Pregnant women are often complimented on the way they look, with the term “glowing” often trotted out. While mothers may look back on pregnancy fondly years later, the reality of living it at the time is quite different.
Through her eight years working as a stylist and art director, London entrepreneur Polly Hayward constantly heard pregnant women voice their frustrations about their bodies and how their relationship with clothes had changed.
“I’m really lucky to have a job that allows me to have a personal relationship with women – we’d chat during shoots and a lot of them would talk about the excitement of pregnancy. Among their excitement and nervousness, they would tell me that they struggled to find any clothes that were stylish and practical, everything out there didn’t reflect their personal style,” Hayward said.
So Hayward decided to launch her own collection of maternity wear, a line that was both practical and fashionable enough that women would want to wear it without necessarily being pregnant.
Hayward spent two and a half years developing the idea while working her full time job. She said she started out discussing the concept with her colleagues and others whose opinions she respected, with idea being to talk to as many women as possible about their experiences. When she saw the idea had legs, she then had to decide whether or not to leave her job.
“Once I had made the decision, I used what spare time I had developing it into something workable. I worked at weekends and any spare hours possible, I started making connections, sketching out ideas and working on things like the business plan,” she said.
Hayward has created pieces on fit and design for different style preferences, keeping women fashion forward with sharp cuts in classic colours. She has also paid particular attention to versatility, designing pieces for both during pregnancy and after; for example, Just Polly offers garments with zips and concealed breastfeeding panels for nursing.
With the first collection now launched, Hayward said the support she has gotten from her local East London community and pregnant women along the way has helped grow her confidence and belief in her work.
“I have so many more pieces I want to add and I can’t wait to grow the collection. Of course a few orders helps and each time I receive good feedback it gives me a boost and reassures me I have done the right thing.”
Hayward is also putting the support she received back into the business, with each piece of the first collection named after friends and family and others who have helped in the creation of Just Polly.
“I want to keep the brand personable from design right through to the packaging.”
As she looks ahead to expanding Just Polly’s range, Hayward’s advice to other entrepreneurs is simple: “You have to be prepared to work hard and put in the hours and to achieve this you have to be completely passionate about what you are doing. If you are producing something be completely true to yourself, do you like it? Would you want to wear it? I think it is important for women to get a good sense of my own personal style within the collection.”
Hayward was helped along in her business journey by MOO, who helped her create Just Polly’s marketing materials ahead of the launch of the first collection.