• Cecile Reinaud of Seraphine

Style

Q&A: Cecile Reinaud

The owner of Seraphine on pregnancy, royalty and the rise of the bump

Words: Jackie Modlinger
Image: James Lyndsay

Kate Winslet, Thandie Newton, Halle Berry, Jessica Alba, Angelina Jolie, Sienna Miller, Mila Kunis, Carey Mulligan. It’s quite a cast list. What they have in common, besides being female and talented, is that they’re all aficionados of Seraphine. The stellar following enjoyed by Seraphine is well-deserved.

The brand, founded by Cecile Reinaud, an entrepreneur, designer and winner of a Queen’s Award for Enterprise earlier this year, epitomises classic French style, with a range that encompasses every conceivable occasion and situation. The only difference between Cecile’s and the other stylish Gallic brands in the area is that her clothes happen to be designed for mothers-to-be, through all trimesters of pregnancy and beyond.

Born in Paris to Guy, an engineer, and Catherine, a lawyer, Cecile had no formal fashion training and learned everything from her maternal grandmother Nanette, who lived ‘en famille’ and to whom she owes both her love of clothes and textiles, and her culinary skills.

Her grandparents ran textile factories in the south of France, selling to Paris couturiers like Chanel and Lanvin, and it was Nanette’s influence that would prove seminal in shaping Cecile’s career. The young Cecile first came to the UK as a student. The family lived here until she was 18, when Cecile returned to her native France to study fora degree in business studies at Rheims University.

“I came back to London in my twenties on an exchange at university and to finish my studies, then started my career here at 23. I have been here for 21 years,” says this Anglophile proudly. Initially, Cecile enjoyed a successful career in advertising, working for top agencies Ogilvy and J Walter Thompson.

Hitherto her closest brush with maternity was working on the Pampers account. She is, however, on record saying she “always had the drive to be entrepreneurial in an environment where creativity could be put to better use.” Just how, then, did she make the transition from there to maternity wear, and from making dresses for friends and jeans for herself to creating a successful global business?

Where do you find your passion for fashion?
As a child I was always interested in fashion. It was my hobby to make clothes for my dolls, then as a teenager I would customise my clothes. I put a lot of that down to my grandparents—it’s probably something that I get from my heritage.

My grandmother was very chic. She loved clothes and we were always discussing which outfits she should wear and buy. As a child I was very close to her. Fashion was something that we shared.

How did you make the transition from advertising to fashion?
Towards the end of my time in advertising, a lot of my colleagues were pregnant and complained that they couldn’t get dressed. They couldn’t find anything they liked. They knew that I made my own clothes so they were like, “can’t you make me a dress?” which is what sparked me off. I decided to set up Seraphine.

Where does the name Seraphine come from?
It has Latin roots: seraph is an angel. I like the connotation because having a baby is like having an angel. Having a guardian angel that will look over you is something that my grandmother always told me about as child.

Tell us about that first pair of maternity jeans.
This was one of the first products that I designed when I launched the business 12 years ago. It really was an instant hit. We had a waiting list at the time because no one was doing proper maternity jeans. I was really keen to recreate the look of normal, stylish designer jeans so I invented the idea of chopping the hem off the jeans and adding the stretch panel.

Your clothes don’t really scream ‘maternity wear’. Is that intentional?
That’s true, a lot of people walk in because they’re attracted by something in the window and they haven’t picked up that the mannequins are wearing busts and that it is a maternity store. And that’s really our ethos—we want to make maternity fashion look so good that you would want to wear it even if you’re not expecting.

The Duchess of Cambridge has worn Seraphine on a number of occasions. What has that done for the brand?
It has enabled us to gain real international awareness. We have an online business as well, so for those women who cannot go in-store and touch and feel our clothes, having famous people like Kate wearing them is a huge reassurance that ours is a quality product and service. Kate is a stylish fashion icon, so it gives us a lot of kudos.

How do you incorporate current trends?
We do like to take the latest trend but we’ll pick up on the ones that we think are going to be flattering and suitable during pregnancy. Some are not maternity appropriate. We just have to be picky.

The pregnancy bump used to be hidden away, now it tends to be up front in all its glory. What has changed?
There’s been a big change in societal values, pregnancy and women generally. It kind of goes with women being more liberated about their sexuality, being more proud of carrying a child—actually showing that you can be sexy when pregnant, while previous generations thought it was a condition to almost be ashamed of. Now of course it’s completely the opposite.

I think it’s because women have children later. They have them because they really want them, rather than because it’s expected. It means that you have a love in your life and a certain level of stability, which is kind of an accomplishment in itself.

What made you choose Marylebone as a location?
I like the proximity of Harley Street, where obviously there’s a lot of gynaecologists and also the Portland Hospital. The area also has a great combination of residential and business people—I think it’s quite unique in that way. I love the boutique feel of the high street, the environment; all those French boutiques resonate with what we’re trying to do, so it was really an ideal location.

I actually looked for a year to find the right available spot as it’s very in-demand and quite difficult to get hold of a unit. I praise the Howard de Walden Estate highly for creating a diverse high street that has got a very, very good feel.

What do you do to relax away from it all?
Listen to music—a lot of jazz, Brazilian music. I do yoga and read biographies of real people, entrepreneurs. If I have time, I find it relaxing to cook. I do like eating out, but I am a very good cook myself.

What are your plans for the future?
For Seraphine, we are opening more stores—in the US, more stores out of London in the south-east—and we are launching a babywear line in November which will be available in store in Marylebone.