Manhattan's Rosie Pope, 30, launched her line of high-end maternity wear on Labor Day 2008 - the same day she went into labor with her son, JR. In the last 20 months, her eponymous company has taken off, and now the English-born former model is filming a reality TV series for Bravo, "Pregnant in Heels," in which she mentors fashion-conscious moms-to-be.
Since this month is all about beauty and style we were thrilled to land this exclusive interview. Let's find out a little more about this bump embracer and promoter.
Q: Your route toward becoming a designer was quite unusual, right?
A: I got into medical school in Edinburgh, Scotland at age 18. But first I struck a deal with my parents where I spent a year off gallivanting in New York City. I never went back. I did everything under the sun - dancing, modeling, even taking photographs of cheating husbands for a private detective agency! Then I studied for a degree in neuroscience at Columbia University and worked as a research fellow on Alzheimer's Disease. I met my husband, Daron Pope, a Wall Street bond trader, and married when I was 26. I was thinking of going to med school then, but we really wanted to begin a family. Daron said: 'You love babies and you love clothes, why don't you start a maternity clothing business?' At first, I was angry with him, thinking: 'How could you put me in a box?' Then I realized he was on to something.
Q: How did you prepare for the venture?
A: I got a job at the Pea In The Pod store on 57th Street in Manhattan and got to know the business. I felt there was a void in maternity wear and I could fill it with a more luxurious but affordable line which was also practical. It also appealed to my intellect because I find making clothes extremely scientific and mathematical. Maternity clothing is all about shape and figuring out the cut. My husband is in business so he helped me structure budgets. But, otherwise, it was trial and error. I consulted designers, pattern makers, patent lawyers and factories in the garment district in Manhattan, Brooklyn and LA.
Q: What is your niche?
A: My maternity wear is a combination of the aspirational and the realistic. You can still be this beautiful alluring woman - after all, it's how you got there in the first place - unless it was the immaculate conception - but you also have to accept that your body is going through changes and you need to strike a balance. One of the stigmas with maternity clothes is that the moment you have your baby you want to throw them out the window. I use gorgeous, romantic fabrics such as silk and ensure the cut is such that you can wear them afterwards. My diaper bags look like regular clutches and handbags, not what they'??re intended for. Also, I try to keep prices down. Tanks start at $38, my wispy maternity cardigans are $64 and my best-selling piece is a romantic silk top for $150. My popular knit tunic dresses, meant for special occasions like wedding, begin at $225
Q: You've just launched a new aspect to your business, Mom Prep - a kind of "prep school" for moms-to-be and new moms, based near your store on the Upper East Side. What does it involve?
A: We offer classes, social events, seminars and one-on-one training to advise women before and after they have their babies. Childbirth education and breast-feeding classes, Lamaze breathing techniques, baby CPR, infant safety and nutrition, Pilates and yoga are included on the program. During my pregnancy with JR, while I felt super educated in lots of areas of my life, when it came to having and looking after a baby, I was clueless. For instance, learning how to breast-feed and being pretty bad at it, I felt there was no one I could reach out to. I'm hoping this will redress the balance.
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Q: And how about your upscale maternity "concierge" service?
A: New York being New York, we attract a lot of customers who want specific services tailored to them. Our role is a bit like being a wedding planner, but for pregnancy and birth. We guide women through selecting maternity clothes for social and business events, nannies and baby nurses, organizing their registry and baby shower, choosing a layette, baby-proofing their home and ordering a post-natal meal delivery service. It's aimed at busy working moms who just don't have the time.
Q: What's the craziest, most extravagant request you've had?
A: Designing a customized dress for a woman to give birth in! She wanted to look really great for the photos afterwards and didn't want to wear one of those horrible hospital gowns. It was cut from crinkled, lilac-toned chiffon and had deep purple-colored ribbons on the back. It cost the client around $1,000 because it a) had to be sterile and b) it had to offer full access to the obstetrician and also the mom's breasts for immediate nursing following the birth. We have no idea what she did with the dress afterwards!
Q: Which celebrities frequent your store?
A: Ana Ortiz, Kelly Rutherford and Amy Poehler are all fans of my clothes. I was nervous when I heard Amy bought a dress because I didn't know she was pregnant and feared she might wear it on "Saturday Night Live" and make some joke out of maternity wear. But, in the end, she wore it to an awards ceremony and looked great.
Q: Your new reality TV show starts on Bravo in the fall. What's it about?
A: It focuses on our concierge service and follows a group of moms-to-be as they prepare for motherhood. It came about because, when I was nine months pregnant and about to open my first store in Soho, a producer approached me on the sidewalk. I was standing outside the store screaming at the construction crew because, as with all construction in Manhattan, it was way overdue. The producer said: "Wow, that would make great television!"
For more information about Rosie Pope's clothing, log onto www.rosiepopematernity.com
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