How Two Mums Used Their Experience at Vogue to Build Their Own Company
After a combined 30-plus years of experience in the fashion industry, Sylvana Ward Durrett and Luisana Mendoza Roccia quit their longtime careers and co-founded their own startup in 2017. Their brainchild, Maisonette—the first online marketplace to exclusively aggregate luxury children's brands and boutiques from around the world—which celebrates its anniversary in March, has already earned a cult celebrity following including Anna Wintour, Karlie Kloss, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. As mothers, Durrett and Roccia saw a void in the children's marketplace, so they applied their unique editorial perspective—both women are Vogue veterans—to curate an elevated mix of both luxury and up-and-coming brands for the shopping destination. Below, Durrett and Roccia share the story of how they used their experience at Vogue to change careers and build their own successful company.
Tell us about your first career path.
SYLVANA WARD DURRETT: Luisana and I first started out as Anna Wintour's executive assistants at Vogue. During this time, we were able to experience the inner workings of the magazine from a bird's-eye perspective, learning about each department and how they worked together. It was invaluable experience. From Anna's office, I moved on to become an accessories editor and later director of special events, where I oversaw the annual planning and production of the Met Gala. Luisana also became an accessories editor after leaving Anna's office, but later followed a different path: She launched Runway to Green, a company focused on connecting fashion with philanthropy, specifically as it related to eco-conscious business practices.
How did you make the transition from Vogue to Maisonette?
SWD: Our time at Vogue served us well as we began to dream up this business. The skills we gained while working in a high-demand, fast-paced environment like Vogue were crucial when we started our business. The ability to evolve, think fast on our feet, and adapt our business to both customer and vendor needs came from our training and experience while at Vogue. Luisana and I had the best education and training that any entrepreneur can hope for.
Tell us about your current business.
LUISANA MENDOZA ROCCIA: We each have three children and would spend hours shopping online, frustrated by how there was not one consolidated retailer within the market. We saw an opportunity to meet the needs of parents who value personal time with their family, as well as quality, style, and convenience when shopping for their children. As a result, we decided to launch Maisonette, the first e-commerce, one-stop destination for children's clothing, accessories, toys, and home goods 10 months ago. We have an inventory of over 400 brands and boutiques including Bonpoint, Stella McCartney, Bobo Choses, Plan Toys, Petit Bateau, and Kenzo, and continue to onboard new vendors each month. It's been such a whirlwind, and we feel so fortunate and proud of how far we've come.
What triggered your need to change?
LMR: As we experienced motherhood and everything it entails, Sylvana and I often found ourselves sharing similar experiences—running the gamut from breastfeeding to clothing our children. We may not have started out as entrepreneurs, but I think we both shared an entrepreneurial spirit. It was that spirit that made our wheels start turning when we noticed inefficiencies in the children's online retail market. We would spend hours on dozens of children's clothing websites, searching for high-quality, stylish clothing for our kids—it was so frustrating and a waste of precious time we could have spent with our kids. We knew there had to be a better way to shop, and when we realised it just wasn't out there, we knew we had to create it ourselves.
Why is your current path suitable for your personality?
SWD: Both Luisana and I share an entrepreneurial spirit. We are both people who love a challenge. Building a company from the ground up has drawn on our past experiences and, as co-founders, allowed each of us to lean into our personal strengths. I always seem to have many balls in the air at once, and as CEO my ability to manage lots of responsibilities simultaneously has been key. Luisana is a great problem-solver and is never deterred by the answer "no," which has served us well as we've scaled the business.
What's the most important thing you have learned in making a big change in your career life?
SWD: Like many women out there starting their own companies, we are only the sum of our experiences and what we make of them. We encourage everyone to continue to learn, to mentor, to share your advice and wisdom with others while listening to the women who have come before in order to begin the next chapter.
How did you move past the fear of change to pursue your passion?
LMR: We consider change and the future as something to welcome, not something to be feared. Look at the vast ways that the retail industry has changed in the last decade. Maisonette is at the forefront of the evolving retail landscape and shaping how parents consume content and shop.
What are some mistakes you made along the way that ended up helping your success?
LMR: As with anything, much of our progress depends on learning—and to learn, sometimes you have to make mistakes. We know mistakes are necessary to ensure that you evolve, both professionally and personally. Syl and I both learned from our time at Vogue to keep moving. When you work in a creative field, like magazine publishing, fashion, or editorial, things change last-minute, and you have to scramble to make it work. It's this ability to manoeuvre quickly and with purpose that has helped us turn Maisonette from a dream into a reality.
What do you love most about your current role and why?
SWD: What we love about Maisonette is the company culture. Part of our success is directly related to our personal experiences as mothers, and we wanted to create a company culture that worked for us, our team, and for our business. Many of our team are working mothers balancing thriving careers and families—we wanted to be sure we were attracting these do-it-all women, not alienating them. We're proud to have managed to create a unique culture at Maisonette that truly embraces the idea of the modern working woman and mother.
Anything else you would like to add?
LMR: We are so thrilled to be in the position to share our personal stories with the hope that it will inspire others to forge ahead, use their respective training and experience, and create a unique brand of their own!