Every working mother-to-be knows how challenging it can be to stay comfortable, professional and stylish at the office. By offering an impressively curated collection of Europan maternity brands and styles, Prelegant.com has risen to the top as the go-to site for elegant work wear. Here, Raphy Tolub - founder of Prelegant - tells us what inspired him to start the company, and shares with us some of his best advice for dressing well at work while baby's on board...
Jackie Rose: What is your background in fashion and style?
Raphy Tolub: I was always exposed to the latest up-and-coming trends and fashion designers growing up in France. As a young boy, I never really paid much attention to it, but as I matured I began to acquire an appreciation for the styles and silhouettes that surrounded me. While I knew I wouldn't thrive as a fashion designer in such an intensely competitive industry, I decided to pursue my passion for fashion behind the scenes - through business and marketing.
I graduated from Sy Syms School of Business in New York with a Bachelors degree in Finance and Marketing, and continued my education at ESSEC School of Business in Paris, France where I received a Masters in Marketing Management. Before starting Prelegant, I co-founded and designed at Flavio Creation, a company that produces women's shoes mainly distributed in Europe.
Now as the co-founder of Prelegant.com, I am constantly researching new trends and keeping an eye out for new European designers. I make it my duty to ensure that Prelegant.com carries only the best selection of professional and elegant maternity wear.
JR: What is the history and/or inspiration behind Prelegant?
RT: When my wife, Gila, attended the University of Chicago School of Business to get her MBA, she was already the mother of our two beautiful children, Liora, 7 and Yoni, 3. She naturally got very involved with young mothers and mothers-to-be who were trying to best juggle their professional and personal lives.
Mothers in Business School are a small but very impressive and supportive group. One major concern that these women quickly faced during recruitment season, was what to wear for interviews. On top of it all, maternity designs and selections were very limited and hard to come across on the web. I came to the realization that women needed a store dedicated to the working mom-to-be with stylish and elegant professional wear.
JR: What niche is it filling for pregnant working women?
RT: Nowadays we are seeing more women working while pregnant and working longer into their pregnancies as well. Not to mention, more and more women are having children at a later age when their careers are better established and the financial stakes are higher.
For those expectant working women who have a passion for fashion and a strong sense of style, Prelegant would be their go-to store, especially when personal shopping time is limited. Prelegant is a great option for any mother-to-be, however for those professional business women who have booming careers with little time to shop, Prelegant can offer them perfectly tailored business maternity wear that can be worn both in and out of the office for a more elegant, high-fashion look.
Another great bit about Prelegant.com is that the styles and brands we offer are all imported directly from Europe. Certain brands sold on our site have a very limited offering in the states, while some pieces are not even available for purchase in American markets for that matter. You will look stylish and professional, without bumping into anyone wearing the same outfit… no pun intended.
JR: What's the secret to a great business suit?
RT: Prelegant's secret to the perfect business suit is both shape and quality. You would be surprised how a perfectly tailored suit can give a pregnant women the perfect shape and flattering figure, even at the largest stage of pregnancy.
Elasticity is also important, but I've come across styles that are made with such an overwhelming amount that it often cheapens the look and the fit of the suit. Our suits are made with less elasticity, but still offer a comfortable stretch for plenty of movement and for long days of sitting at the office. Our suits are also made with a variety of different belly bands that naturally adjust to size depending on the stage of pregnancy.
JR: What do you find most challenging about styling pregnant women?
RT: It can be really difficult to feel glamorous, stylish and confident for women at any stage of pregnancy. Typically, the third trimester is the toughest, but regardless it is my job and the job of my site to fix this issue that so many pregnant women face in general whether they are working or not.
A beautiful and elegant outfit can do wonders for an expectant mother's self-confidence. Getting women to accept and embrace their changes by providing them with figure-flattering clothes that are comfortable and appropriate for work is our goal.
JR: Prelegant brings European brands to the North American market. How do European women and North American women differ in terms of their maternity style?
RT: European brands typically stick to current trends and fashion, by altering off the runway clothing to fit pregnant women. Some European women tend to embrace their bump more than some American women do, wearing more figure-conscious clothes.
In my opinion, American brands don't specialize as much in fit, rather they focus more on comfort. To be perfectly honest, women who appreciate high fashion may choose to compromise comfort in order to get a better fit.
JR: Do you have any tips on budget shopping... on what items should a pregnant woman choose to save, and where should she splurge?
RT: It's important to have one or two good quality trouser pants that can be mixed and matched with different tops, cardigans, jackets and shoes throughout the week. Save money on accessories and basics like shoes and tops that can be worn with a nice pair of pants to maintain a classy and elegant look. Bottoms such as suit trousers, denim, leggings and skirts are much tougher to purchase at a bargain and still achieve a high fashion look.
JR: What are some big maternity business-wear trends for this year?
RT: A great tip for pregnant women is the bigger the belly - the bigger the bag. Clothing that shows off the baby bump is in. Bold and bright colors for spring are what all the celebs are wearing. The color-blocking trend is translating beautifully to maternity wear, as well as polka dots and paisley prints. Straight, knee-length skirts are perfect for the working-while-expecting mom. Also, accessorizing with oversized necklaces, bags or jewellery (but not all at once.)
JR: Have you had a good response to Prelegant Maternity?
RT: I'm happy with the response Prelegant has received thus far, especially since we are still fairly new. I've found that while many women really love the concept of Prelegant, they are hesitant to make the purchase online. Prelegant guarantees a secure checkout with a friendly return policy, so I hope with time more women will get in the groove.
JR: What's coming up next?
RT: I plan on bringing in more European brands to the site, which will allow us to expand our product offering and carry a larger variety of accessories, hand bags, shoes and apparel, both casual and sophisticated. By venturing into more everyday wear and not just strictly business professional wear, I hope to expand our customer base and provide fashion-forward maternity wear for moms-to-be everywhere.