Fashion flair

Small-town girl Kathryn Sakalis went on to become a director at Foschini, one of the country’s top fashion outlets.

Despite her small-town beginnings, Kathryn Sakalis set her sights high when she graduated in 1990 as the top student in marketing in her final year of business science honours at UCT.

‘I wanted to become a marketing director of a multi-million rand brand,’ she says.

Fast-forward to today and she’s GM at The Foschini Group (TFG), handling customer relationship management and corporate communications.

She joined TFG soon after graduating and a week later she discovered she was pregnant with her first child.

Being a mother to two sons, now aged 8 and 12, hasn’t prevented her from becoming an integral part of a five-year advertising, marketing and promotional campaign that turned the company around.

The Foschini Group (TFG) keeps on growing and recently launched the on-trend accessories chain store Mat & May.

Apart from pushing the company’s expansion, her social responsibility achievements include adopting Blue Downs Orphanage and launching the Foschini Fashion Design Awards.

The award winners, who were announced at the end of last month, are given the opportunity to complete a retail design internship with Foschini and launch a limited range in stores.

What turned a small-town girl from Douglas in the Northern Cape into a high achiever?

Always believe in yourself. Anyone from anywhere can achieve anything if they really want to. I was fortunate to have supportive parents, and now a supportive husband who encourages me.

What strategies helped you cope with a high-powered job and two young children?

There is no such thing as a perfect balance. You work out what is best for you and your family. What works for me may not necessarily work for you. And I’ve always kept my sense of humour!

Advice for young women who want to emulate you?

Do what you are passionate about and be passionate about what you do. Success will follow. First impressions are lasting.

Your greatest achievement?

Working on the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and meeting one of the world’s few great leaders. It is a pity his message and example have not been emulated more.

What still gives you a thrill in your work?

Coming up with a new, innovative concept. I work in such an exciting industry – retail and fashion – that it is hard not to enjoy my job.

The Foschini Group has won a number of awards over the past five years, and it is always great to see your hard work rewarded.

Things I’ve learned the hard way

  1. There’s a difference between sympathy and empathy. Work on the latter.
  2. It’s always better to give honest feedback, no matter how difficult.
  3.  It’s impossible to do everything yourself. Learn to delegate. I try to work on the 3D principle – delete, do or delegate.

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