Every millennial will know the name Zara Wong. One of the most successful figures in Australian media, Zara lists Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, MECCA, and Aje Collective on her resume.
Zara was drawn to the world of media, storytelling, and fashion at just seven years old. Growing up in the capital of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, the Wong family only had three television channels to watch at home: ABC, Channel 10, and CNN.
“My mother and I used to love ‘Style with Elsa Klensch’, and would watch her interview Giorgio Armani, or visit Ian Schrager’s Royalton Hotel, and discuss the trend of boutique hotels,” Zara tells The Inarra.
Since childhood, Zara’s love of style has never wavered. “As a teenager, I was basically 13 going on 30 and not in that fun romcom Jennifer Garner-movie way, in that boring way where I could not wait to be a grown-up and work at a magazine. I knew early on what I liked and didn’t like.”
“I remember ripping out an image of Gwyneth Paltrow in a black shirt, bootcut denim jeans, and a crystal brooch,” she recalls. “I would have been 15, and I replicated that outfit with jeans I bought in Hong Kong, a shirt probably from the likes of Marcs on sale, and a vintage brooch from the Balmain markets.”
A fellow fashion enthusiast, her mother owned a boutique in Port Moresby where she would stock a roster of Australian designers. But that didn’t mean it was easy for Zara to make her foray into the fashion industry.
“Although I loved fashion – my mother and her mother are both very stylish – I had zero contacts” Zara explains. “But I am a good researcher, I would regularly read the masthead, so I did a lot of cold-calling and emailing. I was persistent!”
And the hard work eventually paid off. Zara’s first internship was at American Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily in the financial reporting department. “I got in because I was one of the rare applicants studying finance, so I could read a balance sheet!” she laughs.
“Internships in those days were a lot more prevalent in the USA so easier to crack,” Zara continues. “I stayed in very basic student housing, a dorm room with shared bathrooms, and interned in New York for three months.”