Making More Room for Active Mothers, Nike Introduces Its First Maternity Line

Retired British track and field athlete Perri Edwards at 29 weeks pregnant.
Retired British track and field athlete Perri Edwards at 29 weeks pregnant.
Photo: Nike

What a difference a year makes. In 2019, Nike was facing significant backlash after a viral Mother’s Day New York Times op-ed penned by one of its formerly sponsored athletes, Olympic runner Alysia Montaño, revealed that the athleticwear behemoth’s contracts were punitive to their pregnant athletes.

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“If we’re talking about supporting women in sports, then we need to support the possibility—all the possibilities,” the 2019 Root 100 honoree told The Glow Up last November, as she reflected on her experience. She also noted that the issue wasn’t exclusive to Nike, as she ran into comparable issues with her next sponsor, Asics. “You recognize, ‘Wow, this is an industry-wide problem....They want us to pick sports or motherhood, and they don’t want the two to mix,” she said.

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In response to Montaño’s explosive op-ed, Nike formally changed its policies last May; now, the company is also expanding its offerings, introducing its first first dedicated maternity collection, Nike (M).

“Mothers are the ultimate endurance athletes...Giving birth is arguably one of the most transformative events the human body can experience,” the brand says. “Yes, we know,” mothers everywhere undoubtedly say in response. And to prove that they’ve truly been listening to female athletes, Nike crowdsourced them for feedback in the development of the line.

Per Nike News:

An example of Nike’s universal design philosophy, Nike (M) is created by combing through pregnancy data findings with analytics from more than 150,000 comparison scans of non-pregnant women against those of pregnant women. Throughout the design process, designers also gathered detailed feedback on fit, feel and function from nearly 30 female athletes who were pregnant or postpartum.

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“The more we listened to expecting mothers and postpartum mothers, the more we learned, reworked and innovated through inclusive design,” says Nike Senior Design Director for Apparel Innovation, Carmen Zolman. “It’s the project of a lifetime to work in lockstep with all kinds of mothers to bring to life a capsule that truly supports women’s relationship with sport during such a transformative time in their lives.”

Athlete and model Jeneil Williams at 39 weeks pregnant.
Athlete and model Jeneil Williams at 39 weeks pregnant.
Photo: Nike
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United States women’s national soccer team member and Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan, retired British track and field athlete Perri Edwards (pictured in our header), and golfer Michelle Wie West, along with athlete and model Jeneil Williams (above) all appear in Nike’s campaign, which aptly recognizes:

The timeline of motherhood doesn’t stop at nine months. In fact, for the many women who have two or three children (on average), the journey navigating motherhood from pre-pregnancy, pregnancy and postpartum can be up to 10 years...

Motherhood is a new chapter for a woman’s relationship with her body and with sport, and it’s often difficult for pregnant and postpartum moms to find the support they need to find sport.

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The inaugural Nike (M) Collection is “a four-piece essentials capsule consisting of the Nike (M) Pullover, the Nike (M) Swoosh Bra, the Nike (M) Tank and Nike One (M) Tight,” says the brand, further explaining: “Nike employs universal design philosophy to help play a role for moms as their relationship with their bodies and sport simultaneously change.”

“The Nike (M) sports bra is great because it’ll give me easy access for when I want to breastfeed,” says Edwards. “The leggings give you options of wearing over your tummy or showing your tummy, and the maternity shirt has this extra material for the extra weight that I’m carrying. You look very smart, very comfortable, very hip.”

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The collection drops September 17, and as Zolman told Glamour, “We truly put the same force and power behind this collection that we put behind any of our other big sporting moments...This is the full power of Nike on an equal playing field.”

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“We’re just going to keep listening and learning and chipping away at all of those barriers that keep women from being active and leading and excelling at sport,” she added.

It’s a much-needed pivot for the brand, given that an equal playing field and open ear are all Montaño and other athlete mothers like her were asking for from the athletic wear industry that sponsored so many of their careers, as she told us last fall.“Every pregnancy is different, but let us choose how we are going to move and feel empowered in our pregnancies and with our own bodies.”

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, an avid eyeshadow enthusiast and always her own muse. Minneapolis born, Chicago bred, New York built. Nuance is her superpower.

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DISCUSSION

This is also reflecting a changing medical consensus toward a view that vigorous exercise is not only safe but essential throughout pregnancy, although I think the opinion on high-impact exercise like running is still somewhat negative.