With a little help from her own experiences and Walt Disney, Frenchwoman Veronique Delachaux has launched an international chain of maternity boutiques dedicated to high fashion.
Unable to find clothes to make her feel "comfortable, radiant and chic" while she was pregnant, Delachaux simply created her own. After friends convinced her to do the same for them, she decided to open a boutique in Paris and name it after the charming character with the ample tummy in Disney's "Jungle Book."
"As soon as I saw the bear dancing in the forest, looking so nice and happy, I wanted to call my store 'Baloo,' " Delachaux explained during a recent visit to Beverly Hills. "But my brother said a lot of people in France wouldn't understand, so I went looking in an English dictionary for a word that sounded very similar."
She ended her search when she came to "balloon."
Today there are three Balloon boutiques in Paris and many more spread across the globe, from Beverly Hills to Tel Aviv and Tokyo.
The clothes within, all designed by the former fashion editor, are deceptively "normal." So normal, they are often worn by non-pregnant women, she says. She has worn them, and so has one eager customer who demanded entry to the Manhattan store before it was officially opened two years ago.
Delachaux finally let her in and helped her select about $2,000 worth of merchandise. Not until the designer tried to discourage her from tightly belting a pair of made-to-grow velvet pants did the customer (who wasn't pregnant) realize she was buying a maternity wardrobe.
Other customers have known exactly what they were getting into. A pregnant Catherine Deneuve, for example, was one of Delachaux's first clients. The Duchess of Kent, she says, "sent Princess Diana to me," and during the past 15 years, she has "dressed" all the wives of the King of Jordan along with Romy Schneider, Princess Caroline, Jerry Hall, Sylvie Vartan and Isabel Huppert.
Celebs and non-celebs alike choose from the same racks.
To all, she offers two collections a year (made of French, Italian and English fabrics) that include dressy and sporty items, ranging from linen coatdresses and cotton knits in spring to Chanel-inspired suits and baggy flannel pants in autumn. Prices at the Beverly Hills boutique, which opened earlier this year, range from $45 for a sweat shirt to $300 for a velvet cocktail dress.