Forever Young

Liz Lange, 35

Liz Lange Maternity
Year Started: 1996
Web site:www.lizlange.com
Based in: New York City
2001 Projections: $3 million

Celebrity moms like Cindy Crawford and Catherine Zeta-Jones know about fashion. And when the stork starts circling the neighborhood, these ultra-chic ladies know to head to the maven of maternity wear-Liz Lange. On her store's shelves, a superstylish expectant mom will find slim pants, cashmere sweaters and fitted slinky dresses-just a few of the treasures offered by Liz Lange Maternity.

"I was almost offended by what was being offered for pregnant women," says Lange. Traditional maternity fashions mostly consist of oversized baby-doll dresses or pants with a hole cut in the front-and a lycra panel to accommodate their growing bellies. "[Nine months] is a fairly long period of time, and women are just too active today, too much a part of life to have to sit out nine months wearing a big tent, not feeling good about themselves."

Lange's passion was ignited while working as a designer's assistant in 1996. At the time, all her pregnant friends were clamoring for sophisticated maternity wear. Lange rose to the challenge and designed a few basic pieces to peddle to retailers-very skeptic retailers. "They told me, 'Pregnant women will not spend money. It's a category that we have no interest in. If you want to go ahead, be prepared to do it on your own because we won't be selling any maternity clothing.' "

Ignoring the naysayers, Lange borrowed $50,000 in seed money from family and friends and opened a small office in New York City where she sold her made-to-order clothes to women by appointment. Word-of-mouth business was booming when, in 1997, The New York Times Style section did an article on Liz Lange's revolutionary look for moms. Lange's business exploded-and she realized how wrong those skeptic retailers had been. Even now, Lange chooses not to wholesale her line to department stores, only to a select few boutiques.

With business bursting at the seams, Lange moved to a larger location in 1998 and still didn't have enough room for all of her customers. She's now running stores on New York's Madison Avenue and in Beverly Hills, California, as well as producing an online catalog.

This mother of two isn't close to finished yet. Plans include possible stores in London and Paris as well as more U.S. shops to increase her $3 million-plus in sales. -Nichole L. Torres

Entrepreneur: You seem so much a part of the shift in women showing off their bodies when they're pregnant.
Liz Lange: It was designers like me, but it was the celebrities, too. The celebrities [such as Elle McPherson and Kelly Preston] have been so amazing.

Entrepreneur: Is there anything you wish you would've done differently?
Lange: Maybe I grew it a little too slowly. Maybe the skepticism I encountered, even though I still plowed ahead, scared me more than it needed to. I say to young entrepreneurs, Of course you're going to encounter a lot of skepticism, but if you really believe in the idea, trust your instincts.

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This article was originally published in the November 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Forever Young.

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