Mayarya founder makes pregnancy fashionable
Frustrated by boring, unflattering maternity wear, Reika Shetty set up her own concept store for stylish mothers-to-be
Chic concept store Mayarya emerged from one of those ideas that are so obvious you wonder why they hadn’t existed already. You might think stylish clothes for today’s pregnant women would be a part of every top designer’s collections, but you would be wrong.
Mayarya’s founder, Reika Shetty, ought to know – the mother of two was so disappointed and frustrated when all she could find during her pregnancies was unflattering tent-like dresses and trousers with ugly elasticated waistbands, she decided she would do something about it.
“I’ve been through two pregnancies in Hong Kong and I really couldn’t find anything to wear,” Shetty says. “I went to traditional maternity stores, and also to fashion boutiques thinking perhaps I could buy something nice in a bigger size, but nothing fit perfectly and it makes you look a bit strange. I couldn’t believe that the sort of women who shop at Lane Crawford, for example, would go to the traditional maternity shops for their clothes. That’s why I knew there was a market for my idea.”
Shetty’s first career after attending business school was in finance, but she says her “passion was always in fashion”. The former buyer and executive of high-end brands such as Intermix and Kirna Zabete in New York and Satine in Hollywood, has designed and collaborated on exclusive collections with famous designers such as Alexander Wang, Jason Wu and Rebecca Minkoff. She asked her friends what they wore when they were pregnant and they all shared the same problem: they struggled to find well-fitting maternity clothes. What’s more, many of the clothes made for pregnant women were in dull colours. “They were so boring,” she says.
Before starting the business, Shetty and her husband Sid, whose background in business development has proved invaluable, travelled the world visiting the most popular maternity wear stores to see what was on offer. “It was worse than I expected,” she says.
Not content to focus on an improved version of something that already existed, the entrepreneur in her was determined to create a unique concept. That is why Mayarya offers fashion-forward clothes women can wear while they are pregnant, and afterwards.
“With my background as a high-end multi-brand buyer for high street as well as luxury, I knew I didn’t want to start an ordinary maternity wear store. I wanted to offer clothes women can wear after pregnancy as well as during – so they aren’t wasting money.
“Mums-to-be are often reluctant to buy many maternity clothes because they are going to be wearing them for such a short time. Some women don’t mind wearing baggy T-shirts or their husband’s clothes during their pregnancy, but if they have an event to go to or they work, it presents a problem. We offer long-lasting fashion that flatters all body shapes – they are bump-friendly, but not bump-only.”
Mayarya (pronounced May-ya-ari-ya – an amalgamation of her children’s names) stocks around 20 designers, which must all align with the store’s concept – the designs must definitely not look like traditional maternity clothes. One of the most popular is Isabella Oliver, whose clothes are worn by Hollywood stars. Celebrities are also fans, and those who have been to Mayarya to find red-carpet gowns to wear during their pregnancies include singer and actress Gigi Leung, author Amy Tan, model Cara G, and well-known fashion blogger Miss Jasmine.
There are currently two Mayarya stores, one in Sheung Wan and another in Stanley Plaza, with a third planned to open in Causeway Bay soon. After that, the Shettys hope to expand to Singapore and other countries in Asia. “There is nothing like this in the world. Our plan is to expand globally. It’s a strong concept store,” says Shetty.
Collections in the store are displayed on mannequins with bumps and without, so it is easy to see what they will look like on women after they have given birth. “We try to ensure the clothes are made so they do not look like maternity clothes, but because of the way the fabric is cut and the draping, they can easily be worn by mums-to-be.”
There is also the Mayarya website and, for pregnant women who are particularly time-poor, Shetty and her team are happy to take a selection of items to customers’ homes for them to try on.
“Shopping is sometimes the last thing on a woman’s mind when she is pregnant, especially if she is feeling tired or unwell, or is very busy, so we try our best to customise our services. It’s also a great way of getting to know our customers,” says Shetty, who stresses that there is no obligation or pressure to buy.
Other products include an organic skincare line for mums and babies, yoga clothes, lounge wear and lingerie – staff are specially trained to fit bras and there is even a fake bump for women to try in the first trimester if they are shopping for clothes later in their pregnancy.
“Dressing at that time in a woman’s life is not just about fashion, it’s a very special time and women need to try on clothes and perhaps seek style advice and assurance.
“All these services were born from our customers’ requests,” Shetty says. “Talking to customers is very important, and we’re really listening to their needs and doing our best to meet them. When I was pregnant, I didn’t have this kind of service and I really wish I had.”