Why did you apply for Threads?
The Threads Accelerator programme was advertised to businesses which operate within the fashion industry value chain. Hannah Grace, which is my primary label, has been targeted towards mums and expectant mums seeking affordable, practical and versatile clothing during their pregnancy and breastfeeding journey. I’ve been seeking to grow the label by adding trendy, fashion-forward items to serve an expectant mum in all aspects of her life, (work-wear, sleepwear, swimwear and evening wear). I see the programme as a catalyst and enabler to help me gain access to fellow fashion players in the value chain as well as sharpening my business skills.
Four weeks in:
From a business perspective, the exposure to key stakeholders in the industry has already benefitted my label. To see what business leaders are doing, and the ingenuity of their thinking has inspired a lot of the changes I am implementing. From a personal perspective, it’s always a confidence boost to have a team of experts believe in your potential as a businesswoman and business viability.
What has inspired you to start your brand/business?
My business has grown from my own insights and challenges as a mother. My first three babies were born during my corporate years and I remember the feeling of not ever having anything appropriate to wear. The insight is deeper to a woman who, even though is expecting a baby, still holds fast to her dreams and ambitions of being taken seriously in the corporate and business world through her pregnancy journey. Dressing the part plays a big role in the way a woman feels.
Breastfeeding is equally challenging. By the time I had my last baby, I was a firm believer in the benefits of breastfeeding and wanted to continue for as long as possible. This was nearly an impossible journey as clothing was always a challenge, from breastfeeding in public to breastfeeding on a chilly night…no one wants to fully disrobe to provide your baby with food.
Tell us more about your brand
My business is called Hannah Grace Maternity, it’s been in existence for four years and is based in Durban. I supply maternity wear and breastfeeding wear. The brand has grown largely based on my own insights and challenges as a mum of four.
I have been through the stages of feeling like nothing I had in my wardrobe would fit or look good on me. During breastfeeding, the challenges may even be worse. A breastfed baby doesn’t always keep a schedule. Therefore feeding on demand means you always need to have accessible clothing, in order that you don’t have to completely disrobe in public to feed a hungry baby.
My new range includes:
Workwear, sleepwear, evening wear, swimwear and casual wear ( all breastfeeding friendly)
What is the greatest challenge you faced so far as fashion entrepreneurs in South Africa?
The challenges have been market development. Often, women feel that maternity wear is unaffordable and that it lasts just the duration of pregnancy. My clothing is designed to flatter a pregnant body and equally give the versatility of being worn during breastfeeding, this could be up to 18 months of a woman’s life. Some of our shoppers are not even pregnant but like the quality and style of clothing.
I do believe that there are challenges when it comes to supporting local businesses. It really is true that when you support a local business, there’s an actual a person that does a happy dance!
What is your favorite side of doing business in the fashion industry?
Honestly, it’s the satisfaction of a happy customer. The ones that come back and purchase again and again and who sticks with you, recommending you to others.
Tell me about an accomplishment you are the proudest of.
When I opened my first Kids emporium store in Gateway mall, straight out of corporate, I was so proud to be associated with the brand. When I later sold and acquired the rights to manufacture and distribute their own brand ‘Kids Emporium Maternity’ nationally to the chain of stores, that was a personal triumph.
In 2016, I built my own online store, hannahgrace.co.za, which gave me an online presence added to the retail presence in the national Kids emporium chain.
Now in the summer of 2017, I will be launching my new range that is all-encompassing, and representative of a millennial mothers life and tastes.
What trends do you currently see in the fashion industry, in SA and abroad?
In women’s fashion, floral prints seem to be a craze, with bold and bright colors.