Tiziana Cicchianni - Histoire D'ours and Doudou et Compagnie
From retailer, sales manager, agent to distributor. Tiziana Cicchianni is the in-house expert on all things kids clothing and gifting essentials. Quickly snapped up by Histoire D’Ours and Dou Dou et Compagnie, Cicchianni reigned National Sales Manager during Oshkosh’s prime, where a single clothing company was a go-to for all.
Cicchianni and I discussed the power that it takes to shop for the end consumer (the child), the gift of machine-washable kid's toys (trialed and tested by a grandmother), and respect for the hard-working ‘mummy bloggers’. Lastly, what to do when all hell has been unleashed in the event that you lose your little one's favourite plush toy. The trick, you may ask? Buy two, of course!
I think the best place to start is from the beginning. For those who don’t know, what does Histoire D’Ours mean, and what inspired you to work with Histoire D’Ours?
Histoire D’Ours means ‘bear story’, or basically the history of the bear – so, the bear's story. I virtually fell into it. I used to be the agent for this product, agent only because there was a distributor in Sydney at the time. He then decided to retire and said “Tizi, why don’t you take it on as an importer?”. I had never done importing before so I was very nervous. But I had been representing the brand for some time, and it is a fantastic product. In 2014, I took it up as an importer and have been going with it ever since.
As you know, there’s Histoire, and then there is the Dou Dou. The other side of the business. Both toys - but different categories. Dou Dou is a comforter. I don’t know if you’ve been to France or to Paris, but a lot of little kids carry their little comforters or their ‘Dou Dou’. It's all about that touch and feel. That’s what this company means - making Dou Dou and Compagnie. It’s ‘comforter and friends’, because they’ve also developed a lot of other animals in this range.
Many people have such fond memories cuddling with their childhood bear and taking them on adventures. Is this the sort of legacy that the plush toys aim to have?
The legacy we want to be remembered by is a beautiful product, and a long-lasting product. Whether they receive a classic bear, or a rabbit, or a doll - sometimes, they hang onto it until they're an adult. We're not a fly-by-night product. We are a longstanding product that is also a beautiful product with the gift boxing. It’s a lovely product. That’s how it will be continued and remembered.
If we back track a little, previous to this you were an agent to Histoire D’Ours, had you always been an agent?
I worked as an agent from 2001. Before this, I mainly in the kids fashion business since 1993. I sort of worked my way through all different departments - I also had my own retail store. I then went to work for a big retail chain of a kid's fashion store, you may remember them – Oshkosh. I worked for their office in Sydney where we had twenty-three shops at the time. I was their National Retail Manager. Then, in 2001 I moved to Melbourne and made a bit of a career change. My colleague from Sydney was a distributer, and he was looking for an agent for Melbourne. I thought I’d change the pace a little!
What do you think are the trends coming up with babywear, kids gifting, toys and accessories?
I think that the trends at the moment are dictated by what is happening in Europe. It’s somebody's idea over there, and let's face it - we all sort of copy it. Being in Australia, we have it in the next season. It's like with my toys. The Unicorn has been very popular for a few years. But now, the new one is the one I was exhibiting at Life InStyle - the Llama.
Someone said, "No, it's not the llama, it's now the sloth."
I said, "No, I don’t like the sloth!"
I think it's very much dictated by Europe. Our social media also tells us what's going on, unfortunately. It really tells us that people like ‘following’.
I think we are in the age of the Mummy Blogger, with other mother’s following each other in case they are missing out.
Exactly. I follow the Mummy Blogger because I am interested to see what their kids are wearing, doing, and with these Mummy Bloggers – it's their job now! I think these women are so motivated. Maybe because I’m a lot older than them, but it takes so much of their energy keeping up with this. They are dictating. The Instagrammer’s, the followers - they are ‘following’ what the trends are.
I think all of us wants a little better or more, and how do we exactly get there? There’s a very small percentage of mothers that just do their own thing and don’t care. Just like there's a small percentage of mothers who don’t do social media and don’t let their kids on screens. I think the majority of wanting more is driven by social media.
Lastly, are there any elements within the toy industry, or plush goods that people should watch out for when purchasing for a child?
I think the most obvious is, of course, the safety of a toy – whether it’s plush or a building block. We have such high standards in Australia that products have to meet, but safety is important, obviously. I think after safety is that the customer, being the child needs to have full satisfaction. A parent may buy it, but it's about how the child feels and how interact with the toy.
I think when it comes to kids, and when it comes to plush, they sort of connect with a piece. It's all about that. With these pieces, especially the Dou Dou’s or the bear – some parents buy two. If one goes missing, the child is absolutely hysterical, so they need a backup. I’ve had quite a few enquiries, direct from customers to say “where can I find another one of this rabbit or this bear because I've misplaced it or lost it and my child is absolutely frantic”. I think, “wow, that’s the sort of attachment they have! “