We talk to the founders of the vintage-inspired maternity-friendly womenswear label.

Johanna Kociejowski and Edwina Gieve are the founders of vintage-inspired maternity-friendly womenswear label, Clary & Peg, which makes stylish and loose-fitting clothes to wear with, or without, a bump.

Clary & Peg creates clothes that are versatile, stylish and can be worn whether or not you’re expecting. It is a maternity label, but also a fashion brand, with an emphasis on sustainability and ethical making. All of its clothing is designed and manufactured in London.

Co-founders Johanna and Edwina met in an antenatal class when both were eight months pregnant with their first babies. Their vision for the company was born of their own frustration: namely that, while pregnant, neither could find any clothes that they would ever, under normal circumstances, choose to wear. They now run the growing business from a studio in Dalston. Johanna has two children and Edwina is pregnant with her fourth. 

We came up with the idea...

When we were both pregnant with our first children. We met at ante-natal class and were frustrated by the lack of cool maternity brands out there; it was all stretchy wrap dresses and leggings. We wanted to create an alternative and looked to channel our mums’ comfortable and stylish pregnancy styles via dungarees and smocks. Dungarees and jumpsuits are everywhere now, but honestly there weren’t any out there when we launched in 2013.



The biggest challenge...

Apart from the juggling children and work conundrum, the biggest challenge has been teaching ourselves how to be business-minded. Neither of has a background in business, or fashion for that matter. We’ve had to become quite shrewd in terms of financial planning and managing cash flow. Another huge challenge for us is trying to make the business as sustainable as possible. We do this by using recycled materials, ensuring our packing is plastic-free, by using end-of-roll fabrics and by manufacturing locally.

The average day is spent…

Packaging orders; speaking to customers (as an online business we don’t often get to interact face-to-face with customers so we love receiving feedback); managing press queries; visiting pop-up shops; and devising social media strategies.

The team consists of...

The two of us – Edwina and Johanna – on a day-to-day basis. We also have someone who helps with packaging during busy periods. We work with pattern cutter, Nicky Cook, and our manufacturer, Julie, and her small team of seamstresses, all of whom are London-based. Keeping everything local is important to us – both in terms of being able to keep a close eye on production but also in order to reduce our carbon footprint.



Our favourite quote…

T.S. Eliot wrote, 'If you aren't in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?'

We are where we are today because of...

Our children. Having children prompted us to rethink our careers; Edwina had been working as an actress and Johanna in the charity sector. We wanted a new challenge and something that would allow us flexibility in terms of our work schedules. We’re also lucky to have hugely supportive husbands and families.

We are who we are today because of...

Our mums and grandmothers, all of whom had extensive stylish vintage wardrobes and excellent style!

The best bit of advice we've been given is...

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. The good thing about starting your business in your thirties is that lots of your friends are already quite successful in different areas and are more than happy to offer advice. We had lots of help in terms of PR, which was incredibly useful.



In five years we’d like to be…

Creative directors of the brand without dealing with the daily administration (or the financial planning aspects!).

The thing no one ever tells you about running your own business...

I think people do tell you this, but you don’t quite believe it: that you never have a true day off when running your own business!

Our biggest mistake and what it taught us…

We launched our first collection, an autumn/winter collection, in May. It hadn’t occurred to us that that was slightly ridiculous until a journalist pulled us up on our winter-styled photography! We’re more clued up now but actually try to make all our clothes as trans-seasonal as possible.

The most rewarding experience we’ve had to date…

Nothing makes us happier than spotting women wearing our clothes out and about – and it’s happening more often!

By Nancy Alsop
October 2019

READ MORE

Navygrey
Rockahula Kids
Roseannah