In Conversation With Maria Milano - Olivela

Maria Milano has been in the fashion industry for over 15 years, starting her career in magazine publishing at Conde Nast and Time Inc before transitioning into retail in 2013. She began her foray into retail as Head of Editorial and Content at Harrods, where she oversaw all the visuals, styling and editorial of the website as well as playing a key role in the marketing and social media strategies for the business as a whole. In June 2017 Maria was announced Head of Womenswear at Harrods, where she led the buying teams for all the Womenswear categories, and in 2020 added Childrenswear to her remit. In 2021 Maria joined Olivela in the twin roles of Chief Merchant and Editorial Director. Maria has an MA in Journalism from City University, London, and has sat on several fashion and editorial boards, including the British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME) and the Fashion Trust Arabia (FTA).

What makes Olivela unique as an online retailer?

We put our mission at the heart of everything we do, empowering our customers to choose which non-profit they would like the proceeds of their shopping to go to at no extra cost to them. To date, we have reached some impressive milestones all thanks to our community of clients, raising $1M for Save The Children, $500k for St Jude Children's Research Hospital, 700,000 days of school (or the equivalent) for girls around the world and more.

Why did you change from being an editor to being a buyer?

My former Chief Merchant persuaded me to make the move and once I was in the seat I realised it was the job I was always meant to have – using my background in storytelling as a tool to sell just felt so natural. I feel so fortunate to have had two careers.

What is your favourite thing about working for Olivela?

I love that we start every trade meeting by announcing how many mouths we fed or girls we sent to school the week before - this is truly our unique identifier as a retailer.

What does the future look like for Olivela?

Busy and impactful! We know that consumers today want to align themselves with businesses that take a stand and we have some high-profile projects in the pipeline that will see us partner with amazing brands and non-profits to continue to deliver this.

How do you pick which brands you bring onto Olivela?

First and foremost, we look for brands that align with our key pillars of sustainability, female empowerment and health and wellness, especially with regards to children. Relevance is extremely important, so we partner with brands that will resonate with our community of shoppers. I believe that the ultimate expression of luxury is not just a collection of well-made products that stand the test of time but also a brand's commitment to impact, whether it's supporting a local community, pushing the boundaries of sustainability, driving equality in all its facets, or all of the above!

What is your skincare regime (morning and evening)?

I have super-sensitive skin so keep the routine fairly simple for both AM and PM, but I'm religious about taking my make-up off at night, no matter how late it is. I like to switch it up between a face oil (the Irene Forte Rose Face Oil is delicious and fast absorbing) and a moisturiser (the Irene Forte Hibiscus Night Cream). By day it's a generous splash of cold water to get the circulation going, a serum (the Irene Forte Triple Level Hyaluronic Serum) and SPF50 under my make-up.

What does your wider self-care regime consist of?

Fresh air and exercise are a must; running, walking, Pilates, yoga or running around with my kids. I cook from scratch as much as possible – the kitchen is the epicentre of our home and the best way I know how to connect with family and friends. I also read every night before bed to unwind.

What is the best bit of advice you’ve ever received?

Put your heart in everything you do, otherwise it's not worth your time.

What is your favourite…

Book: I have adored the classic Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys, since I was 16. It’s the imagined prequel to Jane Eyre and the type of book I wish I had written. My favourite recent read is Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason- it's heartbreaking and super-witty at the same time.

Piece of Clothing: Impossible to narrow it to just one. I adore my entire trench coat collection, of which Caalo is a recent addition, and all of my old Celine pieces.

Skincare Product: I've become devoted to a hyaluronic serum - Irene Forte's Triple Level Hyaluronic Serum is a gamechanger.

Make-up Product: A tinted moisturiser and lashings of lip balm.

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