The founder of maternity brand Séraphine on dressing royal bumps and having room to grow.
Having founded maternity brand Séraphine in 2002, Cecile Reinaud has steadily grown its wholesale andretail business. As well as selling in John Lewis in the UK and A Pea in The Pod in the US, it now has three London stores, in Battersea, Kensington and Marylebone. International expansion has focused her mind in recent years with three stores opened in Paris, New York and Hong Kong. She talks to Drapers about her plans for growth and being on the world’s front pages.
Did you always know you wanted to launch a fashion brand?
Fashion has always been in my blood. My grandparents supplied fabrics to some of the top fashion houses in Paris [such as Chanel and Lanvin], but I didn’t originally set out to start a fashion label. I studied business, then started my career in marketing. It wasn’t until my friends started to fall pregnant that the idea for Séraphine came about. They struggled to find maternity clothes they liked and used to come to me with alteration requests for their clothes. I spotted a gap in the market for fashion-forward maternitywear and the business went from there.
What are the most common challenges for pregnant women looking for fashionable clothing?
Maternity fashion has come on in leaps and bounds since I started Séraphine, and it’s becoming easier for women to stick to their signature style. But learning how to dress a constantly evolving body shape is still a challenge. At Séraphine our clothes are designed to fit and flatter before, during and after pregnancy, taking the hassle out of the process.
What is Séraphine’s secret to designing maternitywear that flatters a woman and gives her confidence at a time when her body is changing so much?
We offer comfort and quality without compromising on style. All of our maternity clothes are designed with a fashion focus, as well as a true understanding of and appreciation for the amazing changes a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy.
Kate Middleton has been a big supporter of the brand during both her pregnancies. How has she affected sales?
Which items have been her favourites?
We are pretty familiar with the Kate effect now; our sales jump every time she’s photographed in one of our styles [often by more than 100%]. When she was expecting Prince George, the Duchess was pregnant during the summer and loved our knot-front maternity dresses. This time she’s had a winter pregnancy so far and has chosen more coats and winter dresses, like the Marina coat (£275) and Vanessa dress (£59), which she wore on her recent trip to the US.
Which other high profile mums-to-be have chosen Séraphine?
We have quite a celebrity following these days. As well as the Duchess, we’ve dressed pop stars like Gwen Stefani and Shakira, Hollywood actresses including Kate Winslet, Jessica Alba and Zoe Saldana, supermodels like Doutzen Kroes and Claudia Schiffer, and many others.
What’s been your proudest moment during the last 12 years of Séraphine?
Seeing our fuchsia knot-front dress (£49) all over the world’s front pages was an amazing moment. The Duchess of Cambridge chose the dress for her first official family photographs with Prince George and the pictures went viral.
Which areas of the business do you exert the biggest influence on?
I’m very involved in the product development process and I also like to work closely with the marketing team, putting my marketing background to good use. Last November Séraphine opened its first US store in New York’s SoHo, and you have stores in London, Paris and Hong Kong.
What are your plans for further expansion?
We have very exciting plans for the coming year and are looking into several new locations in the UK. Without wanting to give too much away, we are looking further afield than London. A Chicago store will open for spring 15 and a San Francisco store for autumn 15.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
Richard Branson’s party at his house [in April] to celebrate being among the fastest growth companies in the UK for 2014. Being part of the very select group for The Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 is testament to all our hard work, and a lavish party will be well deserved.
And the least?
Having to move office again [to London’s Oxford Street area] after two years. It’s called growth pains…
What are your new year’s resolutions?
Always look forward; never dwell on the past.
When are you at your happiest?
Surrounded by fun people, be it friends, colleagues or my children. I like having a good laugh.
What’s your favourite item in your wardrobe?
My Jimmy Choo python stilettos.
And what has been your worst fashion mishap?
My much-loved Ugg boots. They’re so comfortable and cosy but so ugly.
What’s your favourite piece from the latest collection and why?
The Vanessa roll-neck dress, an LBD that can take you from day to night. It’s been worn by the Duchess of Cambridge recently in New York.
What is the biggest misconception about you?
That I’m tough.
If you were given £1m tomorrow, what would you spend it on?
I’d start up my own charity to help educate women in the Third World.