I find them to be too bitter. There is, however, a hazelnut coffee that I’m obsessed with, but I can only find it in Vancouver, where my family has a summer home. I bring back at least 20 jars of it with me to Dubai every year. Having to explain this obsession at the airport is not fun, believe me.

I have a big mug of coffee to start my day, and then do 40 minutes on the elliptical in my home gym or, on a busier day, 20 minutes of laps in the pool. It’s the only time of day I manage to squeeze a little bit of exercise in – my evenings are jam-packed with dinners and events, as you’ll later see.

I have a stretching routine that I developed with Dr. Tamara, my incredible chiropractor from DISC Clinic (she changed my life and I’m forever indebted to her for it). The exercises give me enormous relief from the strains of being behind a computer for most of the day. I begin these stretches in the morning and will repeat them every 50 minutes or so to make sure I’m not misaligning my body.

Photo: Courtesy of Haleh Nia

8 a.m.

I am in love with skincare and makeup, and take great pleasure in my beauty routine each morning. After a shower, I put my hair up in a bun and diligently apply my creams and serums. I’ve been told that I have good skin for 31, which I credit to starting a proper, adult skincare regime at the age of 20 (my favorite was La Mer and continues to be to this day). “Prevention is better than cure,” as the saying goes. I’ve never opted for Botox or fillers, but women younger than me are doing it now and taking great pride in it, which is really strange to me. My personal ideal – and what we strongly bring to our magazines – is a celebration of natural beauty. I don’t understand where our society is headed these days with women constantly nipping, tucking, filling, and contouring. Makeup is meant to enhance you, not change you. I feel very strongly about the messages women are sending to each other these days and, to be honest, every time I scroll through my Instagram feed and see alien-looking women, I find it truly disturbing.

I layer anywhere from 4 to 8 creams and serums, depending on the day of the week, and then take some time to check my calendar and answer urgent e-mails and WhatsApp messages before I get to the office. This gives me both visibility on my day and a chance for my creams to sink in properly. I then put on some music to set the mood for the morning.

8:30 a.m.

Now it’s time for makeup. I absolutely love this part of the day and I’ve learned some amazing things from all the talented makeup artists we work with on photoshoots. I really take my time to enjoy the process of applying makeup – it’s almost therapeutic for me. I can manage a full face in less than 20 minutes, which is quite impressive considering I do a mean cat-eye every morning without looking like a panda.

9 a.m.

This is when I do my hair, which also takes 20 minutes. Jen Atkin has been doing my hair for 3 years now and she recently gave me a shoulder-grazing style, which is the shortest cut I’ve ever had. It’s super manageable and makes me look cooler than I actually am. The first time she cut my hair, she asked, “What is this ‘Boss Lady’ hair?” I had the typical Dubai hair at the time – long layers with lots of curls. She was right. Tracey Cunningham has been coloring my hair for 3 years now too. I see her every 6 months when she’s in the city. She’s lightened me up for summer and my look is a lot less fussy than it used to be.

I blow-dry my hair straight, and then curl it with an iron in smaller sections. The trick is to leave 1 inch of your hair outside of the iron – it gives you that cool, coveted ‘Jen Atkin look’, which has straighter ends. I then spray my hair with Bumble and bumble’s ‘Thickening Dryspun Finish’, which gives me unprecedented volume. I’ve never experienced a hair product as good as this is.

9:30 a.m.

After a few more e-mails and phone calls – typically, our incredible Managing Editor Noor calls or messages me several times before I even get into the office – I head to my closet to pick out an outfit for the day. I’m not one to prepare in advance. I like to choose my outfit depending on my mood in the morning, and it’s usually determined from the feet up as the shoes I wear usually match my schedule for the day (sneakers if I’m on set, flats if I’m in the office, and mid-heels like one of my 3 Chanel slingbacks if I have meetings). I rarely ever wear high heels. I used to be able to wear 6-inch heels, but they’re one of the reasons I started seeing Dr. Tamara. I suppose after the age of 30, you’re just not willing to compromise your health in the name of a beautiful shoe. I’ve recently designed a bigger closet that houses all the shoes I no longer wear. It’s a shrine to them, in some superficial sort of way.

The last part of getting ready involves accessories, which I’m obsessed with. I always joke that in my former life, I was an Accessories Editor. I wear no less than 10 pieces of jewelry every day – 3 Cartier ‘Love’ bracelets, a Cartier ‘Baignoire’ watch, 2 ‘Serpenti’ rings, 2 Piaget ‘Possession’ rings, and some Chanel ‘Camélia’ earrings. These are the pieces I wear every day and can’t leave the house without. I’ll then typically add more on top of these – maybe a Tiffany ‘T’ bracelet, a statement necklace from Oscar de la Renta, or a Repossi ring (or two). It might sound like I look like Mr. T, but I assure you, I make it work.

I need all of life’s necessities with me at all times, so I usually carry a big ‘Kelly’ bag with me to work, and a small clutch – I love Nathalie Trad and L’Afshar that I leave in my car for the evening.

Photo: Courtesy of Haleh Nia

9:40 a.m.

I’m lucky that my office is only 5 minutes away from my home. This is my chance to play one truly amazing song, really loud, on the way to work. People who know me are “shocked” by my taste in music because I’m apparently too “ladylike” to listen to it – think Biggie, Jay-Z, Kanye, Drake, and any manner of hip-hop and R&B, especially the classics from the 90s.

On alternate days, this is a quick chance for me to call our CFO on the way to work and catch up with him on the health of the business. He sits in an office in Jebel Ali and I only get to meet with him once a week, so these between-meetings calls are really necessary.

9:45 a.m.

When I founded the company 7 years ago, I never would have believed that down the line, I would be working with such an incredible team. Our people make our company amazing. I always say, “Give our exact product to another group of people and it won’t be the same thing.” Year after year, we are thrilled to add people to our team who believe in the ambitious vision we have for the company. They are a group of highly energetic, cultured, driven, enlightened, and progressive people who really make the dream happen. Over the years, they have become my second family. I’ve tried to cultivate a really entrepreneurial environment in which they aren’t simply executing my vision – they’re executing their own. A lot of the ideas you see at both Savoir Flair and Styly.com, our newly launched Arabic sister website, stem from our amazing colleagues. Here, you have an opportunity for your voice to be heard. I think it’s one of the reasons people love working at our company. We do have a pretty awesome culture, if I may say so myself.

10 a.m.

On Sundays, our company offers breakfast to all of its employees. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to catch up after the weekend. I make my second cup of hazelnut coffee and enter our first meeting of the day, the ‘Morning Briefing’, which involves all the employees in the company. We usually do this standing up – it’ll take a lot longer than the 15 minutes we have allotted to it if we sit down and get too comfortable and distracted. The Commercial and Operations teams leave and then it’s just the editors left standing for an editorial meeting. This is my rare chance to see everyone together before they head out of the office for shoots, events, meetings, and press days. During this time, we set the tone for the day, highlight achievements of the past week, discuss responsive content, share global news items, and reach out to each other for support on bigger production items or events.

10:15 a.m.

I sit back at my desk where our Office Manager, Anna, and my assistant, Daria, bring to my attention any HR/admin tasks that need to be handled. Anna and Daria save my life, for lack of a better term, on a daily basis. I’ll sign any invoices, cheques, vacation forms, or anything else they’ll need and once I’ve gotten that out the way, I can focus on the rest of my day, which involves juggling my roles as Publisher and Editor-in-Chief.

My role as Publisher, which sees me running the commercial side of the business, requires me to put on my thinking hat and take on a strategic role. I oversee all the partnerships, sales, social, marketing, HR, admin, and operations as well as the legal aspects of the company alongside our excellent Head of Business Development and Operations, Julia. She and I currently sit in different offices (more on that later), but we meet frequently throughout the day to catch up. She operates on a multi-functional level and serves as my eyes and ears in the company. Needless to say, we work very closely together.

Meanwhile, my role as Editor-in-Chief requires me to be a lot more creative, and this can sometimes be a challenge as I literally have to switch from role to role in a matter of seconds. Thankfully, our dream team makes it very easy for me to juggle both roles. They are also incredibly accommodating of my increasingly busy schedule – now that we have launched Styly.com, I also spend a good amount of my day with our Arabic team.

Photo: Courtesy of Haleh Nia

11 a.m.

Noor manages the Editorial department seamlessly, and we work very closely to develop the strategy for our editorial content from month to month and week to week. We meet several times a day to discuss workflow, deadlines, shoots, and how to best leverage our resources across content, production, events, and social. I call her “Ms. Octopus” as she is the best multi-tasker I know. She has a session with me that she calls “QT”, short for Question Time. This happens at least once a day, if not more, during peak periods of content such as Fashion Week. For the remainder of the day, we concurrently edit, approve, and publish content on the website as soon as it comes in from the editors. We’ve just hired a talented Sub Editor, Samia, who we have immense hope will take a lot of this daily burden off of us.

During our impromptu morning catch-ups, I guzzle down a green juice that I’ve brought from home. I use the same ingredients every day – coconut water, kale, pineapple, and bananas – and I never tire of it because it’s that good.

The rest of my day is spent trying to tackle my inbox in whatever few spare minutes I have. This is easily my greatest challenge in life as I endeavor every day to reach ‘Inbox Zero’, a term coined by productivity expert Merlin Mann that I have adopted and follow religiously.

12 p.m.

I meet with Julia and our talented Head of Technology, Andrea, who is one of the few men in the company. He operates as the ‘neck’ that keeps both our websites running smoothly. After 7 years, Savoir Flair has developed into a really large-scale website – one of the most advanced publishing platforms in the world, in fact. It requires an enormous amount of programming, coding, maintenance, and future-proofing that few in this industry can manage. Andrea is the man for the job. He and Julia work really closely with each other to innovate from within, and the three of us meet regularly to discuss digital strategy, best practices, and new technology. We launched as pioneers in digital publishing back in 2009 as the first online magazine in the Middle East and continue – very proudly – to set benchmarks in our market for technical, commercial, and editorial innovation.

1 p.m.

I typically leave for a lunch meeting around this time. Depending on whether it’s a meeting with a client or PR, either Noor or Julia will join me. On any given day of the week, you can find me at either Zuma or La Petite Maison, my absolute favorites in town. I always try to make lunch a quick affair, but between three courses and the trek to and from DIFC, I’m not usually back for another 2 hours. I really enjoy meeting with our clients on an informal basis – it gives us a good opportunity to brainstorm on future collaborations, projects, and partnerships without the pressure of being in stuffy corporate offices.

If I’m not out at a lunch meeting, I usually order in sushi or a healthy-ish salad with the team. We love sitting together to eat. I get to catch up with everyone’s lives and we use this stretch, however short, to spend some quality time with one another.

3 p.m.

I come back to the office and sit with our Head of Creative, an enormously talented colleague (and supermom!) named Kris. She oversees all the visual elements of our websites and company. We’ll either go over our weekly newsletter, finalize the presentation for a big client pitch, or decide on the promotional images we will be using across our platforms for the week. I might also use this hour to do a run-through with our phenomenal Fashion Editor, Camille, who has been with us for 7 years and was Employee No. 1 at the company. She will quickly take me through a rack of clothes and set-up of accessories that she plans to use for a shoot that week.

Photo: Courtesy of Haleh Nia

4 p.m.

I head back to my desk hoping for some quiet time and a chance to go over e-mails and make important calls. I leave my door open, which means ‘feel free to come in’, so anyone can get some time with me. This might be our remarkably talented Photo Editor, Maya, who conceptualizes and oversees all of our photo and video content or our brilliantly talented and brilliantly funny Features Editor and Integrated Marketing Manager, Dylan, who might come in to show me the latest Kanye meme or play her favorite new song for me. We also sometimes discuss work in between. But only sometimes.

I stop by the desks of Frankie, our Beauty Editor, and Sophie, our Accessories Editor, for a fun chat. Frankie and Sophie are incredibly lovely and so devoted to their respective categories. Today, they’ve kindly volunteered to tag team as leaders for a fire drill that the building is performing next week.

4:30 p.m.

We are currently between 3 offices – our original on the 27th floor, another under construction next door, and a back office for our Commercial and Operations teams on the 21st. I am so excited to finally expand our space and move everyone from the back office upstairs. It’s been about a year that we’ve been divided, but we had no choice as we expanded the team and couldn’t find an office big enough to support us all. I step out to meet with our contractor and discuss the construction that will take place over the summer.

5 p.m.

I had scheduled a meeting with our Styly.com team earlier in the morning, but it gets postponed to 6 p.m. because of my schedule today. I meet with them to discuss the following week’s editorial content and strategy.

7 p.m.

At this time of the day, I’m already quite exhausted, but as the office slowly quiets down, I have the chance to get some actual work done on my own. I’ll either try to tackle my inbox or write the article for a designer interview I might have conducted recently. This hour is gold. I get so much done until I have to leave.

Noor and I are usually the last ones in the office, and we regularly have dinners or events that we have to attend for work. I’ll put on some lipstick and maybe do a quick-change of heels before I head out.

8 p.m.

Despite my beyond-belief levels of fatigue, I attend a press dinner or ‘fashion party’. As much as we dread the late hours, it’s really important for us to have a presence at these events. Noor always jokes that you can tell from the exhausted looks on our faces that we – along with the other publishers and journalists – are the working girls at the party. Meanwhile, the influencers and “It” girls look absolutely picture-perfect and camera-ready.

10 p.m.

I always excuse myself and call it an early night. I head back home and do some more work – seriously, when do I ever stop? – over the next 2 or 3 hours. When I’m done, I spend about 15 minutes on my nightly skincare routine. I am so devoted to the process – I cleanse not once, not twice, but three times before using Dr. Dennis Gross’ exfoliating AHA pads all over my face. They’ve completely transformed my skin. A few lotions and potions (7 to be exact) later, I’m ready for bed.

1 a.m.

I’ve developed a bad habit over the years of not being able to sleep unless I’m watching a TV show. I’ll turn on the latest episode of my current favorites on iTunes or Netflix, put on some cashmere socks and a silk eye mask, and slowly (and hopefully) drift off to sleep.

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