My lightbulb moment: Designer Baukjen De Swaan Arons

My lightbulb moment: Designer Baukjen De Swaan Arons reveals the inspiration behind the launch of her maternity wear brand

  • Baukjen de Swaan Arons, 47, founded Isabella Oliver in 2003, designing at home
  • She was inspired after struggling to find flattering maternity wear at the time
  • She went on to launch Baukjen in 2011, as her own premium capsule range
  • She revealed her designs are now sold in more than 160 countries online

Baukjen de Swaan Arons, 47, founded maternity wear brand Isabella Oliver in 2003, before launching online label Baukjen eight years later. She lives in London with husband Geoff, co-founder of the company. They have three children — 15, 14 and 12.

I was born in Amsterdam, the youngest of four, and moved to London aged five because of my father’s job in the oil industry. So I’ve always felt very British.

After university, I went into telecoms, but quit when I became pregnant. Frustrated by the maternity wear on offer at the time, I started sewing clothes in a makeshift office at home. I wanted modern pieces that flattered pregnancy curves.

I’d always wanted to be an entrepreneur. And friends loved my clothes. So in 2003, a year after my first baby, my husband and I started the maternity label, Isabella Oliver.

Baukjen de Swaan Arons, 47, (pictured) was inspired to launch Isabella Oliver in 2003 after becoming frustrated with the maternity wear available at the time. She later launched Baukjen as her own premium capsule range

We had ten maternity essentials in stretchy viscose jersey at £100 each. Trinny Woodall was one of our first customers. When Heidi Klum and Angelina Jolie bought dresses, things really took off. We were stocked by John Lewis and won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise.

Baukjen was born in 2011, after I decided I wanted to create my own premium capsule range. I wanted it to be a brand that’s like a really good friend, someone you can rely on — and made a conscious decision to be online only.

I design for women like me, who are running around. Buying clothes should be as easy as doing the Ocado shop — something you can do on your mobile phone or when the kids are in bed. With three children, the last thing I want to do is go shopping at weekends.

I’m a shortcut person and I decided to design the brand like a kit that you layer. Baukjen is all about mixing and matching, from jersey tops and trousers to dresses and coats. I see it like Lego. When I pack to go away, I choose three colours — black, white, navy. Whether you’re casual or dressy, you can create your own uniform.

Baukjen has evolved into a mother and daughter brand. Our customers are aged from their late-20s to their 70s. Designs are cut on a normal-sized model — I have hips and a bum myself. Some of the trousers on the High Street, I can’t get over my thighs.

We employ 60 staff and sell in more than 160 countries online — time and geography shouldn’t be a barrier for shopping. 

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