Money & Career

‘It Was A Baptism Of Fire’: How The Founder Of S/W/F Boutique Gets Her Job Done

Working On It with Desiree Deravi.

Welcome to Working On It, marie claire Australia’s series asking CEOs, founders, experts and trail-blazers the big (and not so big) questions about how they work.

Today we’re talking to Desiree Deravi, a self-proclaimed “woman of many hats”. Between her work as  the founder, designer and creative director of Desiree Deravi Brands, which includes the aesthetically pleasing S/W/F Boutique and newly-launched interior series, Deravi caught up with Working On It to discuss finding the yin and yang in work-life balance and the perfect island-approved ‘power outfit’.

(Credit: Courtesy of Desiree Deravi.)

marie claire Australia: What is your current role and how would you describe a typical day?

My role is Founder/Designer/Creative Director of Desiree Deravi Brands. This includes S/W/F Boutique, the namesake brand—Desiree Deravi—and our just launched interior series. This is an all-encompassing ‘role’ that oversees every element of the business. From production to the creation and management of design, marketing, human resources and managing staff, sales and content, my eye is across everything. Like most small business owners, I wear many hats in a day. For me, a typical day starts with warm lemon water, followed by coffee and a workout. While no two days are the same, exercise is my constant, and in our busiest times, my only self-indulgence. It is a moment to repay my mind, and grants the energy needed to work through the day ahead.

MC: How did you get here?

DD: My path to creating S/W/F was certainly an unconventional one. While my interest in fashion and textiles was evident from a young age, I chose the path of Podiatry and am (at great surprise to many) a qualified Podiatrist. While this initial journey was a rewarding one, I was craving a creative outlet, and so began contemplating fashion. It was following an impromptu trip to Bali where I was immersed in the bustling, creative ex-pat community of the time, that the launch of S/W/F Boutique became a reality. And so, I relocated to the island naïve to the challenges ahead.

I packed up my life and moved with absolutely no industry experience. Everything about creating a collection was new to me – sourcing fabrics, the technical terms (sewing, patterns, sizing etc) workers and shipping. It was a baptism of fire, but I embraced it head on, teaching myself every step of the way. I made more mistakes than I can count, managing imposter syndrome while tackling a constant stream of challenges. Every lesson has informed the life I live today, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

MC: What was your first ever job?

DD: Waiting tables at a local café. The service industry was a great place to learn pace, and hone communication skills, takeaways still relevant in my role today!

MC: And what was your worst ever job?

DD: I don’t associate any of my previous roles with negative connotation. Of course, some were less glamorous than others, however each has served a purpose. I have never walked away from a job with less to give the world.

(Credit: Courtesy of Desiree Deravi.)

MC: What’s your career advice to other women?

DD: The fashion industry, like most, is varied. Try to pinpoint the area you’re most interested in and seek out any opportunity in that space … it’s important to understand that no job is too small as you work towards your goals. Volunteer, intern – open yourself up to every possible experience. Your path may not materialise straight away, but you will understand what doesn’t appeal to you very quickly!

Further to this, I recommend sourcing a mentor if you can. Ideally someone in the industry succeeding in a likeminded role. Look to them as an expander, someone who can motivate you to push through the inevitable doubt and see the possibilities in your future goals.

“People are going to say ‘NO,’ and they are entitled to their opinion – as are you. Bid them farewell and keep pushing towards your dreams. An open door awaits.”

MC: You divide your time between Bali and LA. What would you say is the biggest difference between working in two different countries?

DD: Bali and LA are of course, opposites. One presents an idyllic island life and the other quintessential city living. Everything is bigger in LA, and as such, the city presents vast opportunities to network, connect, and evolve as a professional. Its rich cultural output is inspiring to me … art, theatre, architecture and so many interesting people, everywhere you go. This said, Bali will forever feel like home. The island has a strong spiritual undercurrent that triggers inner awareness and nurtures creativity. It has brought me much joy and success, and for this I am eternally grateful. The power of the yin and yang is precisely why I divide my time between the two.

Desiree Deravi’s new eponymous interior line. (Credit: Courtesy of Desiree Deravi.)

MC: You’ve recently launched your namesake label, not to mention an interiors series. What learnings are you taking from launching S/W/F that you’re bringing to these new brands?

DD: S/W/F has taught me so much, but right now, it’s a gentle reminder that everything takes time. Starting any brand from scratch requires patience, particularly without an existing influencer following, so it’s about trusting the process and knowing that things will build momentum. Patience, as they say, is a virtue.

MC: How do you deal with your inbox?

DD: With multiple brands, my inbox is incessant. Filing and desktop systems are not my strength, so I rely on immediacy and believe it or not, a very good memory. If it’s an email that requires a little more time, I will often take a screenshot and save as a priority for later in the day.

MC: And how do you deal with burnout?

DD: Like so many, I am yet to master the art of work life balance … an endless struggle I don’t foresee easing any time soon. So, I take the moments when they arise, indulging in a weekend massage should my schedule allow it. This said, I will always make time for exercise – my daily indulgence and key to keeping the fire alight.

MC: What have you bought that’s made the biggest difference to your productivity?

DD: My phone is an extension of my personal and professional life, and I would be lost without it. My private host to emails, reminders, notes and inspiration, and the facilitator of connection with my team around the world. The consequences of such an integrated device are both favourable and unfavourable of course, with rarely a moment to switch off.

MC: Describe your power outfit

DD: I dress for my mood and then the occasion at hand. This said, my power outfit can take on a variety of forms. If I’m feeling light and feminine, I’ll opt for something breezy and vibrant by S/W/F Boutique. Currently on high rotation is the Agave One Shoulder Puff Sleeve Dress…there’s something inherently elegant (and therefore impressive) about a floor-sweeping maxi.

If it’s an evening affair and I’m feeling my more sophisticated self, the Desiree Deravi Black Mini Dress is first choice. Its exaggerated shoulder line and keyhole decolletage make a statement every time.

(Credit: Courtesy of Desiree Deravi.)

MC: What’s your current work bag?

DD: My current workbag is an Isabel Marant canvas tote. I commute from villa to office via motorbike and it holds my phone, measuring tape, swatches, snacks, notebook, laptop, wallet, makeup bag and drink bottle in one secure space.

MC: WFH or office?

DD: The office is a much more productive environment for my role, allowing me to make decisions quickly and through fluid communication with the team.

MC: BYO lunch or takeout?


MC: What’s on your desk right now?

DD: Energy clearing crystals, chewed air pods (courtesy of my dog, Zed) and pantone swatches for the upcoming S/W/F and Desiree Deravi collections. Snacks and a measuring tape are always in reach and my diary is forever nearby. A vase from the new interior series hosts delicate native blooms and sits proud aboard a stack of hardcover books travelling through Capri and into the mind of Athena Calderone.

MC: Email sign off?

DD: Best.

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