Toronto

Toronto business hoping rental maternity wear will save moms money, help the environment

As many pregnant women know, shopping for maternity wear can be a difficult and expensive task. Now, one Torontonian is trying to change that by letting moms and moms-to-be rent their clothing.

Sprout Collection founder Joyce Lim says company aims to be environmentally-friendly

Joyce Lim co-founded the Sprout Collection with her husband, Josh, after struggling to find affordable and sustainable maternity clothes in the GTA during her pregnancy. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

As many pregnant women know, shopping for maternity wear can be a difficult and expensive task.

Now, one Toronto woman is trying to change that by letting moms and moms-to-be rent their clothing.

Joyce Lim told CBC Toronto the idea came to her when she was pregnant almost two years ago, and struggling to find maternity clothes that suited her job as a corporate lawyer.

"I was just shocked by how exorbitant prices were," she said. 

Lim's search took her to stores across Toronto, and then online. Eventually, she discovered countries like the U.S. and Singapore had services that rented out clothing for expecting mothers. In Canada? Nothing.

The day her daughter, Georgia, was born, Lim and her husband set out to fill that void, and soon launched Sprout Collection. Lim says the company has two goals: to help women like her save money on maternity clothing, and to be more environmentally-friendly.

Joyce Lim (left) with customer Marjorie Celis, who says she has saved hundreds of dollars by renting maternity clothes instead of buying them brand new. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

"Why commit to something only to throw it away?" said Lim. "Clothing is just going to pile up and contribute to more garbage, more waste." 

"It's a drain on the environment." 

Shoppers eager to spend less on short-term clothing

Sprout Collection works on a subscription service, similar to a number of companies popping up in Canada

Women can choose between different packages and clothing online, and have it shipped to them each month. After returning it, Sprout does the dry cleaning (a perk for the messy work of being a mom).

"This is brilliant because I can just choose something new every month and not have to invest in something so short term," said Marjorie Celis, who is five weeks postpartum and is still using the service for clothing that's breast-feeding friendly.

This is Celis's second child, and she says the subscription has saved her hundreds of dollars.

"A good quality pair of maternity jeans are at least $150," she said. "My rate is under $100 (a month)."

Customer Tanya Brown, right, says she's grateful for the Sprout Collection because she has found it hard to find maternity clothing that suits her 'tom boy' style. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

Mom-to-be Tanya Brown also had a tough time finding maternity wear that wasn't cookie cutter. 

"I'm a bit of a tom boy," she said. 

"And the concept of being very green — it felt good to be able to do that."

After Sprout Collection's success, Lim's considering expanding the company to rent out clothing for all women. 

Lim's business is part of a growing trend in start-ups, which need to find a niche to differentiate themselves, according to Beatrix Dart, executive director of the Rotman Initiative for Women in Business at the University of Toronto. 

"One of the big trends is being environmentally conscious while simultaneously saving money," said Dart, in an email.

"Whether it is renting ball gowns or maternity clothes, there is a movement to eschew one-time-use-only products, especially among the younger female consumers." 

About the Author

Lisa Xing is a journalist by trade and a historian by degree. She's also a creative writer, photographer and traveller, dabbling in camping, canoeing and crafting. Email Lisa.Xing@cbc.ca.

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