Much of the world remains in home lockdown and more people stay in to combat the spread of COVID-19. Zoom work meetings are a daily reality, and virtual fitness and yoga sessions are beamed around the world. Pyjamas have become a daily uniform for some. Stress and anxiety is at an all time high, and it’s the little things like family, home cooking, wellness routines and comfy lounge clothes that provide comfort. ‘Outdoor’ fashion shopping is in a temporary slump, so instead we talk to Olivia von Halle, pioneer of silky luxury sleepwear, bedroom chic and the power pyjama.
You started your sleepwear brand many years before this luxe PJ trend hit the style pages and runways, how did this interest start?
I didn’t grow up wanting to be a fashion designer – I founded the brand after spotting a gap in the market. In 2010 I was living in Shanghai and working as a trend forecaster. I had an incredible tailor there who made me the most heavenly pair of silk pyjamas to my design. I literally lived in them – I would change into them after nights out partying with friends for G&Ts and afterparties, and even walked the dog in them. Before I knew it, I had friends queuing up for me to make them a pair too.
How did this niche passion become a business?
It was the slowest eureka moment, but I eventually realised that there was nothing else like them available at the time. I set up Olivia von Halle and moved back to London in 2011 to launch the brand. I love a challenge and the fact that no one else was making luxury silk pyjamas at the time was the most motivating factor. I wanted to be the first, the best and the biggest! Of course, my background in trend forecasting has really helped. I’ve always been a strong believer in following your gut instinct.
You’re known for fun, fabulous prints, tell us more about this?
‘Lila’, the printed silk pyjama style I launched with, remains our best-selling product to this day. When I founded the brand, I was very into small scale ‘geo’ prints but then a couple of years ago we started to experiment much more with large-scale animal motifs, and they have proved enduringly popular.
How do you approach each new collection, what’s the process?
Whilst many of our core silhouettes remain the same, we reimagine each season afresh, adding one or two new silhouettes and creating a world for our ‘woman’ to inhabit. Beginning with one or two points of inspiration, we build out a mood board, an original palette and begin hand-drawing the prints. Previous seasons have begun with a quote from an Ayn Rand novel and tattered copies of Italian Vogue from the 90s. This process ensures each season feels fresh and has a new and distinct personality.
Now you’re famous for your PJs, what other popular products have you developed?
As with the pyjamas, many of our product categories have come about out of necessity. Even our silk-cashmere tracksuits are designed with a use – travel – in mind. It’s so satisfying spotting a gap in your wardrobe and then creating something that fits perfectly in it. If I reach to wear it before it’s actually dropped, then I know we’re on to a winner! This aspect of utility also gives our products quite universal appeal, which I love. Often people will buy for all the women in their family, for Christmas or another special occasion, regardless of their age and I think there’s something really unifying in that.