The pants with the stretchy fabric, the oversized dresses that have no shape or form. Maternity wear has had those same basic pieces for what seems like forever, but with more and more moms starting to realize that being pregnant doesn’t have to mean giving up their style, designers like Tiff Marie of Tiff.Marie Maternity are stepping up, which is allowing mommys to be to step into more fashionable maternity wear. With a fashion running through her DNA, Tiff Marie eventually stepped away from the stress of the corporate world to embark on her own journey. And that’s where we’ll begin…
Kendra: You grew up with a grandmother who was a designer but that is not what you initially started out doing, but was that something always in the back of your mind? Something you thought you’d eventually do in life?
Tiff Marie: From a very young girl, I found myself drawing dress sketches and mailing “lookbooks” to my family. I always wanted to pursue a career in fashion but that shifted as I went to college. I became increasingly interested in the business world and the lure of Wall Street. While I inevitably followed that path, my love for fashion and design kept weighing on me. On the side, I launched an online designer resale clothing from my NYC apartment (thenycfashionista.com) but eventually, my work obligations forced me to choose between one or the other. Deep down I knew I’d enter back into fashion, just at the right place and time.
Kendra: People often stay with the same job for years because of the stability because let’s face it, being unstable financially is a major fear. Especially when pregnant. What tipped you over the edge and made you leave your Wall Street job, pregnant, and start your own company?
Tiff Marie: I wasn’t finding true self-purpose over the last several years in Corporate America and just couldn’t find the courage to walk away. After facing my own struggles with maternity-wear, I spent the focus of my pregnancy designing dresses and building prototypes that I thought would be comfortable and stylish enough to introduce into the marketplace.
This project was more exciting to me than most other things I’ve done over the years and helped me realize that my true interests were elsewhere. Despite this, making the final decision to not return to my job after maternity leave was not an easy one. I deliberated for many weeks, but it came down to me wanting to raise my son (while eliminating the cost of child-care and commuting time) and utilize my new “free” time by allowing myself to commit to something proprietary and entrepreneurial. Fortunately, my husband is also a large supporter of my decision.
Kendra: I know one too many people that won’t even move from the couch to the kitchen when they have a cold, but again you were out there starting a business with a baby on the way. Were you always that driven?
Tiff Marie: One of my weakness is that I can never feel content, but this type of personal drive has allowed me to achieve a lot over my 30 years of life. Starting a clothing line in Chicago while expecting was not easy; there’s no “road-map” that tells you where to go and who to work with. I had to explore a somewhat underground industry and learn independently about the ins and outs of the manufacturing business. I fit the personality type that works better when I’m challenged and have far too much on my plate.
Kendra: Fashionable maternity wear seems to still be this new concept. It’s as if though the millennial generation is really working hard towards this movement. Do you feel it’s because millennials are more style-focused due to their world revolving around sharing content via social media, or are millennials aware of the importance of self-love more so than baby boomers and gen-x?
Tiff Marie: I’d say it’s a mix of both. We are living in a very self-aware and conscious society. So for many, they wouldn’t be caught in the same outfit twice on their social pages. I remember suffering from fashion FOMO as I’d scroll through ads and influencer posts on outfit ideas and new looks, knowing that I’d have to wait 9 months to wear it. I felt like it was “unfair” that I had to table my “old-self” and settle for whatever black stretchy pants and shirt were available to me rather than feel cool and confident by expressing my personal fashion sense.
That really was the fundamental tipping point in me wanting to start my own line. Why should I or you have to sacrifice our individual style and self-confidence for 9 months, when we’re already compromising so much during the transition to motherhood? As millennials, we’ve empowered ourselves to redefine norms and I’ve taken on the age-old connotations for “maternity.”
I’ll also caveat this by saving, even “maternity” is still metamorphizing with many younger moms choosing to size-up in non-maternity pieces.
Kendra: When I show up to a baby shower, I have a gift for the baby and the mother. Do you feel your clothes are being bought more as gifts or by moms themselves?
Tiff Marie: My clothes are purchased primarily for occasions but mostly by the mom-to-be. I would say about 10% of my clients purchase as gifts but it’s typically for the mom to wear at her Baby Shower. Otherwise, maternity wear as a gift is seldom due to the small timeline that it can be worn by the expectant mother.
Kendra: With your son sparking this idea, do you think another child would ignite a new idea or are the wheels already turning?
Tiff Marie: I’m currently 22 weeks pregnant with baby #2 and enjoying the ability to show my following and potential customers how to style different looks using pieces from my collection. I have a feeling that with two children I may come up with an entirely new idea to meet a new need and am excited to expand in different ways.
Kendra: Well, congrats! And speaking of your son, when do you feel you’ll tell him how much he really did shift your life in a new direction? Rather, what age do you feel he’ll fully understand that?
Tiff Marie: My son is two and ironically refers to my dry-cleaning as “mommy’s dresses.” He’s been very exposed to my clothing studio and frequent drop-offs to the post office. However, I do much of my work while he’s napping and asleep for the night so he may not be fully aware of what I’m up to. I am happy he’ll never experience my former self, which was much more serious. Stern, and quite frankly, stressed. My new disposition makes me a better mom. I can’t wait to be able to share stories of my journey with him. I’d say when he reaches 4 or 5 years old.
Kendra: What are your plans for your brand and company as we head deeper into 2019?
Tiff Marie: I hired a Social Media Manager, Esmeralda, that starts on May 1st and am excited to see what we can do together to grow the brand’s exposure on Instagram and Facebook. I’m also being more selective as to who we work with, rather than provide free product to many so-called “influencers” who don’t render ROI. I’d love to add on a complementing children’s accessory line as we move into Q4 ’19 – 2020.