Silvia Azzali has had a career in the fashion industry that many can only dream of: After working at Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, La Perla, Trussardi, Ermanno Scervino and most recently Moschino, she is now part of the dual leadership team on the Executive Board of Wolford AG. Not only did she get to know many companies, but also many fields of expertise: After a degree in philosophy and a master's in Human Resources Management, she entered the workforce in human resources, later moving to the retail and franchising sector. Since November 2019 she has been a member of the Executive Board at Wolford, where she is responsible for Sales & Merchandising, Marketing, and Design. FashionUnited talked to Silvia Azzali about her career, her advice to women entering the workforce and the leadership style of women as part of the "Women in Leadership" series.
Please describe your career in your own words.
I think I could describe my career as successful, I have achieved more than I ever thought possible and I think this has happened because I have always been very passionate about what I was doing. I consider myself not very conventional, in life, as in my profession, I am not looking for recognition or a better title. I truly love the challenge of building long-lasting brands and businesses, also if it means going through painful transformation processes and changes. Having this passion for my job, the products, the consumers, is very important to me. I think that being authentic and real has given me the chance to explore different business territories, which enriched my professional background and also me as a person.
What does a typical day in your job look like?
Well, lately my typical day is filled with video calls. Virtual meetings with all teams: sales, marketing, merchandising, HR, product development, clients, distributors, you name it. It was difficult at the beginning to spend so much time in front of a screen, but I am getting used to it now.
Which professional advice would you give your younger self in her 20s and/or current graduates?
What I say all the time, find your passion.
Which of your qualities were particularly helpful for your career and your current position?
I think I am a good listener and I am a very curious person, I love to learn new things and keep myself constantly updated. Nowadays, we are all iPhones that need an upgrade every two months or so.
Do you believe that women have a different management style than men? How do they differ?
I am not sure that there are differences related to gender when it comes to management. I think that there are no definitive studies about this yet, maybe we will have them in a few years. In my experience, I can say that women, in general, pay more attention to people than men do and are more empathetic.
Do you see yourself as a mentor for other women? How do you encourage them?
For sure, I am doing my best. But you should ask the women I have and continue to work with, whether I am succeeding. I do believe that female empowerment comes from women and I try to do my best in providing opportunities. I think that encouragement, for anybody, man or woman, comes from allowing people to make mistakes and provide support or an open ear. Let them stand on their own feet but always be at their side to cheer them on.
Does Wolford specifically promote women? What does that look like?
Female empowerment has always been part of our DNA, naturally, as 99,9% of our products are for women. We are constantly developing products to allow women to be comfortable and provide them with the right foundation or accessories that will make them shine. Our mission is to provide the finest legwear in the world. Leveraging our heritage and design ethos, leading in quality and innovation, we encourage our consumers around the globe, to express themselves and be confident.
What changes has the year 2020 brought to your job?
The global pandemic has affected the company, as it has the entire industry, very much. It has also shown us that we need to change. We strongly believe in what Clarence Darrow once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change” and this is the direction we are going, through a more flexible and agile structure. For example, we have changed part of our production to create masks, investing in sustainability, changing the way we produce and consume, and really pushing our digitalization and digitization.
The message? Be the change you wish to see in the world. This message is for us internally very important and we want our consumer to be on board and join us on this path.
Wolford recently celebrated its 70th birthday. Over the past 70 years, women have made a lot of progress. Which of these milestones make you proud and what else would you like for women to achieve?
I am proud that women today can decide who they want to be. We did achieve a lot in many parts of the world, not everywhere yet. For the future, I do hope that what has been achieved by many today could be normality for every woman on the planet. I believe that being able to decide who you want to be, and what you want to do, should be possible and achievable for everyone.
This interview was previously published on FashionUnited.de. Translation and editing: Barbara Russ