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A fashionable development

PERTH fashion designer Robert Pierucci’s plans to develop his Murray Street building, home of the international label’s headquarters, will ensure the business will remain based in WA for several years to come.

Mr Pierucci said if the development plans had not been approved by the City of Perth he would have considered moving the business to the east coast.

However, the plans to develop retail sites in the heritage building were approved and work should get under way later in the year.

“We will have retail stores along the laneway and we will have a coffee place out the back. It actually got through council but it was such a process to do it,” Mr Pierucci said. 

“It has been planned for nearly two years and I hope that we get started on it this year.”

Mr Pierucci established his fashion business in 1987 after the collapse of financial advisory firm Wheeler Grace and Pierucci, of which he was a director.

He started his fashion career producing garments for other labels in a CMT (cut, make, and trim) factory, but has since built up his own business to the point where he now employs the CMT factories.

“I was still at the CMT when I opened a shop in Claremont. It was called Ice Boutique,” Mr Pierucci said.

“It sold other Australian made labels that we would buy in and retail out.

“I made up some women’s blouses and they sold better than anything that we got in.

“When we opened interstate we had five stores in Perth and I was doing less and less production for other labels because Ice was taking up so much time.”

The first eastern States store was opened in Queensland to avoid the fashion label clutter of Melbourne or Sydney.

“I ended up there because in Melbourne there were a lot more fashion stores. It was a decision between Adelaide and Brisbane and Brisbane was a better city so we opened up there,” Mr Pierucci said.

The fashion outlet received a change of name several years later after a naming rights dispute with a Sydney retailer.

“When we opened in Sydney I had a customer say: ‘I like your product but why is it so different to the other Ice store’? I had the business name registered here and in Queensland but there was this Sydney store that traded as Ice,” he said.

“I left that store and went back into my Ice store and when I got there and walked inside the sign fell off.”

According to Mr Pierucci it was an omen that the name should change and, after consulting with lawyers, Mr Pierucci decided it would be easier to call the stores Pierucci.

Mr Pierucci believes the long, hard slog of building up his brand has reached a stage where he is now confident to expand the label to offshore markets.

“It has really only been the last four years or so that I’ve felt in control. The first 14 years we made a lot of mistakes,” he said.

Mr Pierucci has his sights set on re-establishing outlets in Asia and entering the New Zealand market.

“We pulled out of Asia when the Asian economic crisis hit but now we are doing some work up there and we are looking to open our own retail stores that will be under our control,” Mr Pierucci said.

“We are pretty advanced in doing something in New Zealand."

Mr Pierucci believes fostering emerging local talent to sustain the sector is critical to the industry’s success in WA.

"I have been involved with the State Government’s fashion industry taskforce and that is probably the most positive step taken by any State Government,” Mr Pierucci said.

“There is a lot of creative talent here. What the State Government is about is increasing awareness of this city so that people thinking of moving to Sydney and Melbourne decide to stay here and grow their business here.

“Ultimately the industry needs to survive on its own two feet.”

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