Israel Vahaba has managed Izzy Maternity for 33 years. In that time, he has witnessed a shift in fashion and his customers’ average age, but the one thing that hasn’t changed, he said, is the quality of clothes he sells.
Vahaba began his career in men’s fashion, but after his wife got pregnant, he realized he was getting more orders for maternity clothes than for men’s fashions.
The Buckhead store, at the intersection of Peachtree Road and Peachtree Battle Avenue, still caters to a special clientele. In addition to attracting customers who are seeking high-end maternity clothes, the boutique also appeals to women who are not pregnant, Vahaba said.
“It’s not because these people are necessarily big but because they like the style,” he said. “It’s younger. The fabric is softer and may have a little bit more room in the bust, which is a far cry from stereotypical maternity clothes.”
After 33 years in the business, the Israeli native said, he knows what to buy and where to suit his clientele.
“There are many times I purchase clothes which may not be hot sellers but may be in fashion. You have to see what people are wearing and what’s about to become fashionable.” he said. Yet Vahaba does have a tendency to purchase more expensive items. He said, “It looks nicer, has a better feel and can be worn multiple times because it has great workmanship.”
Izzy used to provide more custom-made clothes, Vahaba said, but people’s tastes have changed.
“Today’s customers are completely different than what they used to be around 1985,” he said. “Back then, people would come in and take their time to try on the clothes and feel the fabric, but today’s generation tends to purchase more clothes online, and if they could get a baby online, they would do that too.”
He added: “It’s a different ball game. Customers back then had a separate wardrobe for work and the weekend and knew they were going to spend at least $2,400 in maternity clothes for a portion of their pregnancy. But people today are more focused on their budget and where they can find it cheaper as opposed to focusing on the talent of the person who created the piece.”
A typical dress at Izzy Maternity ranges from $88 to $128.
Born in Tel Aviv, Vahaba said his personal style has a lot to do with where he came from. He describes his taste as romantic and sexy; he favors better fabrication with a pop of color.
At one-point, Vahaba said, Izzy’s customers tended to be 19 to 27 years old, but his clientele has gotten older. “The average age of customers nowadays is between 34 and 44 for the first or second baby,” he said. “It’s a different generation. They are well kept, look after themselves and are more focused on their life. For most of these people, kids are a bonus, but it’s not their main purpose in life.”
Vahaba said some of his best years in retail were around 2007, when his daughter, Hannah, began using social media to promote the business. Sales rocketed from $300,000 to $400,000 a year to $1 million.
“She just brought the business to a different level,” Vahaba said. She wrote a college thesis on Izzy Maternity.
Vahaba described Izzy Maternity as a one-stop shop that carries workout pants, leggings, dresses and an assortment of lingerie from all over the world, including Australia and Israel.
After working at Izzy for 10 years, Hannah left to start her own family and is now the director of membership and fitness at the Marcus Jewish Community Center.
Vahaba’s son helps with the boutique’s finances and accounting, but Vahaba said he mostly runs the business by himself.
His store will hold a fundraiser and fashion show from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 24, to celebrate 33 years in business. The proceeds will benefit the Marcus JCC.
Izzy customers will participate in a pageant wearing swimsuits, work attire and cocktail dresses. One winner will be announced as Miss Preggo.
Participants will not be judged on their looks, Vahaba said, but based on who draws the most attention from the audience.
In addition to the fashion show, the fundraiser will include music and food catered by Brooklyn Bagel Bakery and Deli. A raffle will be held, with tickets going for $5 each or three for $10, and the store will hold a special sale. Vahaba said he hopes to raise $750 for the Marcus JCC.
“When people think of maternity, I genuinely want them to think of Izzy,” Vahaba said. “We sell more than just experience. We sell stories and moments. The fact is that I can give people my best shot and give them a good experience, and when I hear their feedback, that’s what keeps me motivated to continue doing what I love.”