A labour of love

Suzanne Smith is the proprietor of hautemama.ca, a hip maternity shop located in Kanata basement. She imports high end European fashions for expectant moms. Her business had a humble beginning — Smith was looking for stylish fashions for her pregnant daughter about 15 years ago. photo by Mike Carroccetto


Fifteen years ago, Suzanne Smith’s newly pregnant daughter Shannon lamented that there wasn’t a maternity store in Ottawa that could outfit her in the way she wanted as a professional working woman. Unable to find anything that was suitable and stylish enough for the corporate world, Shannon suggested they set up shop to meet the fashion needs of women like her, even though neither she nor her mother—who has a background in health sciences—had any experience in retail.

This did not deter mother and daughter in the least. They travelled to Paris—as they say, “go big or go home”—for a six-day maternity trade fair and returned to Kanata with designer orders in hand. Hautemama Maternity & Nursing Fashions was born: all 680 square feet of it in the comfort of Smith’s home where it has remained and thrived to this day. It is not lost on Smith that having a home retail business has spared Hautemama from being shuttered like most other maternity stores in Ottawa and area.


Photo by Mike Carroccetto

Speaking of which, Smith has a number of shopping protocols in place that enhance the safety and comfort of her mom-to-be clients. Ironically, these special safeguards have been in place since the shop opened, emphasizing the care and regard she has always had for her customers. There are “appointment only” visits, allowing Smith to cater to each client and her needs exclusively. Refreshments are offered, and a client reserves the right to bring in a husband, boyfriend, friend or mother to accompany her. Any article of clothing that is touched or tried on is removed post-visit, steam-cleaned and returned on the shop floor after 72 hours—quarantined before quarantine became the new normal. For those who prefer an online shopping experience, porch pickup is also available.

Smith knows this is a very special time in a woman’s life, but she is also highly sensitive to the fact that moms-to-be can feel physically unwell and emotionally down. In helping them look good, “they will feel good,” Smith says. This is what makes it so rewarding for her to open her home in this way.

So, what is it that European and Australian designers—with the UK, Sweden, and Italy in the mix—offer expecting mothers that first compelled Smith and her daughter to buy into their clothing? Of Hautemama’s inventory, 99 percent of it grows with you. In other words, you choose the clothing size you were wearing before you became pregnant, taking out the guesswork of sizing yourself at seven or eight months. Hautemama tops, dresses and pants go back into shape once your pregnancy is over. Goodbye tent dresses: welcome soft, contoured lines that fit, flatter and support the Mommy-to-be’s figure. For example, Smith carries the form-fitting Isabelle Oliver as well as the more conservative Seraphine brand that Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, has worn.

Accessory pregnancy belts support both growing belly and back. The Bellaband is especially handy, allowing moms to wear their pre-pregnancy jeans, pants, skirts, and shorts longer. Wear the soft panel over the waist of unzipped bottoms and the top will cover it.  Apparently, some post-preggers wear it as a tube top.  Talk about versatility.

Not surprisingly, ultra-comfortable and casual clothing is what Hautemama’s clients are looking for now, although Smith has business attire for those going out to work, and formal wear for that special occasion. Hot colours for this spring and summer include “canyon clay,” “olive leaf,” soft beige and warm “sand.”  She notes the sand and black lounge top and pants are sure to be a hit for the warmer seasons. 

It seems Smith and her jewel of a store is in the right place at the right time for Ottawa’s moms-to-be.