Nike Inc. has found its next code to crack.
The brand, which has spent the past few years aggressively focused on solving everyday pain points for athletes (which it defines as anyone with a body), has set its sights on the maternity market.
Launching on Sept. 17 is Nike (M), the brand’s line of maternity apparel that includes a sports bra, pull over, tank and tights priced between $45 to $85 — all designed to take women through the full range of their motherhood journey.
According to the brand, women around the world, on average, have two to three children in their lifetime. By the Swoosh’s tally, that amounts to 7-10 years of pre-pregnancy, pregnancy and postpartum needs when it comes to sports apparel.
Meanwhile, ill-fitting workout gear that’s not optimized for a women’s changing pregnancy and postpartum body can easily become a barrier to health and wellness, making motherhood a “drop off” point for sport and exercise — arguably a time when women need to prioritize wellness most.
To address the issue, Carmen Zolman, Nike’s senior design director of apparel innovation, said the brand spent three years meticulously investigating barriers to sport and fitness faced by women in their childbearing stages.
The design team — made up of mothers and moms-to-be at the brand — applied data from over 150,000 body scans of women around the world to determine how the body grows during pregnancy. They spoke with scores of “every day women” as well as 30 elite athletes to gain insight into the diversity of needs among women.
What’s more, Zolman said the brand tested 70 materials before narrowing it down to nine palettes for use across the four styles in the line.
When it comes to specific elements to aid women throughout pregnancy and postpartum, Zolman said the brand weaved in multiple components aimed at creating comfort.
“The tight contains Nike’s stretchiest fabric with a wide waist band that grows comfortably with her and folds down postpartum,” said Zolman. “The contour adapts to her changing body maintaining a flattering shape through all nine months and beyond.”
The collection also features “easy access” for nursing and pumping moms across each item, Zolman added, with the bra designed to adapt with the body “effortlessly with an elastic rib band slider.” The inside panel can accommodate a nursing pump and it also feature sweat-wicking materials and extra padding offer support and moisture management for post-pregnancy and newborn nursing.
The collection also continues Nike’s commitment to bolstering sustainability across its supply chain: the tights are made of recycled bronze material; the tank is composed of 88% recycled polyester; and the pull over is constructed from 78% recycled polyester and 10% organic cotton.
The line will be available on Nike.com.
Nike has a long history of working with boldface women athletes across their motherhood journeys. One of the biggest names on its roster Serena Williams has been a vocal about the brand’s support of her throughout her pregnancy in 2017 as well as her postpartum period.
The Swoosh memorably came to her defense after her controversial catsuit was banned in 2018 by the French Tennis Federation.
The 38-year-old — who suffered severe post-birth complications — wore the catsuit not only as a fashion statement but also for functional purposes, with the skintight ensemble helping maintain her blood circulation through matches.
Still, the brand took some heat last year when a New York Times article revealed that the contracts of sponsored runners Kara Goucher and Alysia Montaño were reduced during their pregnancies and the subsequent postpartum period. Since then, Nike has announced new measures aimed at making sure its pregnant athletes are not financially penalized, including waiving performance-based pay reductions for a 18-month period for those who have a baby.
Several other brands followed suit, acknowledging a blindspot in the track and field space for women’s maternity needs as many brands historically opted not to compensate athletes during periods when they could not compete in the sport — not taking into account the unique circumstances surrounding women’s pregnancy and postpartum.