When I first laid eyes on Julie McKeen, who forms one half of the creative duo behind Peaks of London, an effortless style emanated from her, and I knew that if I had to trust someone to design clothes that were both practical and stylish for a post-pregnancy body, it would be her. And as a mother to five-year-old Alfie and three-year-old Harry, Julie is no novice to motherhood.
Peaks of London may be a simple idea, but it is an idea which has helped women all over the world to embrace one of the most natural things a woman can do, both in style and in comfort. Breastfeeding in the tranquility of your own home may be one thing, but transfer this to a public setting, where you are surrounded by strangers and glaring looks from onlookers, I imagine it to be a different story altogether.
Fate bought Julie and her business partner, Sheena Gunn, together. As neighbours, one week after the birth of Julie’s first baby Alfie, Sheena caught Julie leaving her house to hunt down a stylish dress to breastfeed in at a wedding. And though Sheena may have dampened Julie’s dreams of finding a dress that day by telling her that she would not come across one, this gave birth (excuse the pun), to an idea that would enable mothers reclaim the joy of their wardrobes without sacrificing on style.
Speaking to Julie I gained a true understanding of how pregnancy not only affects the body for nine months but how fashion compromises still have to be made during breastfeeding. I never imagined how one of the most simple, and one of the most enjoyable morning activities of choosing your outfit for the day can suddenly become of the most frustrating and challenging ones.
In just three years, Peaks of London has evolved from one capsule collection, to being stocked in UK stores such as Blossom, to being sold in Japanese department stores, taking orders from Russia and the United States, and attracting the attention from celebrity mothers such as Sienna Miller and Sally Phillips. However, Julie is quick to note that these milestones achieved come second place to the improvement she and Sheena make to the lives of women through their clothes, and Julie even admitted that her heart still leaps every time she receives an email that is filled with positive comments.
Of course every designer has their favourite items from their collection, and for Julie it is the sleeveless shift dress with concealed zips, and The Kate Dress in British cobalt blue which was made with our very own Princess in mind. As well as always being mindful of a woman’s body post pregnancy, Julie and Sheena admit there is a fine line between allowing the mother to breastfeed with ease and comfort to concealing the baby, which is why they ensure their designs never overstep the mark and hide the newborn.
There is no denying the fact that the Peaks of London collection is beautiful, extremely flattering, but to our delight, they are also ethically made. They take pride in the fact that their garments are manufactured in the UK and knitted in a factory that has been running for three generations, and this is something that both Julie and Sheena are passionate about continuing, no matter how large their business grows.
When I left Julie and her new original Ray-Ban Wayfarers, her go-getter attitude assured me that for Peaks of London, the future is definitely theirs to own, and there is no doubt that this power-duo will continue to inject style and ease back into women’s wardrobes for many generations to come.
And, maybe even more importantly, helping mothers to breastfeed in front of their uncles at Christmas, without them having a clue!
By Hattie Lee