After she had her daughter, Nadine Woods had a hard time adjusting to her postpartum body. She’d gained 100 pounds when pregnant, then lost it, and was shocked nobody was making attractive underwear that addressed the needs of women in the fourth trimester — and beyond. Despite having zero experience in the fashion industry she created Mayana Genevière, a fabulous line of lingerie. We chatted with Woods about loving our baby bodies, feeling sexy again, and how she wound up owning a lingerie factory.
Tell us what motivated you to make bras and panties for new moms?
Before you have children you’re looking at your body on a real surface-level aesthetic, like how do I look in a bikini? Then you have a child and your body does things you cannot control in a rapid amount of time. Most of us have no idea what’s coming! I went up four cup sizes in 10 months and went from an extra small to an extra large underwear. It was the first time that I really had to deal with having breasts, let alone the fact there was stuff coming out of them. I had a hard time adjusting to that body image, and that’s what motivated me to focus on helping other women embrace and accept who they are after babies.
I found there were a ton of people making maternity clothing that was super cute but nobody was making pretty underwear that dealt with a postpartum body. Like why do you always see pregnant models wearing nursing bras? That makes no sense! Let’s start showing postpartum bodies!
You pretty much reinvented the nursing bra, right?
Yes, that’s how I started the line. I thought, what would it be like if we could have a nursing bra without a clasp? Could that be possible? Nursing bras are designed for breasts that are always changing, for you to whip your boobs out whenever you need to, but how could I develop a bra that worked like that but looked more like my regular bras? I nursed exclusively for two years and was whipping my boobs out everywhere, but was wearing my regular bras and stretching them out because a lot of my nursing bras were giving me a uni-boob, or looked like sports bras and that just wasn’t me. I had my daughter and I had breasts for the first time, I wanted to wear sexier bras! Nobody was making them, so maybe I could.
How did you get started?
With the encouragement of my close friends, who’d also had babies and were starting to go through some of the things I was going through, I sent out a 15-minute survey to 200 women asking borderline invasive questions about their postpartum body image. There was a lot of interest in what I was doing and I realized I was on to something. So eight years ago I went to New York to the most notable trade show for lingerie and walked the floor. There was nobody doing this.
I called a patent lawyer here and did a few searches and it turned out that nothing like it had been done before, and I knew I had to go for it. Lots of people told me it couldn’t be done, it was going to be too expensive — until I met with one of the best technical bra designers in the US. She loved it and said let’s do it. It took two years to develop the line. We put a lot of research into what happens to the body when developing this line, without making it looking medical grade at all. I had to zero background in fashion. I couldn’t even sew.
How does it make you feel that your idea was so successful?
I’m trying to be better about taking a step back and seeing that it is. I was getting caught up in the daily to-do’s of the business and I hadn’t really had a chance to reflect on all these amazing things that have happened in the past seven years. I’ve certainly had my friends reflect that to me and say, “Hello? You used to do this on your mom’s dining room table and now you have employees!” I was a single mom when I started, so it wasn’t easy.
How did you manage to do this as a single mom?
Well my daughter, who is now eight, was the motivation. When you go through the breakdown of a relationship, especially at a time when you feel so vulnerable, it is incredibly hard. But having to get up and nurse forced me to get out of bed and rise up to do something.
Sustainability is one of the core values of Mayana Genevière, could you tell us about that?
I produce everything in Toronto even though it would be a lot cheaper to have everything made offshore. I think about the carbon footprint of my production, and I want to know the working conditions of the people making my product — so I feel like I need to be hands-on in that process. I get much of my fabric from mills in Montreal or the US, though it’s hard to get lace made here but I ask a lot of questions of my overseas suppliers about these things that matter so much.
Throughout the development of my products I’m thinking about longevity, because I believe that sustainability comes from buying quality pieces that last instead of relying on disposable fashion.
And you have your own factory? That’s cool!
Yeah! I was thinking wouldn’t it be awesome if I could produce in my own space, and lo and behold all of a sudden I had this amazing opportunity. This factory in Montreal that been making bras for 150 years, and had given me mentorship, closed down. I was able to buy all these great quality machines from them — it takes eight different machines to make one bra — and have my own production facility. I love being able to keep this Canadian based.
Do you have any tips on how we can still feel sexy with our postpartum bodies?
I think the number one thing to do is dress the body you have. A lot of us get caught up in the numbers and don’t realize the industry uses vanity sizing so the numbers are meaningless. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a large, or an H cup — wear the things that fit and make you feel good. If you can find something that makes you look good you feel good right away, the same goes for lingerie.
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