Understanding that for many women, breastfeeding clothing is a ‘nice to have’ rather than an essential item, New Zealand company Esther & Albie has designed a range of clothing that is discreet, comfortable and flattering, while making your breastfeeding journey simpler. They create wardrobe essentials that are simple, affordable, classic and chic: stylish breastfeeding clothing you can just throw on, and look and feel great in. From the classic tee you live in, and the dress that works for daytime barbecues or a night out, to your cosiest crew sweater and activewear that inspires you to hit the pavement, their gorgeous range of breastfeeding dresses, tops, crews and sleepwear has you covered. Designed in New Zealand, their garments are made from quality, durable, comfortable fabrics. Esther & Albie owner Holly Austin talks to The Natural Parent Magazine about the vision behind the business, that delicate work/family balance and her hopes and dreams for the future.
The Passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
Esther & Albie was established in 2017 by a new mum and very good friend of mine Alice. It all started with a personal hunt to find breastfeeding friendly clothing that allowed her to maintain her normal ‘style’. While on the lookout for casual clothing suitable for all occasions, Alice noticed there were limited options available. The breastfeeding clothing that was available was very overpriced. New mums generally have a lower budget than before so why should they pay more for their clothing than before?
Esther & Albie was born with a vision to provide streetwear inspired breastfeeding clothes at affordable prices. Items for ‘Babes growing Babes!’ With limited brands around at the time, now was the time to jump in the market. I mean, surely there were more mums out there that had similar fashion preferences?!
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
Being a new mum, there was a natural, great network of people to bounce ideas around. It was fortunately the time when everyone she knew seemed to be having kids. The process began with drawing some designs, researching on style trends, and creating vision boards using Pinterest for both name and garment design. She also had to find suppliers, which took time to get right. From there she pushed forward with trialing samples and refining samples before launching into final production – all before setting up an online store and social media profiles.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
The biggest breakthrough for me has been introducing combos and finding the pricing that was right for my customer base. In 2019, when I (Holly – current owner/operator) took over the business, I did a lot of research into my customer behaviour. My customers are very price conscious (as most new mums are) and love a good deal. This was a turning point, as nearly every order moving forward contained a combo. Esther & Albie sell 2 tees for the price some other businesses sell 1. All of this without compromising quality. This is when my business took off. Word got out that the pricing was good and the quality was great!
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
This is a hard one. I TRY to work while the kids are in daycare. Sometimes that involves a bit of work in the evenings. My 4-year-old daughter often says, “You don’t get holidays eh mummy? That’s what you get for owning your own business”. She loves to help out with the packing and loves to be called sticker girl. She takes great pride in sealing the packages and putting the shipping label on the front. My husband is very involved with the business, which makes things a lot easier. He has a lot of business experience and expertise that has provided helpful thus far. He understands the demands involved and helps out wherever he can while continuing to work full time. I know I am lucky.