Let’s face it, for many women, the 40 weeks of pregnancy can often be among the least fashionable—and the least comfortable—of their lives. The dynamic duo behind Berkley Clothing aims to solve this problem with their fashionable, and comfortable, activewear line.
The luxury activewear line, founded by Neiman Marcus veterans Loren Heller and Hillary Cullum, is specifically designed to make women feel beautiful, confident, and healthy during pregnancy and beyond.
Fifteen years ago in the heart of Colorado, Heller and Cullum crossed paths as they were both working at Neiman Marcus. Both were accepted to Neiman Marcus’ Executive Development Program located in Dallas, where they were taught how to run a business, communicate with high profile professionals, and manage financials, as well as the importance of high quality products and customer service.
The duo’s extensive experience in the fashion industry prepared them to recognize a good idea, take the risk, and run.
“I think that I say this in all aspects of my life, but Neiman Marcus raised me professionally,” Heller told Dallas Innovates. “We learned so much from the late nights and working on the weekends together and I think we’ve taken every element of that experience and brought the best aspects to Berkley.”
After Neiman Marcus, their careers headed in different directions, but the duo came back together five years ago when Heller found out she was pregnant with her daughter. Heller, like many first-time moms, mistakenly believed that she would be able to find high quality, beautiful, and functional activewear during her pregnancy without breaking the bank.
As the baby grew, so did Heller’s frustration. Shocked by the immense gap in the market, the duo was determined to be the solution. It was then that idea for Berkley Clothing was born.
“I ended up resorting to that desperation move a lot of women make where I ended up buying a pair of workout shorts that were two sizes too big and didn’t really fit,” Heller says. “It was a really difficult time in my life because I couldn’t find anything that I felt really good in. And, of course, I had told Hillary about it, so after talking about my struggle, and doing quite a bit of market research, we decided to not only try and fill that gap in the market, but also prevent any pregnant woman from ever experiencing that again.”
From idea to product
Heller and Cullum immediately immersed themselves in the maternity industry, identifying the two types of leggings that took over the market. They found that leggings were either a “throwaway pant,” designed for a specific time frame and were low quality, basic, and not supportive, or an “all purpose black maternity pant,” which wasn’t activewear and had no unique qualities, but gets the job done.
The duo sought to create luxury leggings with high quality fabric that provided women with a functional and comfortable option—without sacrificing fashion. Together, they tested hundreds of fabrics until they found a fabric with the perfect thickness and buttery softness: a polyspandex mix.
“It was really important to us that we found something that met those qualities of comfort and functionality,” Cullum told Dallas Innovates. “We tested each one, we would put them against our body and workout, analyzing how it felt to sweat in it and took the time to find the right thing.”
The perfect fabric had to be paired with the perfect fit. The leggings were designed to be high waisted or for over the belly, which allows women the option to fold over the flexible fabric and feel comfortable both during and after pregnancy.
When Heller and Cullum were almost finished developing their design, they still struggled to find a name that suited their “baby.”
The two women were certain they wanted a name that embodied their passion to empower women to be happy, healthy, and true to themselves. So after lots of brainstorming, they chose Berkley, which is Heller’s mom’s name and her middle name.
“We wanted to continue with that sort of naming tradition that many mothers have in order to keep us grounded in our mission to empower women,” says Cullum.
Staying true to their mission, both leggings are named after important women in their lives. The Cindy legging is named after Cullum’s mom and the Janey legging is named after Heller’s mom’s middle name, which she goes by on a daily basis.
After months of growth and preparation, the duo was finally ready to bring their “baby” to life.
Launching the line
Due to the pandemic, all aspects of production were delayed. However, the team stayed positive, modified its timelines, and focused on learning new things.
“There were definitely harder days, months than others,” Heller says. “But we had the big picture in mind and we looked at it as, launching the next thing is going to be so much easier, we will actually be able to do it semi-normally. So overall, it’s been a great learning experience”.
Finally, in December 2020, the team launched the luxury maternity activewear line and have been working diligently to raise brand awareness ever since. Currently, Berkley Clothing is exclusively selling its leggings through its website, but the founders have big plans for its future.
Heller and Cullum shared with Dallas Innovates that they have already begun “dipping their toes” in wholesale partnerships. The duo is ideally looking to start with smaller retailers, such as fitness studios, and eventually work their way to partnering with bigger retailers.
In addition to boosting its audience, Berkley will soon be expanding its apparel line and hopes to release a top soon.
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