As the industry continues to prophesize on what we want to wear post-pandemic, we figured we should turn to someone who’s already rewrote the playbook. Liz Lange, who’s credited with revolutionizing the maternity clothing landscape back in the ’90s, has been busy on her latest venture, which fuses function and fashion. The industry innovator purchased the gypset brand Figue and has been hard at work designing the latest offering, which includes luxury lamé kaftans, tunics, military jackets, ruffled wrap dresses, and the label’s first accessories range. The Resort ’22 collection drops today, alongside a glossy campaign shot at Lange’s home—the famous Grey Gardens estate in East Hampton! The Daily caught her for a moment to get the lowdown.
You’re a born and bred New Yorker! How has that defined you?
I live for its energy and 24/7 way of life! If I need fashion inspiration, all I have to do is walk outside and it’s all there—from the people on the street to the shops themselves.
What was it like working at Vogue in the ‘90s?
A dream job! Anna had just taken over and Condé Nast was the place to be. As a 22-year-old, I was excited to be around so much fashion and beauty. And even though it seems very glamorous, and of course it was, it really is about hard work and I learned that there. We did whatever it took to get the magazine out and if that meant late nights and weekends, that was what we did. There was no such as thing as the answer “no”. If it needed to happen, you made it happen.
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Do you have any funny stories about what the maternity wear landscape was like before you started designing your line?
My friends were all getting pregnant and they were shopping in regular stores instead of maternity clothing stores and when I asked them why, I soon discovered that maternity clothing seemed to all resemble children’s clothing—lots of bows, peter pan collars, and empire waists! It made no sense! It almost seemed that the clothing designers were confused and thought pregnant women were morphing into babies rather than expecting babies! There also was very little focus on pregnancy. You didn’t hear about pregnant celebrities, or really anyone being pregnant. It definitely wasn’t celebrated. I had this “a-ha moment”—even though at that point I had not yet been pregnant myself—that women needed clothing that was sleeker, tighter fitting, sexy, and looked like the clothing that they like to wear when they are not pregnant. With that in mind, I designed my line and it took off beyond my wildest expectations. I figured that celebrities and working women would all need it…but I couldn’t have anticipated how much they’d all love it.
What’s something you learned early on when running Liz Lange Maternity that shaped your outlook as a leader? You can’t please everyone. Not everybody is for every brand and not every brand is for everybody. I used to try to make everyone happy and of course ideally that would be the case, but it isn’t always possible. I also learned as an entrepreneur the importance of shutting out the naysayers and the negative noise. The truth is that before someone does something new, no one ever thinks it’s a good idea.
What are some pivotal career moments that you look back on now that you can’t believe happened?
So many! Opening up my first flagship store on Madison Avenue; my favorite shopping street in the world and in my hometown of New York City. Doing the first-ever maternity fashion show during NYFW. Partnering with Nike on Liz Lange for Swoosh Maternity Athletic Apparel. Partnering with Target for 18 years as their exclusive in-store and online maternity clothing offerings (Liz Lange for Target). And being a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show!
What’s something you’re proud of contributing to the fashion world in the 1990s and ‘00s?
I think I changed the way women dress when they are pregnant and helped them feel comfortable in their work environments. I’m really proud of that.
Tell us how acquiring Figue came about?
I’d been craving something new. I had sold Liz Lange to private equity back in 2007, and I’d been a long time fan/customer of Figue. When I heard it might be for sale, I jumped on it.
What does the name mean?
It’s the French spelling of fig. I don’t think there’s anything more beautiful than a fig tree, or more magical than eating sweet figs while on tropical vacation or over the summer.
What’s been the first focus and what are you working on now?
I immediately got started on the Resort/Holiday collection, which launches this week! I was very inspired by Cher! I love how she takes flamboyance yet makes it seem effortless and compelling. She’s very Figue: never boring, always dramatic and always chic.
What’s your overall dream with the brand under your leadership?
I want to take the best of Figue—our kaftans, our dresses, our bold prints, our floaty fabrics, our more is more embellishments—and expand on it. More separates, more great beach to city silhouettes, greater price point variety, an expansion into knits, swimwear, and tabletop. We remain, as always, very dedicated to our wholesale partners but we are also very focused on our DTC business.
We’re curious! What’s it like living at the famed Grey Gardens?
I love the house and feel very lucky to be its steward. The provenance is fun and, of course, I’m a fan of the iconic documentary. But mostly, I love it because it’s a beautiful Hamptons-style shingled summer cottage with glorious gardens near the sea!
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What does an average day look like for you?
COVID has changed everything! I start my day with coffee at around 6:30 (in the city from Joe Coffee around the corner from me, or at home when in East Hampton.) Then I take a two-hour walk and listen to podcasts and music. When I get back, we start our daily morning Figue meetings. I work on fittings, marketing, design, and business. Every day is different. My children are both in college, but when they are at home, there is time spent with them too. The day ends with dinner with my husband and sometimes friends too.
We heard you like to do those two-hour power walks in a kaftan too…. do tell!
This is true!!! I find gym clothing hot and constricting! So, over the summer in East Hampton and during the winter at our house in Palm Beach, I do my daily walks in our Eliza Kaftan ( I own her in every print Figue has ever done). She’s very loose and easy, so I feel like I have air conditioning built in! I’m sure people know me as the crazy lady in the kaftan…but to me they are the crazy ones!
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What are some things that never go out of style?
Kaftans, bold fun jewelry, suntanned and glowing skin (I don’t mean actual tan, but with make up and lotions!), a big gold man’s style watch, classic slides, and white jeans.
What do you hope the next 12 months brings, personally and professionally?
I’m really excited to see Figue grow and blossom! We are hard at work on all our new collections. Personally I love to travel and I have missed it. I can’t wait to get back to Europe; I’m already planning a weekend in Paris and hoping to go to Greece and Italy next summer. We have started spending our winters in Palm Beach and I’m excited to get down there. I always feel very Figue inspired when there.