Pregnancy, Waste, Circular Design, Sustainability, Business, Maternity, Rental, Network, Online Resale, Storq, Circular Economy, Resale, Maternity Clothes

Pregnancy, Waste

Maternity Wear Has a Waste Problem

What happens to all those elastic waistbands after pregnancy ends?

9/16/2021 7:20:00 PM

Maternity wear is big business, but it's also ready for a resale rethink:

What happens to all those elastic waistbands after pregnancy ends?

Photo: Courtesy of StorqBecause this is 2021, those hyper-local options also exist online, most prevalently on Facebook, where groups welcome parents looking to buy and sell used maternity clothes, toys and baby gear. It's very often where you'll find clothing at the lowest price, with order fulfillment often being as easy as in-person drop-off across town. Stafford, who's based in New York City, joined one of these groups after she gave birth.

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"We do share a lot of information, but we also sell a lot to each other," she says. "It creates this cult following. You have a community where you can resell and buy and get ideas from."Storq, a contemporary line of what it calls "daily essentials" for pregnancy, is considering maternity wear from another perspective: What if we put a new premium on cost-per-wear, not just for pregnant people?

At the time that best friends-turned-business partners Grace Kapin and Courtney Klein co-founded Storq in 2014, neither had been pregnant. But a lack of gestational experience themselves didn't preclude them from understanding what was intrinsically wrong with maternity wear and the attitudes that surround it. The label has kept the same tagline since it released its first collection seven years ago: "You don't need a whole new wardrobe, just the basics."

With just 16 elevated styles, Storq's small-but-mighty maternity line-up bucks the category's age-old tradition of ruched seams, scratchy fabrics and flouncy ruffles. (Oh my god, just so, so many ruffles.) Its signature garment is arguably its

Instagram-beloved leopard-printed bike shorts, which come certified by Oeko-Tex's Standard 100, one of the world's best-known labels for textiles tested for harmful substances."From the very beginning, Storq was predicated on an understanding that, holistically, this is a difficult time to be making purchases," Kapin says. "You have a lot of financial things on your mind, and fashion goes way down to the bottom of the list. So we're always trying to think about how to maximize your purchase, how to make it so that this isn't something that just ends up on the top of the landfill."

While the brand is still finalizing the data internally, Kapin and Klein claim their customers wear their Storq pieces an average of five times a week, for a roughly six-month window during and after their pregnancies. And if you're wearing something five times a week for six months, Klein suggests, that piece of clothing is seeing a lot more wear than most items in your closet.

The issue is, we've become so reliant on overconsumption that our retail infrastructure simply doesn't promote a price-per-wear mentality, let alone have the bandwidth to support practical reuse options. A2016 McKinsey & Company studyfound that, as of 2014 — the same year Kapin and Klein launched Storq — the average consumer bought 60% more clothing than they had in 2000, but kept each garment half as long. And on average, Americans are throwing away 81 pounds of textiles per person, per year. By adjusting the way we think about what it means to wear a garment, can we also adjust what it means when we're done with that garment? That's what Storq is trying to find out.

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"It makes me think about how people don't hesitate to make big impulse buys for a trip or when they have an event coming up," Kapin says. "People categorize things differently in their mind. And when it comes to maternity, the resistance is high, and it puts the onus on us to create a lot of value, where most companies and categories don't have that pressure to have something that fits when your body is changing from day to day."

That distinct pressure maternity retailers face? It's good, actually, for brands to feel compelled to sell value — and for consumers to learn how to prioritize. Gabriel, the Glasgow Caledonian New York College lecturer, argues that maternity wear is one of the most conscious categories there is. Rather than serving as the ill-fitting black sheep of the apparel world, it could actually lead the way when we consider where clothing needs to go next.

"Because of that well-understood limited use, shoppers are more considerate in their decision to purchase," Gabriel says. "If I'm only going to wear this 'X' number of times, is it worth $100? That's a conversation sustainability advocates are hoping people will have every time they make a clothing purchase, not just when purchasing maternity clothing."

It's why she feels the maternity sector is more primed for a take- or buy-back model than other ready-to-wear categories, if only owing to consumer behavior. Maternity companies, she says, already have resale models to look to, and while the supply chains may not be perfect, it would mean big-box retailers like Destination Maternity wouldn't be starting from square one.

Maternity has one other secret weapon, and that's its customer base. Pregnant shoppers already know how to engage in the take- and buy-back dynamic because of the prevalence of the practice for maternity clothing.Still, true circularity — in which every single component of every single garment made and used is incorporated back into the system — is still many, many, many steps away. Gabriel goes so far as to suggest several generations away, in fact. The intention is clear, it's just the route forward that's a little sticky, and very possibly clad in a paper-thin graphic tee that reads

Pregnant AF.

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