When all is said and done, I have deduced that Germaine Caprio, proprietress of Majamas in Oak Park (909 South Lombard Avenue), is not only a dedicated and savvy merchant but she’s indubitably immersed in the business of helping women.
It would seem Germaine has an unwritten business plan that inextricably twines her to aiding women: beyond helping mothers and mothers-to-be look good in beautiful, easy separates, she helps them feel good via unique designs that ease the physical discomforts and eliminate the frustrations that motherhood can bring.
Germaine had early aspirations of becoming a doctor when she first matriculated at the University of Illinois (her mother was a nurse and an artist). A turn in the emergency room at Loyola Hospital during her collegiate years proved pivotal in altering her career goals. Alternately she pursued a degree in Humanities with a concentration in Cinema Studies.
As Germaine discusses her journey from film industry worker to retail maven, it is clear that there is much more than meets the eye to this local, independent business owner.
Ardent Environmentalist, Conscientious Entrepreneur
With a copious mane of corkscrew curls and lustrous, smiling eyes, Germaine emanates a warmth that seems to fill the space she occupies.
A self-taught designer, patternmaker, and trendsetter, Germaine is an ardent environmentalist and conscientious entrepreneur.
During our interview she sounds off on creating garments that foster a woman’s wellbeing, tending to the environment by crafting eco-friendly fashion, and working hard to leave the smallest possible carbon footprint as she builds her business.
Necessity Is the Mother of Invention
In 1996 Germaine gave birth to her first child; she then returned to her fulltime job only four weeks after her delivery date. She quickly came to the realization that she had no comfortable clothes to wear to work and she was sleeping in the wrong bra every night, an experience she describes candidly as “rotten.”
The new mom quickly concluded, “There was an entire category of clothes that didn’t exist for women in the mid-nineties. When my daughter was just six months old, I rigged up a tank top that I could sleep in and wear throughout the day.”
And so the Cozy Cami came to be: a functional support tank, a nursing top with pockets for breast pads, it is now a popular and patented design. Majamas Organic Cozy Cami has no snaps and there’s no riding up, just a sensible stretch design that stores like Nordstroms snatched up immediately (Germaine remembers the buyers purchasing ninety Cozy Camis on the spot when she first introduced her design).
It was then that it occurred to Germaine that she could and should open her own retail shop.
But what to name the store? “My mother passed away in 1998, but before her death she suggested I name my store Milk Duds,” a knowing smile parts Germaine’s lips and she laughs a soft laugh. “I told her I didn’t think the Hershey’s Candy Company would appreciate that. So I called it Majamas instead, a blend of mom and pajamas.”
Women are crazy about Germaine’s self-styled, ultra comfortable garments. Instantly recognizable for their signature cut and zany textiles with swirls of endless color, even Gwen Stefani has worn Germaine’s comfy, cool designs (and returned to purchase more!).
You know those tees and bottoms that you go to sleep in and wish you could roll out of bed and go to work in because they’re just that comfortable? Walk this way, ladies. One need not be pregnant to wear these pretty and practical pieces (there’s even a non-maternity Cozy Cami).
Meet the Lines
Today, Germaine has three different labels: Majamas, Nixilu (named after the doula of child birth in Roman mythology and her dog Lu), and an eco-friendly line, Eliseo (named after her grandfather).
Of her designs, Germaine explains, “It doesn’t matter if you’re a mom or not. I wouldn’t design it unless I thought you’d wear it. It’s hip, it’s fashionable. It doesn’t have to be for a nursing mom. [These garments] are comfortable, cute, and look good on you.”
Majamas: Germaine’s first line includes nursing apparel, pajamas, and tanks, all originally sold as sleepwear. Think pretty and pliable textiles, soft and stretchy fabrics. When you feel good, baby feels good.
Nixilu: This line includes maternity and nursing garments. These are clothes you can wear while you’re pregnant and ever after. After you have a baby and you want to burn your maternity wear, get more mileage for your dollar with clothes that still fit and flatter post-pregnancy.
All Nixilu styles are designed with a flattering fit and discreet nursing access. They’re stylish, versatile and perfect for during pregnancy and after pregnacy, too.
Eliseo: This is her non-maternity, eco-friendly line, named after Germaine’s grandpa, an Italian immigrant and a clothing designer. Germaine’s grandfather owned a shop in New Jersey: Board Street Clothes (his store’s sign now hangs in Germaine’s shop).
Eliseo is made from excess fabrics; reclaimed fabric is used for new and fun designs as well as store tote bags. (You’ll not receive a paper or a plastic bag here, thank you.)
Germaine believes the artistry inherent to her beloved designs is in the genes. “I think you’re born with it. It’s in your blood. I had no formal training. I knew intuitively what to do. I believe I got that from my grandfather.”
It’s Not Easy Being Green
Germaine also inherited a passion for the environment. She expounds, “I am extremely concerned about the effect that manufacturing goods has on the environment. We have no control over pollution when we manufacture in China. I choose to have my products made in the USA; this way I know exactly how much waste exists and where the waste is going.”
Focused on organic cotton and textiles like modal, made from eucalyptus trees, she sources her textiles from a mill in California which uses a closed loop process to recycle water rather than discarding it. No pesticides are used on any of the house designs’ textiles.
“Every season we’re getting greener. I possess a similar eagerness to learn more about medicine and I continue to have great respect for all things art.” Germaine admits that at one time she struggled with knowing which path to follow.
When I mention a friend, a new mom who is battling breast cancer, Germaine stops midsentence during our interview and offers direction for proactively dealing with symptoms of pain and easing discomfort. I’m both surprised and touched by her genuine concern.
Eventually Germaine’s two passions merged seamlessly. Her distinctive designs are worn by mothers-to-be, nursing mothers, and women with medical issues. Her tops have even been used in hospitals to give compression to the back to push fluids back into the bloodstream.
As our interview comes to an end, it’s easy to decipher the joy Germaine derives from running her own business and helping to provide functional and fashionable foundations and apparel for women who want and deserve to look good and feel great.
For more information or for store hours visit www.majamas.com