Meet Baukjen


Baukjen de Swaan Arons Isabella Oliver’s Founder and Creative Director speaks pregnancy style, the failings of fleece and who she’d like to take to dinner

Why did you launch Isabella Oliver?
I made every mistake in the book when it came to dressing when I was pregnant with my first child. Let’s just say that oversized shirts and giant fleeces did not make for a stylish nine months but there were literally no other options. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was. Women don’t suddenly stop wanting to look stylish just because they have a bump. In fact, at a time when your confidence can feel quite shaky, it’s never more important. I wanted to fix this. That was over 10 years ago and I’m very proud with how much Isabella Oliver has achieved as a brand.

There are a lot of pregnancy style myths and rules. Can you break some for us?
Of course, rules are made to be broken! There are a lot of misconceptions. The obvious one is that people think they have to wear something baggy and although certain styles can work, fitted pieces are very flattering and look and feel really chic. Our design signature is very much based around supporting the bump to create a beautiful figure hugging silhouette.

Describe an average day/week at Isabella Oliver
One of the things I love most about my job is how no day is ever the same. There are always new projects and initiatives myself and my team are working on around the regular to-do list. I can be brainstorming with the design team, working on new editorial concepts, on set at one of our shoots, attending a focus group or simply researching online or browsing magazines. Watching something you’ve worked on come to life is always really rewarding.

You’re a businesswoman and a mother of three. How do you make it work?
I won’t lie, some days are better than others. It’s a balancing act. Women are faced with a lot of demands today and we all put a lot of additional pressures on ourselves. But I wouldn’t change it – we’re also really lucky to have so many opportunities and I’m especially lucky to have a very supportive family who help make it all possible. From the time I walk through the door though, to the time my kids go to bed, I spend it with them. Homework, bath time or watching cartoons – it doesn’t matter, that’s our time. It’s also easier to be flexible as my husband Geoff, is the company’s CEO. It means if we need to continue working on something after this, we can.

You launched your self-named brand Baukjen a couple of years ago. Why?
It’s been several years since I was last pregnant. Without the bump, I thought shopping would be easier, but I found a whole new raft of issues. Like many women, I have a busy life and it’s difficult to find time to shop. Weekends are spent with my kids so things like window shopping are a thing of the past. I still want beautiful clothes though. I also want good quality pieces and dependable style advice. That’s the idea behind Baukjen – to create a collection that meets all of those everyday dressing dilemmas effortlessly and from one convenient location. I need to be able to dip in whenever there are 5 minutes spare and for me, that can be at 7am, or from my desk while eating lunch.

Isabella Oliver Maternity Clothing

We’d like to know more…

Describe yourself in 3 words
Passionate, committed, loyal

Who’s on the guest list of your dream dinner party?
Jack Nicholson, Martin Luther King, Michael McIntyre, Jamie Oliver, Harper Lee

When did you last make an impulse purchase?
A few weeks ago – leopard print slip-ons

If you have a spare 10 minutes, how do you spend them?
Calling my mum

Pregnancy is…
... a unique experience. I loved being pregnant every time though I don’t miss the heartburn and tiredness.

Whose style do you most admire?
So many women. Kate Moss, Sofia Coppola, Elin Kling, Miroslava Duma, Hanneli Mustaparta and Emmanuelle Alt, Olivia Palermo and many more.

Isabella Oliver Dress

Aside from fashion, which one thing do you wish you’d known when you were pregnant?
To enjoy afternoon naps every day where it’s possible to get one in

Recommend a book, a film and a TV show
To Kill a Mockingbird - a classic; Silver Linings Playbook – just brilliant; and, The Good Wife – I’m hooked.

Heels or Flats?
I like both. But I try to mix them up as I find that if I wear flats too often I’m not comfortable wearing heels anymore.

Kids are…
… life-changing. My happiest times are in the most simplest of moments with them such as watching a film together curled up on the sofa with mugs of tea and chocolate digestives.

Latest discovery you’d like to share
I’m loving the leather rings by By Boe – we sell them on our website and I wear them stacked up

If you weren’t a fashion entrepreneur, you would be…
A restaurateur or so I’d like to think.

What’s your ideal holiday destination?
Somewhere warm, close to the sea with good food and lots of time with the family.

You can never resist…
… Pesto – my favourite. I’d eat it every day if I could.