By Sara Holzman published
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 Fashion Editor 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.
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