After noticing a regular pattern among friends disliking their wardrobes during their pregnancy, Cecile set out to deliver clothes that women would want to wear whether they were expecting or not; filling the gap in the market for tasteful and practical maternity wear. Now thriving in London and New York, Seraphine will soon be launching a flagship store in LA.
We catch up with the founder, Cecile who shares with us her story of transitioning from an advertising executive at J Walter Thompson to taking the leap and going full time with Seraphine. However, not without rigorous market research and preparation for the hard work that has resulted in Seraphine being one of the leading retailers in maternity wear.
Hi Cecile, please introduce yourself and your brand Seraphine?
Hello, my name is Cecile Reinaud, and I am the founder & managing director of maternity fashion brand Seraphine. I was born in Paris and grew up moving between France & the UK, before settling in London after University to start my career. I now live in Hampstead with my two sons, Lorenz (12) and Florian (8).
I opened the first Seraphine boutique in London’s Kensington in 2002, and since then the company has grown to become a top maternity fashion destination. We are a celebrity favourite, and have dressed some of the most stylish bumps in the business including everyone from rock stars to royalty - just last week actress Mila Kunis was spotted wearing a pair of our ripped maternity jeans! We famously dressed Kate Middleton, The Duchess of Cambridge through both of her pregnancies, as well as countless A-listers including Anne Hathaway, Gwen Stefani, Jessica Alba, Olivia Wilde, Doutzen Kroes and many more besides.
Today Seraphine maternity stores can be found in London, New York, Paris, Hong Kong & Dubai, and women from all over the world seek out our maternity clothes online.
What inspired you to revolutionise the maternity wear industry?
I think every woman has that time in her life when suddenly she seems to be surrounded by pregnancy and babies. For me, I was just entering my early thirties when everyone I knew suddenly appeared to be pregnant – friends, colleagues, family – everyone! I noticed that one topic of conversation kept coming up again and again: They all complained about the lack of stylish maternity clothes – especially clothes they’d feel confident wearing to work.
That was my lightbulb moment – I spotted a gap in the market & decided to take it!
What were you doing prior to starting and how did you go about the transition?
Before launching Seraphine, I was working as an advertising executive at J Walter Thompson. I loved my job & had worked really hard to get to where I was – I had been the youngest account director in the company’s history. So it was a big decision to leave that behind and strike out on my own, but once I’d had the idea I knew it was something I had to do.
That being said, my first move was to do A LOT of market research. I travelled to the US where, at the time, the maternity market was more advanced than ours, and I gathered ideas and information about what was working out there. Then I created a business plan & started the process of raising capital.
Have you always been entrepreneurial?
Yes, I think I’ve always had that entrepreneurial spark. I studied business at university & dreamed of owning my own company one day. Now that it’s a reality, I have to admit; I love it even more than I thought I would!
Can you tell us about the aims and ethos behind the brand and how this is reflected in the collections?
My goal with Seraphine has always been to create stylish maternity clothes that women would love to wear even if they weren’t pregnant. And that idea remains at the heart of everything we do today. Our clothes are designed to enhance and celebrate a woman’s changing shape, growing with her bump, and helping her to feel confident in her new curves. On the practical side of things, our styles are easy to care for – crucial for busy mums. They can also be worn through every stage of pregnancy, and many offer easy access for breastfeeding after the baby is born.
How is Seraphine planning on growing and developing as a business over the coming months?
My next move will be to set up a flagship store in LA. Our two New York stores have proved so popular, and we know that our US website gets an almost equal split of traffic coming from the East & West Coast, so it just makes sense, this is a very exciting one for me, as LA is one of my favourite places in the world.
What have been the greatest lessons you have learnt from running your business?
One of my greatest lessons has been the importance of recruiting the right people to join your team. Bringing in the expertise where you need it is vital but equally important is to find the right person for the job. I think after a while you get a kind of instinct for who is going to thrive in your office culture, and it’s always those people who will end up making the most positive contribution.
How do you balance life as a working mother?
For me, the most important thing was to realise that there is no such thing as superwoman. When I first started out, I used to get so frustrated about not having enough time to achieve everything I wanted to at work as well as spending enough time at home with my family. I think women have a tendency towards perfectionism, which often isn’t helpful. I’ve since learnt not to be so hard on myself. Every morning I make a list of 10 things I want to achieve that day, then I cross out the four least important and accept that they can wait. This way I find that I have more positive energy that I can re-deploy to both my business and my family.
What new collections will we be seeing in the Seraphine stores?
This year’s winter collection is in and already flying off the shelves. We have some fantastic new maternity coats this season; my favourite product is our super-stylish new 3 in 1 Maternity Parka. You can wear it throughout pregnancy, and it comes with a zip-on kangaroo panel at the front for wearing with a baby carrier or sling after the baby is born!
This year I also introduced a new baby wear range - The Diana Collection, which offers beautiful baby dresses, coats, cardigans, blankets and more in adorable pastel shades. The collection is made in the softest woollen blends and natural cotton, and it is inspired by traditional baby wear styles, which I paired down to suit a more modern aesthetic. It makes a real feature of the iconic Diana pastel tartan and going into the New Year; I have some exciting plans to expand the collection. I created the range in collaboration with The Diana Award; the charity set up in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, and 12% of the price of each piece sold goes directly to the charity. So far I am proud to say we’ve raised over £15,000, and I am passionate about continuing to give back and developing this wonderful partnership.
What key pieces of advice could you give to working parents and those looking to start/run their own business?
To working parents, I would say that it’s important to find your own balance. You can’t be everywhere at once, so you just have find what works for you and stick with it. Try not to feel pressured by what other people are doing – you are doing the best you can & that is all anyone can ask.
If you are looking to start your own business, I would warn you to expect a lot of hard work – especially in the early days. Things won’t always go to plan, and the sooner you can learn to roll with the punches the better. But that being said, if you are passionate about your idea and truly believe that you can make it work, the rewards are 100% worth the effort.