A blog post from our founder, Olivia Glauberzon, on why she started AFTER9
It was October 2016, a time when my first baby Mackenize, who was just two months old. My boobs were a size I had never dreamed of in my life, 34DD. They were marvelous and incredibility annoying. I couldn’t do jumping jacks without holding them. I was doing the double sports bra for a bigger bust. Whenever I had to breastfeed, the nightmare would begin: I couldn’t seem to get the under-bust elastic over my Himalayan-sized boobs no matter how hard I tried. To compensate, I started wearing my regular nursing bras to the mom and baby fitness class; and my breasts painfully accepted it.
I began googling my solution: nursing sports bra. The closest place I could order one at the time was New Zealand. That nursing sports bra changed my life, and not just because I bought a product that solved a physical problem. It let me feel empowered, doing what I needed to do, which was caring for my baby in a way that was comfortable.
Aside from my boobs, others things were changing for me mentally while caring for my first baby. Before having my baby girl, my voice would quiver in the boardroom. I worked in financial services, a male-dominated industry. But after giving birth, I’d go to visit my office and smirk at the all male senior leadership, thinking why am I so intimated by these people. They haven’t birthed a human. I have. These people have nothing on me.
That attitude, that new found confidence of who I was, what I had been through, and what I was doing everyday caring for this mini human, despite how sleep deprived I was, gave me a newfound inner strength. It cemented a new direction for my career in which I focused on building products for women to be their best selves during the early phases of motherhood.
It took a few years for that realization to grow into the vision for AFTER9, a maternity & nursing activewear line that aims to be as high fashion, as it functional.
Maternity wear has a bad rap, and when you go back and look at its history, it’s easy to understand why. The industry began in the 1800s as a way for women to actually hide their bumps – this is where the frumpy maternity moo-moos got their roots. Thank you to Rihanna and Kylie, who have worn their mesh ensembles in 2021 and are teaching us motherhood is nothing to hide. The bump is beautiful and it can be put on display in a tasteful way.
From a business perspective, maternity clothing presents a lot of challenges, which is probably why you notice not many choice clothing lines exist. Your fit models are constantly morphing. Even after winning over a customer base, they change every nine months and you lose them. After my own experience product developing and going through three different pattern makers to get to the finish line, I can also tell you, not everyone understands that building leggings for a pregnant belly is a game of understanding that the legging has to be able to support a shifting ball shape. In the first trimester, that ball is a tennis ball which any waistband can support, but it quickly grows into a watermelon. As a result, the infrastructure and fabric of your maternity leggings has to be able to accommodate this seamlessly. This is why we typically find at a least three to four fit models to test with before we go to production. We test on someone in their first trimester, second trimester, third trimester and a few months postpartum. If the legging doesn’t look good on all these people, then we have work to do.
As a result, manufacturers don’t really invest in the space. And customers have come to a place where they settle for less, until now.
AFTER9 is really about giving you better options for what you could be wearing in both function and fashion. We understand your body is shifting on you 24/7 and that’s not something to fight against. It’s something to celebrate with clothes that match.
This realization is what led to our development of our 360-support system in the waistband of the Embrace Maternity Leggings, which consists of a firm backside elastic paired with a soft ruched front panel As that ball grows and grows, the front panel is like a hammock between two trees that opens up to wrap it perfectly. After giving birth, the panel just simply closes back up, and sits flat with a ruched look that is flattering.
I then focused on maternity activewear for a few reasons, but the main one was my love for fitness and the appreciation of how motherhood changed me and my body.
Everyone has their reasons for working out. Whether its losing weight, or killing time, but for me, especially after having kids, every workout is about teaching myself I have stamina to do what I need to do. It starts off like this: I get down to my basement, tired AF, because my daughter at the age of 5 still wakes up every night. My brain says the following, “I’m so exhausted, I can’t do this. I won’t make it through 5 minutes, let alone 40 or 60.” But I stick with whatever it is – the bike, the floor, weights. Then halfway through that workout, a light switch moment in my brain happens. An “aha-ha” that says, “Go liv go, go harder, you can do this.”
While fitness may be the light switch that takes us from I can’t to I can, activewear is the electricity that powers it. Wearing your maternity activewear is your “I will.” Slap on a sexy workout outfit that you feel lets you look your best and like your most put together self and all of sudden, it doesn’t matter your riding on 20 minutes of a sleep. You feel better. Less drab and ready for your day.
In the process of getting AFTER9 wear to the level it needed to be at; I’m not talking about functional. I’m talking about dead sexy, knock your socks off design lines and fabrics, there were so many challenges. From a design line not sitting right to a fabric that pilled, I thought how am I doing this? Then I’d hop on my Peloton, get that 40-minute workout in, and the mindset would change. It would move from, “I’m never going to solve this” to let’s figure it out.
At the end of the day, I hope your experience shopping at AFTER9 has the following effect on you. It starts off with a desperate need for a product that solves a physical problem – a growing belly, morphing boobs. However, your love for that statement piece grows from there: you notice your AFTER9 gear isn’t just comfortable, you feel and look like the self you know once knew, the one before the kids. The one that felt sexy and fabulous, before they were up to their eyeballs in breastmilk and baby poop.
Before you know it, putting on your AFTER9 gear is like a superhero changing in the telephone booth – you’ve now got a mom uniform that lets you power through your day with superhero strength.
Lets face it: caring for a human being is no easy feat. It’s tough AF. You are a superhero, mama. Now you have clothes to enable your power.