The rising fashion of maternity wear

On-trend maternity wear is a growing opportunity to many retailers at the moment. As an industry that was valued at £200m last year, brands and fast-fashion labels are keen to emerge as industry leaders for the growing trend. Research carried out by Edited, the popular retail analytics company, showed that the number of maternity items sold across 30 major US and UK retailers quadrupled between 2014 and 2017.

Zara recently launched their first maternity collection on the new ‘Mum’ page on their website. With 25 items dedicated to expecting mums, including knitted dresses, sweaters, overalls and jeans, Zara have joined the growing number of retailers attempting to tap into the lucrative market. H&M, Next, Topshop, ASOS and Boohoo are among those already with fashionable maternal ranges, whilst Simply Be also launched a collection last September.

The growing market has been largely influenced by social media, the rise of ‘mum-fluencers’ and some prolific royal weddings. Docked as ‘The Kate effect’, (and, now also 'The Meghan effect') The Duchess of Cambridge’s incredibly chic and fashionable maternal clothing choices boosted sales at independent maternity brands. Edwina Elek, founder of British maternity wear label Clary & Peg said, “Maternity wear was marginalised for so long, but that’s changed… Social media has played a huge part in this – there’s been a surge in influencers that are mums, which impacts people in the way they think about what they want to wear. People have a different way of looking at pregnancy now – they want to feel great [in what they wear].”

However, as fast fashion locks onto the emerging market, it is putting increasing pressure on specialist retailers to communicate the value of technical maternity clothing that is not always fashion first. “We have seen more competition,” acknowledges Isabella Oliver CEO Geoff van Sonsbeeck. “Versatility and longevity are key, as many consumers are shopping for pieces they can wear pre- and post-pregnancy. Our focus is on fit and clever design that mean a pregnant woman can wear our collection throughout her pregnancy without having to size up. We spend a lot of time fitting each product on various ‘bump’ sizes, to create designs that are practical, comfortable and stylish.”

One area of pregnancy that remains relatively untouched, is clothing specifically for breastfeeding. Many brands and fast fashion retailers lump both nursing wear and maternity wear together, when in actual fact, they are completely sperate. “One of the most common problems is that [retailers and brands] tie maternity and nursing clothes together, but they are designed differently and fit differently,” said Emma Harrison, one of the women behind Facebook group “Can I Breastfeed In It?”, which searches the internet for nursing-friendly fashion. Nursing wear is seemingly an opportunity of the year for retailers and as more attention grows for the pregnancy and post childbirth community, it can only bode well for this group of consumers.