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Liz Lange: Fashion Visionary, New York Native

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Although the world has changed quite a bit since Frank Sinatra crooned his love song to the city, there is no doubt people still come by the millions to taste a little bit of New York's magical Kool-Aid.

There are also millions who don't come here, rather they were born here. Being born here is no guarantee of success but it provides a promising start. Larry King thinks there's something in our water.

What does a New York success story look like? Two words: Liz Lange. Hear the name Liz Lange and your first thoughts are not NYC. They are usually maternity chic. Why? Because she is the queen of the genre. Founder and creative director of Liz Lange Maternity, Liz is also a New York Native.

Based on her philosophy that women should look and feel beautiful during pregnancy, Liz single-handedly revolutionized maternity style and society's perception of pregnant women.

Anyone in the fashion industry (particularly during Fashion Week) will tell you that it is an extraordinary feat to create a whole new category of dress, and that is basically what she did. Pre- Liz Lange Maternity there were Moo Moos at retail (for real).

After graduating from Brown University in 1988, Liz worked at both Vogue and a small design firm in NYC. It was at the design firm that she first developed her idea for a sophisticated chic and slim fitting collection of maternity clothing.

Currently Liz Lange has the exclusive maternity clothing line offered at all Target stores and on Target.com: "Liz Lange for Target." She is the only maternity designer to have shown at New York Fashion Week. Liz is the author of Liz Lange's Maternity Style: How to Look Fabulous During the Most Fashion-Challenged Time and is currently at work on her follow-up book, The Fourth Trimester.

Caught your breath yet? Well we managed to catch her and sit down at The Loews Regency Hotel for a Native Icon Power Breakfast. The fashion pioneer does NOT eat breakfast unless she's hungry (as unpopular as that might be these days,) but she does enjoy her morning tea. Tireless, multi-tasking, hilarious and a force to be reckoned with, here is some of what we learned about Liz the New Yorker:

On being a New York Native:

NYN: In which hospital were you born?

LL: Doctor's Hospital. Well the hospital doesn't exist anymore... on East End Avenue.

NYN: Where did you go to School?

LL: I went to Nightingale. I went to Trinity for High School.

Trinity was all boys when I was growing up in the '80s until ninth grade, so it was a great place to come as a girl in ninth grade because everybody came new. People don't realize that, only us New Yorkers know that.

NYN: We are always asked the question: How long does one have to live in New York to be a New Yorker?

LL: I first of all don't understand the question because you can't be a New Yorker without being born here.

So this business, of I've always lived here... well you haven't actually always lived here; It's like when you get to college and you run into someone and they say they're from New York and then when you drill down, they're from Greenwich and there's nothing wrong with that but they're not from New York... They're from Long Island or New Jersey and these are great places all of them. It's totally cool. It's absolutely fine. It's just not accurate.

If I moved to L.A. right now and I was there until I die, I would not be an LAer. I'm from New York.

NYN: A number of our readers are mothers in the city and we have been happy to hear that some of the content we provide makes them feel "sexy." You spearheaded the idea that woman can and should feel sexy and attractive throughout pregnancy, what words of sage wisdom do you have for our readers about maintaining the balance between being "mommy" and remaining "me?"

LL: I would say as a New York City mom I don't have to jump into becoming a soccer mom. I don't feel your life has to change that much and you don't have to be defined by "momminess" as a woman.

I think it's very, very important to care about how you look. Yes you're pregnant, [but] your job probably isn't changing. My biggest customers were working women. [And] most of us women in New York... we do go out at night. We need the wardrobe in which to do it.

You don't stop being you. It's great news, you have a baby now and you still get yourself together in the morning.

I think it is crucial in New York [to remain stylish] for yourself and it is not a superficial thing and I think it makes you a better mother, a better wife, a better girlfriend -- if you are feeling good about yourself and you are still you. It feels very un-modern to me to be giving up your own agenda.

NYN: N.Y. Fashionistas look to you immediately as they enter motherhood. What fashion advice can you share with them?

LL: I think every single woman's style is different. You know what your uniform is. For me it might be a little black dress, for you it might be jeans. It's about replacing those items in your wardrobe.

There are key pieces but it's hard to say what those key pieces are... I always find women get pregnant, and I saw this all the time in my stores, and suddenly they don't know how to shop anymore.

Keep things basic and simple because you are going to be living in them; Simple and versatile. So you can wear them in different ways and you're not going to get sick of them.

As a sentient being, basically if you're entire wardrobe burned down, which is essentially what happens when you're pregnant, [focus on what items you will need to replace].

NYN: Who are you wearing today?

LL: Trina Turk dress and the sweater is Joe Fresh, which is my latest obsession... from Canada... It started with this pop up store in East Hampton this summer... I'm all about the high low thing.

NYN: You have created such an iconic and influential brand, do you think being from NYC gave you an edge?

LL: I don't think I knew I was going to change the market, nobody does. I always loved fashion, growing up on the Upper East Side of NYC. Fashion in New York is just part of every day life and I didn't even know that was true. My mother was a huge shopper but I didn't know I was going to be a fashion designer at all. I actually went to Brown and I studied comparative literature. When I came back to New York I worked at Vogue Magazine and I really wasn't even doing fashion. I was writing. I ended up working for this young designer and the young designer was really struggling and my friends started to get pregnant. I was not yet pregnant, I was newly married but I was not yet pregnant.

I saw the way they were dressing in these oversized things. I saw them spend all this money on non-maternity clothing and having it altered and I just had this, almost this "aha" moment. I thought that clothes should be fitted, but that wasn't the case back then... I started doing it made to order. I didn't expect it to grow beyond made to order. [I thought] I'll just do made to order for friends of friends of friends, then I'll have children [and] I'll do it for myself. I'll just be a stay at home [mom] or maybe I'll continue to do it in a really tiny way. And to say it took off... beyond my wildest expectations. It really was one of those funny things. All of a sudden I found myself dropping off boxes, shopping bags, a madly ringing telephone. And it went from there and it never stopped.

It started in 1997 with a tiny, tiny office and it ended with three boutiques, one of which was on Madison next to Three Guys.

Today in 2012 it's different but then, Madison Avenue shopping was traditionally about the 60s and then the baby stuff was kind of up in the 90s,... I knew that because I had grown up on 75th and 5th. I knew that Three Guys was ground zero.

We don't all live in the 90s or the 60s. The 70s is where so many of these moms actually live. We do a lot of our local shopping, and I knew I could do a store there. Today it wouldn't have worked because Michael Kors has moved up there. The Ralph Lauren mansion was "the" launching spot. So I got a really great deal on 75th and Madison... right next to Three Guys and it was like the best store in the world, it was so successful.

A brand started by someone who was not from New York would not have understood the value [of the location].