February 2, 2012
by Melinda Emerson
Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with retail and fashion pioneer Liz Lange @lizlange. In 1997, out of a one-room office, she created Liz Lange Maternity, changing forever the face of maternity fashions. A decade later in 2007, after dressing every major pregnant celebrity, forging licensing deals with Nike and Target (today, Liz Lange for Target is the exclusive maternity department at all Target locations), and opening three flagship Liz Lange boutiques, Lange sold her business though she continues on as the face of that brand. In 2010, her first ever non-maternity clothing collection, Completely Me by Liz Lange, debuted exclusively on HSN. She is the co-founder of the popular woman’s shopping site, Shopafrolic.com.
Smallbizlady: How and when did you have the ‘Ah ha’ moment that led you to launch your first business?
Liz Lange: My Ah ha moment came back in 1997. I was newly married and although I hadn’t yet had my children – pregnancy was definitely on my mind (today my son is 13 and my daughter is 11). After having worked at Vogue, I had left to apprentice for a struggling fashion designer. My friends starting getting pregnant and they would come to our offices to buy clothing. I would say to them, why come here, you should shop at maternity clothing stores but they all said that they could find nothing at traditional maternity clothing stores. Instead, I noticed that they were buying “regular” clothing in big sizes and altering it to make it work. And in our offices they were squeezing themselves into anything that had a bit of stretch in it.
This led to my double Ah ha moment: one) pregnant woman looked better, sexier, more stylish and ironically smaller when squeezed into something stretchy and fitted instead of the tent-like maternity dresses that were typical at that time and two) pregnant women were spending and shopping (they needed to – after all nothing in their closet fit them anymore) but they didn’t like the maternity clothing being offered. I didn’t consider myself a fashion designer so I went to the designer I was apprenticing for and told him that he needed to do a maternity line and that it would turn his business around. But he hated the idea. I found that I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind. I finally realized that if I didn’t create the maternity clothing that I was envisioning and someone else did that I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself. And so I launched Liz Lange Maternity.