This Maternity Line for Children Was Created to Highlight 7 Million Youth Pregnancies Each Year

It's 'unnatural and disturbing, which is exactly the point'

Plan International
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Finnish agency hasan & partners teamed up with Paola Suhonen, a well-known fashion designer in the country, to create a “Maternity Wear for a 12-Year-Old” campaign to raise awareness of the problem of childhood pregnancy in developing countries and drive donations to children’s rights organization Plan International.

Suhonen’s “Hamptons” collection of maternity wear includes the type of bold colors and whimsical prints (including kittens) often found in children’s clothing, a definitive contrast to the reality facing child mothers. The collection was modeled by Fridah, a Zambian 12-year-old whose baby is due in September, with imagery from award-winning photographer Meeri Koutaniemi.

Yesterday, the collection was unveiled in Helsinki and displayed on child mannequins in a window on Esplanadi, a street famous for designer shops.

An online film promotes the initiative, showing a group of children cheerfully playing in the sunshine, contrasted with Fridah modeling an item from the collection.

The campaign also includes billboards and international social media and PR initiatives.

“Designing a maternity wear collection for young children is unnatural and disturbing, which is exactly the point we want to make,” said hasan & partners senior creative Anu Niemonen, who conceived of the campaign, in a statement. “The clothes expose a shocking truth about the seven million children who become pregnant every year. This is a collection that shouldn’t exist or even be needed in the first place.”

While many remain unaware of the problem, around 7 million girls in developing countries become pregnant each year. This typically results in falling behind academically and being ostracized by peers. In the worst cases, the pressure can drive girls to suicide.

Fridah has the support of her family, but many girls aren’t so lucky. And family abandonment is often another compounding factor in the negative fallout surrounding childhood pregnancy. Like many girls, Fridah will be forced to take time off from school and will have to catch up on her studies, making her goal of becoming a nurse that much more challenging.

“Getting pregnant was just one mistake and now my life is ruined. I cannot go to school or play with my friends,” Fridah explained in a statement. “If the pictures will help other girls, then I am happy.”

“Plan International tackles tough issues such as child marriage, child labour and girls’ lack of access to education. We wanted to bring the issue of childhood pregnancy closer to the Finnish audience in a way they could relate to, which is why we chose to develop a maternity fashion collection for kids,” Eva Anttila, marketing lead for Plan International Finland, said in a statement, adding that “hasan & partners’ thought-provoking campaign tackles the problem in an unconventional but effective way.”

Describing the collection as one she wished was “not needed and that I don’t want to sell,” designer Suhonen said she hopes the disturbing assignment sends an important message. “This campaign brings together two very important issues—children’s and women’s rights. I hope that people will wake up to the circumstances in which millions of girls live in developing countries.”

“Our aim was to use the frame and visuality of a classical fashion spread to create these images emphasizing a very dark and distressing issue,” added Niemonen. “I hope the campaign will make people think about the vulnerability of children in developing countries. For many years I have witnessed the efficiency of Plan International’s work to improve the position of girls.”

For more about the process of creating the campaign, see the “making of “video below.

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@ErikDOster Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.