Gillian Hamilton and Amanda McClintock are two Donegal mothers who want to help women look and feel good when they’re pregnant - because everyone wants to be ‘chiq’ on special days.
The St Johnston-based online store – Chiq Maternity – started last year and ever since then they have spent their days making sure fashion and the female body compliment each other.
“Whenever you fall pregnant, all you think about is getting fat. It’s a thought that takes over. Our clothes say that you’re not fat, you are pregnant. So just be proud of your bump!” said Amanda.
Amanda and Gillian stock tops, jeans, dresses, tights and bras – all with hidden features for before and after birth. A woman’s breasts and bump are just some of the parts that transform when she’s pregnant, but these two women know pregnancy well.
They’ve been friends long before they were married and went through all stages of life together – including three pregnancies each.
“We were full-time mammies before we decided to do a business course together. Our little boys had just started school and we needed to find something to keep us occupied,” Gillian said.
Amanda and Gillian flew out to Paris in summer 2016 in search of quality maternity wear. But the SS17 designs were not suitable for Irish winter wear, so they looked even further afield to an Australian seller for their first range of stock.
Bumps are the same all over the world it seems, so when the stock arrived from Australia in September Amanda and Gillian were delighted to begin trading. “We were looking for style, comfort and quality all built into the one item, and they had it,” Amanda said. The Chiq range has shape, style and extra built-in elastic where it’s needed.
“Although you think you’re not pregnant for a long time, you wear the item almost every day. From the second trimester is when you need to start investing in maternity clothes, and you’re almost wearing them every day. You practically live in one or two pairs of trousers,” said Amanda.
Finding models for photoshoots and fashion shows is an ongoing task for the Chiq team, because pregnant women don’t stay pregnant very long!
Maternity models are actually easy for them to find through the community built around the Chiq Maternity Facebook page.
“They’re very eager, it’s lovely because they feel special when they get their makeup and hair done on the day before getting up on the catwalk. They’re proud of their bump, they want to show it off. They know that being pregnant is a special time in your life,” Gillian said.
Some of the first models they worked with are now mothers – and Amanda and Gillian are over the moon to have been part of their journeys.
Seeing real models in their clothing works best for Chiq – they quickly learned that fake bumps take away from the genuine shape of a woman.
“We did that once and soon learned it doesn’t work because they don’t have the real breasts of a pregnant woman – it was a huge problem!” said Amanda.
A secret sexy factor
Amanda and Gillian have sourced bras for their store that they believe are comfortable, practical and many of them sexy.
“When you first become pregnant your breasts start to grow, and they become so heavy and firm and you just want the support. After having a baby your breasts change again. This is where these bras come into play – you have them before and after birth.” said Gillian.
“Having a good bra from the very start also helps you with back support. With the weight you gain on your breasts it can make your back sore,” said Amanda.
Chiq Maternity is at the beginning of its journey as a business, which means its founders have an invested interest in every customer’s journey. They even invite local women to their homes for private fittings.
“We had a phone call from a woman one morning to say – ‘Are you far away? I have a wedding tomorrow and I just realised my outfit that I had planned to wear doesn’t fit!’”
“She came to us and went away happy. We love getting positive feedback like that,” said Gillian.
“No matter what we send off we hope that the customers are happy with it and get comfort throughout their pregnancy, and we hope all’s well with it,” said Amanda
“We’d love to see more pictures of people in their outfits,” Gillian added.
These ladies know that meeting people is key to learning more about their customers and making their business grow. This is why they are going to be in Planet Baby Letterkenny this Friday and Saturday (Jan 6-7). They will have their full range at 50% discount to make way for their new summer range, which promises to be bright and beautiful.