Why is there not more maternity wear made in the UK?

British-made maternity wear: Why are there not more brands making in the UK?

By Lauren Walker

Lauren in Tiffany Rose
Lauren in her Tiffany Rose maternity dress

With my second baby due very soon, I wanted to take a look at British-made maternity wear brands and why there are surprisingly few options made in the UK.

Having worked for Make it British for several years my shopping habits have changed. I no longer default to the obvious high street option as I did previously,  instead I value the quality of garments made in the UK and try to buy British where I can.

When dressing my bump this time around I was keen to look at UK brands for my maternity wardrobe but have been genuinely surprised at how few maternity brands make in the UK. When doing a Google Search for ‘British made maternity wear’ I found the first five options that Google delivered were brands I know are not made in Britain at all.

We have three fabulous maternity brands on Make it British, who each offer something different to expectant and new mothers. Sadly, while these wonderful brands did show up on my search, they were further down the page, underneath and in amongst brands who are far from British made.

Tiffany Rose recently won the Queen’s award for International trade 2018

One of the brands I know do make their garments in the UK is Tiffany Rose.

“As a company we care passionately that all design and production happens here in the United Kingdom.  Our insistence on keeping  our production on British soil helps preserve our most precious home-grown  talents and we aim to keep it that way.” Tiffany London, Founder, Tiffany Rose

Famous for their fabulous maternity occasion wear Tiffany Rose offers beautiful solutions for maternity bridal, bridesmaid and red-carpet looks as well as smart and elegant day wear.

Lotus Maternity offer award winning feeding tops which are designed by midwives to give mothers a stylish option of clothing for when they are feeding.

Mother & Nature offer UK made outdoor wear for the active mum-to-be and their range includes active wear which can grow with you and then be reduced back down once your little bundle has arrived.

I spoke with all three of these companies to try and get a sense of why there is so little maternity wear made in Britain, even at a time when the public appetite for locally made products is on the rise.

One of the factors seems to be that women don’t want to invest too heavily in maternity wear as pregnancy is a temporary state:

“I think there is a misconception that maternity wear is a disposable item with a short life span.”  Samantha, Mother & Nature.

Another factor is that women are less inclined to spend money on themselves when they have a new arrival pending. Olivia at Lotus Maternity speaks with lots of women in the breastfeeding groups she runs and says:

“They don’t have the luxury of spending as much money on clothing during their maternity leave.  Especially as there is a complete paradigm shift once the baby is born, as the maternity pay which they receive (already reduced from their usual salary) is generally spent on items for their newborn babies rather than themselves.”

I can completely relate to this.

Spending money on clothing that will only be used for a short period, at a time when your income is about to seriously reduce, does seem a bit reckless. But, I have found that even without realising it, you DO spend money on maternity wear. You have to because nothing fits!

The odd pair of leggings in a larger size, a couple of bits from an online maternity concession of a well known brand. It seems an inexpensive way to adapt your wardrobe but it all adds up. And these seemingly cheaper options are what British-made maternity brands are up against.

“Lotus Maternity will never be able to compete on price against high street nursing vests for example, that are made in Bangladesh from synthetic fabrics and are half the retail price of our premium, luxury ‘Lilly’ vests.”

Lotus Maternity nursing tops

But, at a time when our self esteem is often low and we are feeling uncomfortable in our own bodies, is it not worth a little bit of investment to make what should be a very special time, feel a bit more fabulous?

“I do think that women would like to have the option of buying something which is slightly more premium.  There are always occasions when good quality maternity wear is required, whether this is for work, a function, or in the case of Mother & Nature, a need for good quality outdoor wear.”

I learnt this for myself at this year’s Make it British Live! show, where I was lucky enough to wear two dresses from Tiffany Rose.

I have felt very large during this pregnancy and have tended to hide my bump in borrowed clothes in a larger size. However when I put on the dresses from Tiffany I felt transformed and was showered in compliments.

Well cut, good quality maternity wear celebrates your bump and makes you look and feel far more attractive. Premium quality material and well manufactured pieces are more comfortable to wear and last well.

Already, in less than a month I have worn both of these dresses again and again and will continue to do so until my little one arrives (and probably for a while after too). When I am finished with these dresses, they will be passed on to friends who are expecting so that they can enjoy them.

So, on a cost per wear basis, is good quality British made maternity an extravagance? I think not. I certainly won’t be passing on any of my cheap oversized leggings to anyone!

And for the brands mentioned, what drives them to continue making maternity wear in Britain when they are up against competition from cheaper alternatives?

“I would rather invest money in luxury materials and expert craftsmanship that is delivered through British textiles manufacturing and provide this to my customers.
I  realise the importance of manufacturing locally – that it not only helps to support the economy and local jobs but also has a great sense of provenance and helps to keep the British textiles industry alive!”
Olivia, Lotus Maternity

Plus, as Samantha at Mother & Nature points out, there are lots of benefits for a brand to manufacturing in the UK:

“It is more expensive on a unit cost basis, but when you take into account the cost of shipping, language barriers, creating samples and sending these back and forth until the product is approved, this can be a lengthy and expensive process.  I find you have more control over the process when manufacturing in the UK.”

Mother & Nature maternity activewear

I spoke to Sarah-Jane of soon-to-launch British brand Ubere Mama, who is launching a range of clothing for breastfeeding mums, about her experience of making her products in the UK:

“It is about being smart with your product offer and sourcing and then working closely with reliable suppliers that can offer you the headstart in growing your brand. Also don’t try and compete with the cheaper product imports – make your brand stand out as niche British designed and manufactured.”

Far from being a hurdle, manufacturing in the UK can be a factor which makes your business a success:

“It allows businesses like ours to  be flexible and responsive – which is essential in this current climate.  Fast turnaround is vital not only for our website customers, but also the boutiques that we supply across the globe.”  Tiffany London, Founder, Tiffany Rose

So if you are expecting a baby and need to invest in some key pieces to get you through the next few trimesters, I would thoroughly recommend making a few well considered purchases from brands like these, rather than spending your budget on lots of cheap items that don’t make you look or feel your best.

If you are launching a maternity brand or considering doing so, making in the UK could be the right thing for you to have the quality and the control that you want. If you don’t know where to start in finding the right manufacturer, we can help!

And finally, if you are a British-made maternity brand please let us know so that we can give you a shout out. It seems to me that Google is letting you down.