From the cutting table to the runway, Deanne Mayocchi balances business and fashion

Deanne Mayocchi grew up surrounded by fabrics and beautiful dresses.

From a young age her mum skilfully sewed her dresses which she designed herself. Throughout her teenage years, Mayocchi started to realise her own love of fashion and after leaving high school she studied fashion design and worked for a local Brisbane designer in a small business.

Just over 10 years ago Mayocchi launched her own fashion brand, Maiocchi, a brand inspired by her travels and experiences. Rather than following trends, Mayocchi says her aim is to enhance women’s assets, no matter their size or shape.

In the beginning, Mayocchi sold her products to eight stores in Brisbane, but over the past 10 years Maiocchi has established three of its own stores and now has 60 wholesale stockists. Last year it made a turnover of $1.8 million and this year it has seen a 40% jump in wholesale sales of its spring/summer 2013 range.

SmartCompany spoke to Mayocchi about her business experiences, strategies for growing the business in a tough retail environment and finding the balance between the business side and creative side of the business.

Name: Deanne Mayocchi

Company: Maiocchi

Location: Brisbane

Mornings

Mayocchi achieves her best work in the quiet of her own home, before her son and partner get up for the day.

“I’m a bit of an early bird, I often get up while it’s still dark at 4am or 5am. I’ve got a little office at home so I sneak into my office and do a little bit of work while I’m waiting for Roger my partner and our little boy who is three to wake up.”

After getting some work done, Mayochhi spends some time with her family before heading into the studio.

“I get here by 8:30-9am and then I’m either designing, I design three collections a year, or I’m overseeing the retail stores.

“We have an operations manager here and a public relations manager and marketing manager, so I’m always meeting with them and checking up on what’s happening,” she says.

Daily life

Most of Mayocchi’s time during the day is consumed with the “general running of the business”.

“I oversee the day-to-day running of the stores and the production, and a lot of what I do is being on the computer emailing and researching things.

“Once I come into the studio for the day it’s constant interruptions. People are constantly coming in and saying ‘Deanne, we have a shrinkage problem with this fabric’ or ‘this fabric isn’t available now we have to find someone else’ or ‘can you okay this design’. I think most of my job is about putting out fires or problem-solving all day,” she says.

Contrary to many retail businesses, since the global financial crisis Maiocchi’s sales have increased and Mayocchi attributes this to the unique nature of the brand and recent changes to the business processes.

“One reason we’ve seen this growth since the GFC is, being a smaller boutique, we look to have a point of difference. There has been a lot in the press about e-commerce taking away business from the stores, but with Maiocchi you can’t get it anywhere overseas or online, it’s an exclusive boutique product.

“Everyone else is competing with so much of the same sort of thing out there and the one thing our customers say time and time again is ‘when I wear your dresses, people comment and stop me in the street and say what a gorgeous dress’.  We’re all about the dynamic prints and colours, we’re not making plain dresses,” she says.

Mayocchi says the brand’s recent growth in its wholesale sales is due to changes to its wholesale approach.

“We’ve taken on bricks and mortar agents in each state, rather than one agent who travels. The agents are based in Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland, and rather than having an agent who constantly travels and only has the range for a few days in a hotel in each state, you’ve got someone with the range there for a full two or three weeks,” she says.

When designing the products, Mayocchi says the brand has always striven to be “customer-insight driven”.

“We really listen to our customers and we do a lot of customer research so our products are customer-insight driven.

“The same with our wholesale customers, we listen to their feedback every season. I’m not really trend-driven when I’m designing, it’s more like I’m designing something that’s timeless and customer-focused,” she says.

Feedback from her customers and wholesale stockists inform each of Mayocchi’s designs.

“To do this customer research we recently did a survey through Facebook and our database, and had more than 800 people fill out the survey. We also conducted focus nights in one of our stores.

“We’ve always got the customer in mind, I think anyone can design for a size eight, skinny and tall model, but we’re designing for someone who maybe has a few body insecurities,” she says.

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