INTERVIEW WITH LUCY HENRY-HICKS, OWNER AND DIRECTOR OF DISSH
International Women’s Day is an annual global celebration of women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. On this day, we honour the women who have paved the way for progress and change, and we continue to advocate for gender equality and women’s empowerment.
As part of this year’s International Women’s Day celebration, we had the privilege of sitting down with Lucy Henry-Hicks, the ever inspirational Owner and Director of DISSH, one of Wintergarden’s favourite retailers. Lucy has made a significant impact in the world of Australian Fashion, and in this interview, she shares her experiences, challenges, and successes as a woman in fashion. Lucy is an advocate towards building a more inclusive and equitable world. Join me as we celebrate the strength and resilience of women, and learn from the wisdom and expertise of our guest speaker.
What does International Women’s Day (IWD) mean to you?
“Our collective mission is to use our platform and influence for good. Our WHY is female empowerment, at the core of everything we do. The basis of IWD is such an integral part of our mission. In saying this, making change and empowering women is a mission of ours all year long. IWD allows us to further amplify this on a day and time when globally everyone is looking and listening.
The key focus for me and the business is empowering women to be financially independent through employment. Our mission is to empower women to have choices to help build a life full of passion and purpose, whatever that may be. We firmly believe employment is the key to financial independence, providing freedom of choice. Our initiatives and partnerships reflect this, from Suited To Success and The Encoreship, which is now in its third year of providing life-changing placements for women.
This IWD, we are excited to share our industry-leading paid parental leave program (PPLP). This program contributes to closing the gap on inequality for women in the workplace, enabling and normalising taking time out to care for a child, and supporting our parents through every stage of the process. It has always been a dream of mine to build a business to a size where financially, we could afford a best-in-class PPLP. I have seen too many close friends and family give up thriving careers due to the challenges of balancing family and work. After having my little Remi 6 months ago, I experienced these challenges firsthand. The DISSH PPLP will launch this March 8.”
Are there key female figures in your life that inspire you at work and personally?
“My mum and the amazing DISSH team I am fortunate to work alongside daily. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home where I was encouraged to go after what was in my heart and that I could have it all if I wanted it. My mum was a working mum, and my mum and dad both equally took on the role of parenting and caregiving. The message was no different for me as it was for my brother – you can do and be whatever you want. Fortunately, this was the norm for me because I realised this wasn’t the case for everyone as I got older. We have an amazing team – every day, I see so many examples of resilience, kindness and collaboration (values I hold dear).”
DISSH, a female founded fashion business, how does the company support the next generation of females in fashion?
“I’m a big believer that empowered women, empower women. We can make a difference in women’s lives through DISSH and the community we have built around the brand.
Every person entering DISSH as a full-time employee participates in Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead program. This is centred around developing EQ and building self-awareness. Personal development is significant to me and something that I always prioritise for myself. Getting to know myself and working with various coaches over the years has been the most life-changing thing I’ve ever done, and I hope to give that to everyone we invite to our team.
As I mentioned, we pride ourselves on offering flexible return-to-work arrangements and paid parental leave for working mums. The fashion industry is heavily female-dominated, and we at DISSH are no different with a 90% female team. Initiatives like this make it possible for women to pursue a career they love in fashion.
We work alongside brands like Alpha-H and Adore Beauty to offer placements like the Encoreship (a fantastic program) to help women re-enter the workforce after an extended period away. We partner with charities like Suited To Success, whose mission is to support women get back on their feet after they have experienced personal hardship.
We also work with local universities to place internships for young women looking to get their foot in the door.”
Tell us how the DISSH brand has evolved, where did you start?
“I actually went into business with my mum at 20 years old when she had just one DISSH store. We built the business together over many years. As with any partnership, there comes a time to part ways. I had always planned to start a brand of my own and when the time came in 2019, I was presented with the opportunity to start again or build on what we had already co-created. Strategically, I made the decision to transition the existing DISSH brand to align with my vision and the gap I saw in the market. Business, fashion and creativity have always been integral to my core and what lights me up.
Both of my parents are fashion retailers, so I grew up in and around the industry. Rightly or wrongly, I never really considered doing anything else. I sort of fell into it as I worked in and around the family businesses and it came naturally so I stuck with it.
Everyday I’m grateful that I can express myself creatively while also building an organisation that delivers meaningful and positive impact for our people through charitable partnerships, and many other rewarding initiatives that I’ve already touched on.”
We have seen the business grow so much over the last few years, especially with your first interstate store opening recently, tell us about this?
“We saw such a positive response and global growth with the brand transition. We steered away from the uber fast-fashion / disposable fashion model while still delivering trend led, contemporary style to our customers. We have found a “happy medium” where we deliver on unique designs and carefully curated collections in high quality and mostly natural fabrications, at an attainable price point – filling what we believe is a necessary gap in the market. We have really found who we are as a brand – and I mean beyond the product too – we know what we stand for and the difference we want to make, and I think our customer really resonates with that.
Our community in NSW & VIC have both been a fundamental part of DISSH’s success, so we were elated to open the doors to our first interstate store in Melbourne last year. Stay tuned, NSW will be next!”
What were you doing before starting DISSH?
“Nothing! I started working in the family businesses while I was at school (on weekends and school holidays). I went to university to study business management while working part-time.”
What drew you to the fashion industry, was it an idea or a passion?
“My parents were both in the industry so naturally, it was what I was surrounded by my whole life. Straight after high school, I went to work with them without really questioning it. I was in my late 20s when I stopped and really evaluated – is this what I want to do? Or am I doing this because this is all I’ve really known? That was a really important time for me to get clear on what was right for me and what lights me up. I landed myself back here – I really do love it for so many reasons. As I get further into my journey, I’m really focused on spending my time on the things that bring me joy and play to my strengths, then building a team around me to manage the rest. Naturally, at the start you have to wear many hats, from designing product to managing the P&L – it’s equal parts creative as it is analytical and there is fun in that too, but I’m really enjoying the stage I’m in now where I can be more choosy.”
What goes into creating and developing your own brand?
“From a creative perspective, travel is a big part of the initial inspiration phase – we visit places like London, LA, NYC, Greece and Spain to see what the cool girls are wearing on the street. It’s amazing how many new ideas can come from an hour in Soho, New York sitting at a coffee shop watching people walk by. From there, when we get home, we start to build. We build our collections by quarters (3-month) blocks – these align with the seasons. We set a trend direction, overall vibe, muse, and colour palette.
From there we build our core fabrications, prints and the materials that we want to work into, and then we start concepting silhouettes. The silhouettes or shapes come from a mixture of existing styles or new sketches – at this part of the process, there is usually a lot of cutting, measuring, and pinning on our fit models. From there we brief in our factories in the form of tech packs and sample comments and away it goes to the sampling phase and the concept or idea is born into a physical garment.
From a business perspective, in all honesty, a lot of hard work – I won’t sugar coat it! It’s a fast and unforgiving industry in a lot of ways. You’re never really “done”.. you are forever evolving, forever building, changing, and adapting to trends, economic shifts, consumer behaviour etc. I think it attracts a certain type of person, people who like being “all in”, and who are attracted to the dynamic nature of it. I would say, if you don’t absolutely LOVE it, don’t do it.”
What’s in store for team DISSH in 2023?
“We are continuing to expand our national bricks & mortar footprint, with Sydney locations next on the list. Whilst growth and global expansion, are at the forefront of what we do – as an organisation we are very committed to maximising our community impact and putting people before profits.
We are excited to have The Encoreship placement for the third year running, with 2023 Encoreship role applications open from June and we will continue our important partnerships with Thread Together and Suited To Success. I’m most excited to get our PLP launched this March and see the positive impact this has on our DISSH community.”
We’d love you to share a quote to inspire females in 2023.
“This is one of my all time favourites.
“I stand on the sacrifices of a million women before me thinking what can I do to make this mountain taller so the women after me can see farther” – Rupi Kaur
I think about both how lucky we are to live in this time, where we have more choice and freedom than any generation before us, while also acknowledging the immense challenges that still lie ahead. Last year Wade vs Roe ruling in the US reminded us how fragile those freedoms are, and how easily they can be politized and taken away and that we must continue to push for equality in every sense of the word.”