Absolutely Mama interviews Naomi Raybould on setting up her stylish and sustainable maternity brand, Beyond Nine
Tell us about Beyond Nine. What made you want to set it up?
When I was pregnant with my first, Rufus, I really struggled with maternity wear. I’ve always loved clothes and they’ve been a big part of self-expression for me, but when I was pregnant I found I ended up wearing things I would never normally wear, out of necessity. I found that everyone was offering the same shapes and styles, generally poorly made out of cheap fabrics. I couldn’t wait to see the back of them when Rufus was born. Then I got pregnant with my second, Raffy and I couldn’t believe that the maternity wear market was still offering the same old thing. Then my mum lent me her some jumpsuits that she wore in the ‘80s when she was pregnant with me and my brothers and that sparked the whole idea off.
What made you want to focus on maternity wear?
I really felt (and still feel) that the high street is very lazy when it comes to maternity wear. Having experienced the frustration and talking to other mums about it, I knew I wasn’t alone. I really wanted to design something that makes a pregnant mum feel like them when they put it on – I wanted it to reflect a modern mum’s style. It is also very important to me that everything I design for Beyond Nine has a life well beyond (and before) pregnancy. We work really hard on our cuts, making sure they’re bump friendly and also flattering without bumps. Sustainability is a huge factor in the business, so making clothes work hard is key.
How did your motherhood journey play into your decision to launch the business?
Oh, it’s been totally integral. Not only having lived experience of the frustration of maternity wear means I can design things which I know combats these frustrations, but I’ve also had two pregnancies where I’ve been able to test run the designs, and there’s nothing like first-hand experience of something to help you perfect it! Also, there’s something about becoming a mother that has given me a huge sense of courage and fearlessness. Being a parent is the hardest thing in the world, so if I can do that (x3) then I can do anything!
Where do you get your inspiration from for each collection?
Everywhere! Literally, everything and anything. It can be from a customer who I’ve been chatting to, someone I walk past on the street, or something I’ve seen which I love and I’ll wrack my brains and work to see how we can offer something like it which is bump friendly, as well as my current wardrobe and the things I love wearing when I’m not pregnant. We also made a trip to Australia two years ago and I discovered some amazing female-run independent brands, from clothes to flowers to ceramics to furniture – and they still inspire me. I also always try to think about what it is that makes me feel good when I’m wearing something and how I can emulate that in each piece (for me comfort is a massive factor and the main piece of feedback we get is about how comfortable our clothes are!).
How important is sustainability to Beyond Nine?
Sustainability is core to the business. It’s one of the driving forces behind it – offering ethically made maternity wear as I couldn’t find this in my first two pregnancies. We source natural and organic fabrics and currently make all our pieces here in the U.K in factories we now know well. We also always make in small batches so never send anything to landfill. This can be frustrating for customers as we often sell out of styles very quickly, but we’re working hard on keeping up with demand. Sustainability is also so much more than just the process of making a garment, it’s also about thinking about the longevity of a piece and making sure that it lasts well and can be worn through all stages of womanhood.
What’s a typical day like for you and how do you juggle motherhood with running a brand?
Honestly, pretty hectic! We have three boys (my eldest has just started reception and my youngest is 5 months), and my husband also runs his own business in garden design, so no two days are really the same. I’m on the school run and pick up four days a week and have Raffy (who is 2) with me two days a week, so on these days I try and work around nap times. Sometimes a day can be a total write off with Raffy and Bruno sleeping at opposite times, and when this happens I don’t try to fight it. I’ll just put my phone and laptop away and work when they’ve all gone to bed in the evening. It can be stressful and I have moments of feeling completely overwhelmed and I wonder what the hell I am doing, but I have the most amazing Beyond Nine customers who send me little love notes of the most incredible feedback and that always lifts me back up and inspires me to carry on.
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