Thursday, March 23, 2006
Ellen Tien writes"...Before Liz Lange pioneered the concept of chic maternity clothing half a dozen years ago, expectant mothers had a paucity of fashion choices. They could resemble either potato-fed Pilgrims or Mickey Rooney performing the title number in Sugar Babies. "In the old days, maternity lines were designed for the male stereotype of what a pregnant woman looked like," says Lange. "The clothes were clownishly huge."
Armed with three years' experience working for fashion designer Stephen DiGeronimo, Lange rented a room above a New York City restaurant and began peddling trimly cut $200 stretch-cotton shirts and $400 cashmere twin sets. Despite predictions that mothers-to-be would never spend so much for separates with a limited shelf life, orders poured in. "All the stores I approached said, 'No—there's no market for high-end maternity.' I couldn't stop thinking that if I could just show these clothes directly to my customer without a middleman, she would get it." The female intuition paid off. Today the $10 million business of Liz Lange includes three stores as well as licensed lines with Nike and Target. In the meantime, she has spawned a phalanx of imitators, with stores from Barneys New York to the Gap turning out their own maternity collections.
Her method of designing is based on the druthers system. "I'll take a jacket from my closet and think, I wish this had a looser fit or different pockets," she says. "My design inspiration comes from my own closet, my own thighs, my own life. It's business, but it's personal..."
Photo by Richard Drew Courtesy of Time Magazine