Amanda Schechter is a mom of two and shaking up the world of maternity wear. Frustrated by the uninspired styles and disposable nature of maternity fashion, she decided to create a collection that could be worn before, during, and after pregnancy.
Tell us how you got started in fashion. Did you ever think you would be a fashion designer?
My first job out of college was at American Express. I worked in their marketing department for four years and moved to their Hong Kong outpost to help build the personal online loan business. While in Hong Kong, I started to get the retail itch. I eventually moved to New York where I got an offer from Saks to join their digital marketing team. I then moved over to Bloomingdales, again in digital marketing, and absolutely loved the job.
Why did you leave?
It was a personal life decision. I got married and my husband lived out here in Los Angeles. So we decided to make LA our home base.
How did the idea for Formerly Yan come about?
I was doing some consulting while job hunting when I found out I was pregnant. I quickly realized there was nothing for me to wear to my interviews. It is surprisingly difficult to find nice maternity clothes. My options were big box, lower-end retail (think Target, Asos), Pea in the Pod for designer denim, some good local boutiques with higher-end offerings. Regardless, I felt the selections were limited. The workwear was especially lacking and looked like something you would wear in 1997. I saw a big gap in the market for elevated and sophisticated maternity wear at an accessible price point.
Tell us about your design philosophy. It's such a new (and sustainable!) concept to have clothes that can be worn before, during, and after pregnancy.
Every piece is designed so that it can be worn in multiple ways and is flattering on bodies that are pregnant or not. For example, trapeze dresses are a super common shape for maternity wear but realistically aren’t flattering on most non-pregnant bodies; most of us need some shape! We create silhouettes that are looser so they are more forgiving while allowing you to cinch it in places for a different shape.
In terms of style, I love pieces that are timeless, chic and not overly trendy. This sounds crazy but I still have pieces from high school that I wear today. I even have my prom dress that I wear to weddings. It's all about creating quality pieces that can be relevant for a long time and not just amassing tons of stuff that you discard. Not to mention, maternity wear is especially wasteful given that you can only wear it for a few months before it becomes unwearable.
What about color? You have some stunning prints and bold colors.
I'm a New Yorker so black will always have a place in my collection. I also love bold colors and if I see a color that really speaks to me, I'll always find a place for it. Prints are harder to wear but I think it's so chic to wear a loud, bold and colorful print when you're pregnant. There are some modern florals that are also really gorgeous.
What's your take on the future of retail?
I think there'll always be multi-brand retailers but I'm not bullish on giant department stores. It's much harder to create a good experience for the customer in huge spaces.
I don't think wholesale will go away but I certainly think and hope the model will change. There's too much discounting, unnecessary markups and crazy timelines. Formerly Yan is in a couple of local boutiques but we don't plan on making wholesale a big part of our strategy - as a small brand, it's just not feasible for me to meet the timelines and quantities. We use wholesale mostly as a marketing strategy to get the exposure in a local footprint. Plus, we get to sell quality items at a much more accessible price as a direct-to-consumer brand.