Now no more baggy, shapeless clothes for moms-to-be. Shilpa Nair Anand discovers a fashionable line of maternity wear designed and manufactured in the city

Maternity wear — over-sized, shapeless, inconvenient, extremely hard to find in the city or not the kind that can be worn comfortably would be some of your thoughts. Worry not, there is hope in the form of Ziva. You can look stylish and feel beautiful even in the ninth month of pregnancy. Ziva is Kochi-based May Joy’s line of maternity wear manufactured here in the city.

Ziva has a spacious outlet in Thammanam, soon Kozhikode will get one too. “My experience, first while I was pregnant and later when I was nursing my baby, gave me the idea to start a maternity wear line,” the young mother of two says. She goes on, “finding the right clothes, comfortable and the kind that can be worn here, was hard.

Even today there is hardly anything. Most of the stores, then, just had a couple of nighties or maternity jeans or knitwear which you can wear in places like Bangalore.” This led her to do her own research and development, with ample help and support from her husband, Sumon P. Chacko, an interior designer, and finally opening the store. This is probably Kerala’s only maternity wear line, designed and made in Kerala.

She pulls out a ‘feeding cover’ by way of explanation. Having to nurse (breastfeed) a baby in a public place can be an exercise in embarrassment, for everybody in the vicinity. “I was travelling by train and I had to nurse the baby. What could I do? Sitting in a strange angle, precariously perched on a train berth so that none could see I realised how awkward it is for everybody. That’s when I thought of the feeding cover,” May explains.

Functional products

The feeding cover is a piece of cloth with an adjustable fibre loop which you can slip around your neck and it falls like a curtain over your chest. And you can nurse the baby in complete privacy. No struggling with the dupatta or the unseemly towel.

The feeding pillow is another. The feeding pillows are ampler than the regular ones and can be used later. This is just one of the functional products that she has designed and/or come up with. Then there is the body pillow, for pregnant women, which is longer than the usual body pillow and curves in to form the letter ‘P’. This way the stomach and the back get ample support.

She has a production unit, in Thammanam, where she has a team of 15 tailors. The design and product development team has, besides her, two others. While she does the designing, the other two people on her team do the sampling and the merchandising.

She has gone full hog with the production. “I started production in June last year. By the time we opened the shop in December I had enough stock for four shops ready,” she says. The initial R&D took place in a room adjacent to her house in Thammanam.

That is when the trained fashion designer took over. A graduate in fashion design from the Centre of Costume and Fashion Design, Kozhikode, May has brought in the skills and professionalism into her work. She was faculty at the Kitex Institute of Fashion Technology on Marine Drive. Her two assistants are her former students.

Fashion design jargon comes tumbling out as she speaks about production, pattern making, construction, size charts… “our size chart was not made in a day. The homework and research took two years of work.” The ‘work’ included taking measurements of pregnant women of various dimensions, making sample garments and checking the fit and comfort.

She refuses to operate by the ‘one size fits all pregnant women’ design funda. Ziva has S, M, L, XL, XXL and now is planning on keeping a few pieces of XXXL too. “Some women are advised bed rest from the first trimester onwards. Over the course of the nine months these women put on a lot of weight. Husbands and mothers come looking for clothes,” she says.

The fit and shape

Besides the graded sizes, she pays attention to the fit and shape of the maternity wear. A couple of discreet gathers here, some pleats there and voila a stylish shapely outfit for the expectant mother. “I have not compromised on the shape, just made provisions for the garment to fit the growing belly.” May adds that rather than recycle the same old designs, she puts up new styles on almost a weekly basis. After all, there is no reason a pregnant woman shouldn’t look and feel beautiful.

For nursing mothers

For nursing mothers there are smart shirts, skirts, chic tunics, tops, kurtis and kurtas (casual and formal) too. Young mothers, who are nursing, can say bye to the standard issue front open kurtas/nighties. The opening to nurse the baby, in May’s garments, is sometimes in the form of a well-concealed opening with zips or some design element that forms a part of the garment.

The chudidars (‘bottom’) are the adjustable variety with comfortable elastic bands “that don’t bite into the skin” as May points out. And most of these are not the use and the throw after the baby grows variety. These can be used afterwards as the ‘maternity’ design elements are carefully concealed.

To keep things manageable, May does not want to spread herself too thin by opening too many outlets. “Maybe one more in the city and then maybe franchisees otherwise it will turn unwieldy in terms of production and investment,” she says.

For babies? “Nothing. Because there are enough shops and products for babies.”