Launching a maternity and breastfeeding clothing brand during lockdown has been interesting and challenging yet a rewarding journey. I wanted to share with you what my journey has looked like!

Building a concept

Finding a gap in the market that you feel confident and passionate about is probably the best place to start. It was a no brainer for me to look at clothing for mums! A market which I felt had been left behind in terms of style and choice! Yet I also needed my brand to be ethical, I didn’t want to create clothing just for the sake of it, it needed a real meaning and a real purpose. I wanted to be able to offer sustainable maternity and breastfeeding clothing that was super stylish, practical and could be worn for longer than just 9 months! For me being a designer is about designing garments that solve a problem, styles that are functional yet beautiful and make you feel great when wearing them!

So there was my concept – sustainable maternity and breastfeeding clothing made ethically in the U.K by women for women.

Sustainability and supply chain

Sustainability in fashion should be the driving force behind every new brand. We have all read the same things in the press and whether it is a key interest of yours or not there is no avoiding it. Two of the main factors to consider here are the human element – are all employees in your supply chain being treated fairly? And the environmental impact – are all of the raw materials you are using made in a way that is kind to the environment and not damaging it, what waste are you creating as a result of your production?

Below is a diagram of my supply chain:

breast dressed supply chain

I began by thinking about my materials – I mainly use 100% linen, a fabric considered to be one of the most ethical fabrics, it improves with age the more that it is washed meaning my garments will last longer and be more and more loved as time goes on. I also use 100% cotton fabrics which I have so far sourced from deadstock – they are surplus stock from designer brands – one mans trash is another mans treasure right?! I also source all of my fabrics from other U.K businesses, trying to support our economy and other small businesses like myself. All buttons and trims are also sourced from deadstock and made from sustainable materials such as vegetable pulp!

deadstock 100% cotton fabric for maternity clothing   deadstock designer linen fabric for breastfeeding clothing

Next to consider was my production! Before Covid was even a thing I had lined up working with a brilliant charity run factory in London, unfortunately due to lockdown they had to close. There was my production line at a complete stand still before it had even started. I then had to re-think how I could develop my range and launch my brand! I spent a really long time talking with various people to work with me on my collection, we needed to be the right fit for each other. I wanted my brand to be made in the U.K so that I could be close to the action and in turn lower my carbon footprint by not having to travel overseas. I work with a pattern cutter who lives walking distance to me (ideal for lockdown meetings) and a local seamstress – both are business women in their own right and they work from their home studios.

pattern cutting

My production model is a made to order process. I didn’t want to make anything unless it was completely necessary, and I didn’t want to be sitting on a load of stock. With factory minimums being so high for a start up brand I decided a made to order model was the way for me. I send an order chart to my seamstress each week and she works her magic, there is a 2-3 week turnaround which on a made to order garment I think is pretty good going!

Designing maternity and breastfeeding clothing

It was important that my collection was suitable for all stages of mum-hood, with sustainability being a driving factor they needed to be versatile so that they could be worn for years and years! So I spent a long time on the design process and eventually came up with my first range plan!

maternity and breastfeeding range plan

All of my styles are wearable for all growing bumps, from being in the early stages of pregnancy to a full term bump! The next hurdle was making sure they all had easy breastfeeding access that was subtle enough for the times that you aren’t breastfeeding, this was achieved with some cleverly placed gathers, plackets and poppers! And finally they needed to be wearable for long after your pregnancy and feeding journey. The styles are full and floaty and feminine and in my eyes super fun to wear.

I knew that I would have some waste fabrics leftover from cutting out my main styles, so with that in mind I set about designing twin rompers for your little ones and making our ‘no waste scrunchies’ using up any scraps.

I worked alongside my pattern cutter, socially distanced of course, developed our first samples and photographed them!

maternity dress

maternity breastfeeding jumpsuit

Getting the word out

This part of the process has been a huge learning curve for me and I am still learning! We were in lockdown, I couldn’t get out there and meet people, I couldn’t have the launch party I had dreamed of so I turned to social media!! I set up an Instagram and a facebook account, built a website and decided on a launch date! I knew if I set a launch date and put it out there publicly I would have to stick to it! I reached out to influencers and told all of my family and friends to spread the word. I have since taken part in some virtual markets and held my own pop ups – it’s been an awesome way to finally meet some of my lovely customers and followers. I can’t wait to continue on this journey and develop my maternity collection further to help you mummies feel like the superheroes that you should!!

And that is a summary of how I launched my sustainable maternity and breastfeeding clothing brand, I hope it has inspired some of you out there!

Thank you for joining my mum squad, shopping small and supporting sustainable fashion!

Hester xxx

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