From slump to bump

Gillian Epworth with her son Harrison. Photo by Colin Thompson.
Gillian Epworth with her son Harrison. Photo by Colin Thompson.

A MORPETH woman is making a name for herself after swapping hard hats for fabrics.

Gillian Epworth graduated from Northumbria University with first class honours in quantity surveying and she then worked for some of the UK’s largest building contractors.

While taking a break on maternity leave, she struggled to find trousers long enough to accommodate her 36-inch inside leg length and when she had the clothing specially made, the 36-year-old decided to do a batch to see if other women would want to wear them.

The Mummy Long Legz brand and Tall Maternity Store website received a number of orders and although she was made redundant from her quantity surveying position following the economic downturn, Mrs Epworth grasped the opportunity to turn the business into a full-time passion.

She said: “When I was expecting my son Harrison (now aged four), I looked in shops and online for maternity trousers but I couldn’t find a suitable pair.

“I decided that I would make it my mission to design a pair myself and I felt there was a gap in the market, so I wanted some others made. I spent hours researching fabrics, sizing and processes and found a great manufacturer in Manchester and I also set up a basic website.

“The feedback from tall pregnant women was very encouraging. We received quite a few emails thanking us and praising us for an excellent fit.

“Redundancy is extremely stressful and I did worry about how we would cope financially, but luckily I had this business to fall back on. It was more of a hobby at the time, but losing my job meant I had the time to develop the brand and it has grown ever since.

“We now provide jeans, tops, dresses and leggings as well as trousers and I will continue to build up the product range over the next few months. Orders are regularly coming in from across the UK and abroad.

“I won a silver accolade in the Mumpreneur Website Awards and was a finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year at the Northumberland Business Awards. It’s nice to be recognised for our efforts.”

She has enlisted the services of a Corbridge website designer and Stannington-based photographer Colin Thompson to raise the profile of the online business and her mum, Marilyn Stawart, helps out.

At the end of 2011 she added another brand – Mojo Maternity – which is dedicated entirely to the needs of plus size ladies during their pregnancy.

“I extended the business because I wanted to help all ladies who may not fit the fashion industry’s idea of standard sizing to look and feel great when they are expecting and beyond,” added Mrs Epworth.

“As well as the support from my husband, Jonathan, my late father (Nick Stawart) was a big help as he encouraged me to develop Mummy Long Legz and recommended that I add the plus size brand.”

Mummy Long Legz clothes are sold through www.tallmaternitys and the Mojo Maternity range is available at www.mojoma