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Superkin: How do you sell maternity wear to modern mothers?

There’s a short window of time for a new brand to get in front of soon-to-be mothers. Superkin reckons its fresh take on the category will help.

In 2018, Superkin launched with a range of smart, stylish clothes for women who happened to be pregnant.

In 2017, friends Tara Henning and Miriam Williams found themselves going through pregnancy at the same time – and they weren’t happy with the frumpy clothing options on offer. So instead, they set about working on a new kind of maternity brand: one that acknowledged that pregnant women continue to live their lives while growing a baby inside of them. Here, the founders talk about why this change needed to happen, and the challenges of launching a brand in this limited-time-only category.

What makes Superkin different to other maternity brands?

Miriam: So, Superkin is not a maternity brand. In our mid 30s when [Tara and I] were both pregnant, we took a look around and didn't see products that we wanted, or a brand that resonated with the women that we were. [Pregnancy] is a pivotal moment, you're worried about your career, how things are going to change, all your relationships are going to change.. It’s a transformational moment, [but] the landscape was just rainbows and sunshine – you’re an earth goddess. What we felt was missing was products that made [a pregnant woman] feel like herself, the way she would normally dress. We say we're dressing you, not the bump.

But as much as you want to reject the label, isn’t that how people will find you?

Tara: It is a bit of a show-stopping, record-scratching thing to say. [It’s more that] we’re not what you think of as a maternity brand. What's unfortunate is that there's this really negative connotation with the word. Even my husband, when he tells people what we're doing, women are like, “ugh! Maternity”. But then they are excited to see that there's change in the space.

Why isn’t there a wider range of styles when it comes to maternity wear?

T: It's very much this outdated experience from a product perspective and a brand voice [perspective]. Women are [more often] giving birth in their 30s, so she has a different sense of style and her expectations are just wildly different.

M: So when [you] look at who dominates the market they're just asking: “Well, what did we make last year? What sold well?” Rinse, repeat. The people running these big box retailers tend to be men who haven't experienced pregnancy.

Could it be that some styles of clothing are hard to make with a maternity fit?

T: No. It's funny, when we first started out, we asked some of the designers [who worked with big box retailers], what the deal was. But they [said] basically that's just what they sell and they copy it year-over-year – 80% of the market is just chasing what they know works. We were very conscientious to design something that didn't scream maternity, and that she could wear before, during, after and in between kids.

Superkin says maternity wear doesn't need to be frumpy.
When the customer does want to stop wearing Superkin’s clothes – what happens to the products?

M: We have a giveback programme where she can reach out to us if she's done with her clothes and we'll donate them to a homeless prenatal programme in San Francisco.

Did you ever consider a rental model?

M: Maternity isn't really a one-size-fits-all category. Your maternity pants or leggings, you're going to wear those, like, five times a week. When you [find] stuff that fits and feels great, you'll want to wear it over and over again. That doesn't necessarily align perfectly with a rental model, where you want to try something once and move on. Also, if someone's wearing [these pants] with a nine month bump, and you have a four month bump, they might have stretched them out, so it doesn't quite make sense from a practical perspective. This category has no shortage of challenges.

This is a category where comfort is the goal – and so trying on clothing is important. Does this make selling maternity wear online hard?

M: It's a pain point that's so natural to imagine, because your body's changing and generally [you’re shopping with] brands you've never shopped with before. Our solve for that has been to offer at no charge a second size if she's on the fence. So if she's ordering the medium but wants to try the large, we're happy to send it to her. About 25% of our customers take advantage of that.

T: I think the thing that makes it the most challenging is that, you know, they call it a “parade category”, because she comes in and out of it.

M: When you're talking about customer lifetime value, you basically want to get her when you're in her consideration [stage], and when she's ready to shop you want to be that first brand that comes to mind. Once the baby comes she's not necessarily shopping for maternity clothes any more. It's a limited time window we have to catch her. It's the biggest challenge and the most fun in terms of figuring out that secret sauce.

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