Carmen Zolman, Nike’s senior design director of apparel innovation greeted her ZOOM audience last month in the company of two fully dressed mannequins—both with noticeable baby bumps. “What we're focused on here today is one of the most transformative stages of a woman's life: motherhood,” said Zolman. Nike’s new line of maternity wear, Nike (M), was the brainchild of Nike’s own female designers and innovators, developed to meet the specific athletic needs of expecting moms.
“We’ve been working on this project for the better part of three years, but it was much more important to get it right than it was to rush it to the marketplace,” Zolman explained.
Over the past several years, Zolman and her team have meticulously concepted, researched, and designed a four-piece capsule collection that would adapt to a woman’s changing body before, during, and after pregnancy. The collection includes a sports bra that allows for easy pumping and nursing, a supportive legging, a tank top, and a fleece cover-up with a split hem allowing room for growing bellies.
“Nike (M) is a very personal project for me, not only as a mom, but as someone who is so close to our women’s innovation agenda,” Zolman said. The 2019 Victory Swim Collection, a line of mix-and-match modest tunics, swim leggings, and hijabs, as well as a size-inclusive collection that also came out last year, are other recent examples of the athletics giant's commitment to diversifying female sportswear.
While other activewear companies have come under fire for a “pink it and shrink it” approach to women's apparel and gear, Zolman explained that hacking regular sportswear for pregnancy simply doesn’t work. Ten years ago, she grappled with her own insecurities in the locker room. As an active mom-to-be, she found that maternity gear didn’t quite fit her changing body, or meet the performance requirements of her dynamic lifestyle. “Nike (M) was developed to celebrate the female form, not to hide it, disguise it, or ignore it,” she said.
While the Nike family includes a long list of powerhouse female teams and elite athletes (including Serena Williams, who won the Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open eight weeks into her first trimester), Nike (M) hopes to address a wide range of women’s fitness levels—from crushing the competition in professional leagues to walks around the neighborhood.
To accomplish that, the team enlisted the help of Nike’s sports science research lab, analyzing more than 150,000 female body scans globally, and conducting studies with 30 pregnant and postpartum athletes. They tested 70 materials for stretch, recovery, and sweat-wicking abilities before narrowing it down to the final collection—one that Zolman describes as soft to the touch and intuitive to a woman’s body. Nike’s latest performance technology, a self-evaporating fabric, will help negate moisture visibility during the nursing phase.
“Pregnancy is not just a nine month time period we're talking about. For many women, if they have two to three children, which is an average, this can be a 7 to 10 year journey of pre- , pregnant and postpartum needs. Nike wants to be there for all stages of a woman's sport life, including pregnancy and motherhood," Zolman said. "It's not always about shattering world records and winning tournaments. Sometimes it's about getting more people to the starting line."
Nike (M) is available for purchase on September 17th.
Sara Holzman is the Style Director at Marie Claire, covering runway trends and tracking down the latest finds to buy and wear. When she’s not writing about fashion, she pens about the best places to jet-off to. Over her six years with Marie Claire, Sara has reported on the ever-evolving world of fashion— covering both established and emerging designers within the industry. Sara has held fashion positions at Lucky and SELF Magazine and was a regular contributor to Equinox’s Furthermore website, where she wrote across their style, wellness, and travel verticals. She holds a degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and currently resides in Manhattan. Follow her along at @sarajonewyork.
24 Hours With John Legend
The singer, record producer, husband, and entrepreneur reveals how he maintains youthful, glowing skin.
By Deena Campbell
What Is Co-Washing, and How Do You Do It? Experts Weigh In
Skip the shampoo.
By Gabrielle Ulubay
Digital Lavender Is About to Be the Biggest Color of the Year
Barbiecore got a "Lavender Haze"-inspired makeover.
By Julia Marzovilla
Senator Klobuchar: "Early Detection Saves Lives. It Saved Mine"
Senator and breast cancer survivor Amy Klobuchar is encouraging women not to put off preventative care any longer.
By Senator Amy Klobuchar
How Being a Plus-Size Nude Model Made Me Finally Love My Body
I'm plus size, but after I decided to pose nude for photos, I suddenly felt more body positive.
By Kelly Burch
I'm an Egg Donor. Why Was It So Difficult for Me to Tell People That?
Much like abortion, surrogacy, and IVF, becoming an egg donor was a reproductive choice that felt unfit for society’s standards of womanhood.
By Lauryn Chamberlain
The 20 Best Probiotics to Keep Your Gut in Check
Gut health = wealth.
By Julia Marzovilla
Simone Biles Is Out of the Team Final at the Tokyo Olympics
She withdrew from the event due to a medical issue, according to USA Gymnastics.
By Rachel Epstein
The Truth About Thigh Gaps
We're going to need you to stop right there.
By Kenny Thapoung
3 Women On What It’s Like Living With An “Invisible” Condition
Despite having no outward signs, they can be brutal on the body and the mind. Here’s how each woman deals with having illnesses others often don’t understand.
By Emily Shiffer
The High Price of Living With Chronic Pain
Three women open up about how their conditions impact their bodies—and their wallets.
By Alice Oglethorpe