There’s been a quiet beauty revolution happening. Us product lovers have been eschewing the big brands for small-batch produced products, more natural lotions and potions that are born of love and passion rather than economic gain. And one of these such products is the cult classic in-the-making hair conditioner Dizziak, from Londoner Loretta De Feo.
I first met Loretta about 11 years ago on the music circuit, when I worked as Digital Manager for VICE in Shoreditch and she was at a DJ bookings agency around the corner. We crossed paths many times thanks to both mutual friends and work and I was always impressed by her drive and determination, particularly when she spoke about her desire to set-up a beauty brand, which is now in existence as Dizziak.
Loretta’s story is an incredible example of hard work and perseverance paying off. After the seed of an idea for her iconic hair conditioner and years as a beauty enthusiast, Loretta spent time working with Stylist Magazine to hone her industry experience.
Since launching Dizziak has been a quiet runaway success: Loretta is now stocked in Liberty and Cult Beauty, and has been lauded by both Sali Hughes and Lily Allen as a must-have conditioner. And I concur: I eked out the last of my own bottle I loved it so much, used as a weekly deep conditioner over the summer it was the only thing that kept my highlights in check.
On to my chat with Loretta…
I remember talking about the idea you had for Dizziak literally ages – years! – ago. When and where did it first come from?
I created this product because I needed it: I have around 5 different textures to my hair and I found conditioners either too weak or too heavy. I was importing products from the US which not only took ages to arrive, but cost a lot in shipping and then the results were always just average. I wanted to make a healthy conditioner that really worked, that smelt beautiful, that looked great and that was accessible on the high street.
I also wanted the brand to reflect my other passions – music, art and fashion, which is why I collaborated with cult Artist, Ted Draws, on the branding.
My personal journey included 16 years in the live music industry and working as a contributing beauty writer for Stylist Magazine and The Pool. My time at Stylist definitely amplified the fact that there was a gap in the market. I was asked my opinion on certain products and asked for product recommendations and I either really struggled or still didn’t see a brand that I felt represented me.
Loretta DeFeo shot by Mary McCarthy for Liberty London
It’s great to see your music background reflected in the branding of Dizziak, but with a non-scientific career how difficult was it to perfect the formulation? Did you learn a great deal about conditioners to develop the product?
My background is in music, but I’ve spent all my life searching for the perfect conditioner – I have so much experience in it!
I carried out a lot of research on ingredients – I knew that I wanted it to be vegan and free of any harsh chemicals – I then worked with a cosmetic scientist to bring it to life. There were around 5 iterations of the product before I found the formulation that blew my mind in terms of results, consistency and fragrance. I then tested it on over 30 people of varying hair types – from thick Afro hair to curly, to bone straight. Once I received a 10/10 from all testers, I signed off the formula.
“I was unemployed when I launched Dizziak and as a consequence I didn’t have any fear in launching the brand – the only way was always up” – Loretta DeFeo
Amazing! I bet it must have been a really immersive experience.
It’s so impressive that you’ve developed, launched and promoted Dizziak off the back of your huge passion for beauty. What’s been the biggest challenge in learning the whole cycle of a small business and product launch?
There were definitely a lot of transferable skills from my music background that helped me through the launch process – organisation, negotiation and planning – if you know the music industry, you know it’s a really challenging environment to be in, so it was great training!
I was unemployed when I launched Dizziak (after being made redundant), consequently, I didn’t have any fear in launching the brand – the only way was always up and I truly believed in the product. I put everything I had into it, took it day by day, and found that people are always willing to help you if they know that you are serious and putting your all in.
The biggest challenge has definitely been finding the right companies to work with, but I’ve always been someone that follows my gut. Every time I was met with an obstacle I just imagined being unemployed again and that helped me to push through and keep at it.
“Every time I was met with an obstacle I just imagined being unemployed again and that helped me to push through and keep at it” – Loretta DeFeo
I know the feeling of it being make or break time and having to fight your way to succeed because that’s the only option: it can be exhilarating.
What’s your favourite thing about running a small business?
Definitely controlling my own day and working at my own pace. I start work when I need to and finish when I’ve finished the tasks – whatever time that might be. I also make decisions quickly and I can implement them immediately – this is why I chose not to have a business partner, it would slow me down! It goes without saying that having the Dizziak customers and the retailers love the product is also a constant joy.
And your least favourite?
I have never been a fan of talking on the phone – I much prefer face-to face or email. I’m now never off the phone as I need to make sure tasks are in hand or completed. I would never get anything finished if I solely waited on email responses. I just get on with it.
You’ve had some incredible support from the beauty world. Who do you most admire in this field?
The support has been incredible – from the Liberty buying and marketing departments selecting Dizziak to launch in the store window, to Sali Hughes featuring the product in her Guardian column – I have always adored Sali’s writing and everything she does outside of it.
I admire industry experts such as Joanna McGarry, Shannon Peter, Millie Kendall and James Brown, who have all given me and many other people valuable advice and support.
What’s next for Dizziak?
I have a new product launching this month, which is incredibly exciting, and then lots more products after that. I have to go at my own pace and refuse to rush the process – the formulations do not get signed off until they are perfect!