Whether you’re wearing a sports-bra to a coffee shop or a corset to a night out, underwear has evolved into outerwear. Yet the most unexpected and delightful underwear to outerwear trend of all would hands-down be the pyjama trend. Whether you’re at a sleepover wearing your furry slippers or going on a date night with stilettos, the silk pyjama has become the go-to trend that every one wants. We spoke to the queen of pyjamas herself, Olivia von Halle, on all things p-jays, projects and perfecting the art of luxury loungewear.
Before you started your brand, did you always know that you wanted to work in fashion?
I’ve always loved fashion, but I grew up with a mother who hated shopping. Because my mum would never take me shopping, the only clothes I’d had were my school uniform, the staff I rode my horse in and then the fancy dress looks, so I went to my first disco in school in the 90s wearing an 80s goth hell dress. I sort of came across fashion when I was 12 or 13, and I would get magazines from a local newsagent. I would just hit my local town of Seven Oaks, which is probably the least fashionable place in the world, wearing these ridiculous outfits, I think it made me just have fun with it. I wanted to do fashion in university, but I was quite academic and my parents said that I should do Spanish and Portuguese, but eventually I got there and studied it at university.
And then what made you decide that you wanted to start your own brand?
I moved to Shanghai in 2008 with my husband and after I left the university I was trend forecasting, so I was predicting all sorts of fashion and youth trends, working in different companies. Because I think I’ve always had that trend forecasting thing within me, so I just had this overwhelming desire to wear some pyjamas in time of time. So, I had an amazing tailor out there and together we designed my first merch of pyjamas that I just wore all the time, to walk the dog, I wore them for my 25th birthday party… I lived in them, like that was my wardrobe in Shanghai for 2 years. Then I started to make them for friends and family and it was a really slow process. I think I went to London one time and all my friends loved them, and I diligently wrote everyone’s measurements, went back to my tailor, and he was like “I can’t do that, it’s only like 2 days to make one pair of these, you need a factory.” And I thought okay, maybe this is something I can research, and it was new at the time, no one was doing pyjamas at all, so yeah this is how I got started.
I know you did trend forecasting, but did you really have any idea how successful silk pyjamas are going to be?
I didn’t realize how much of a big trend it was going to be and in how long. Like I remember panicking, seeing Rihanna wearing Dolce & Gabanna pyjamas in like 2010, and thinking like ‘oh my god maybe this is it.’ I had no idea how it was going to be but, I always wanted my brand to be big, I wanted to make my name snonymous with pyjamas, that was very much my goal.
“I wanted to make my name the go-to for pyjamas, to make it synonymous with the world’s best pyjamas.”
I think the word ‘pyjamas’ makes people think that they are for sleeping in, how do you ensure people understand your positioning?
That has always been really important to me, that they are tailored enough and beautifully made, and cool and interesting enough to wear out, but also got to be comfortable and soft enough to wear to sleep in. And that is why they have an elasticated waist and we made a huge effort for the labels to be out of silk so they are really soft.
I actually found it interesting being in Dubai. Pyjamas are perfect for Dubai because I am covered up, but I feel cool. They are modest, but also a bit sort of daring somehow.
Did you see a change in people purchasing attitudes during Covid or after Covid, because of the increase in demand for loungewear?
Yes, it was completely and utterly mad. In March 2020, we had 2 weeks of panicking, and then suddenly, the entire world sort of wanted to purchase my pyjamas. There were so many different reasons, it was like the Zoom effect, where suddenly everyone was on Zoom calls. We also had amazing celebrities, we had Angelina Jolie going into her film premiere, lying in bed, wearing our pyjamas hanging out with her dog.
David Beckham walked into Harrods and bought 3 pairs for Victoria for Christmas and she has it on every year since. Now, he comes into our shop in Chelsea, just before Christmas, and always buys her 3 pairs. Other celebrities that have been seen in our designs include Rihanna, Cara Delavigne, Gigi and Bella Hadid.
What are your top tips for someone to dress up a pair of pajamas?
High heels, statement earrings and dark red lip, large amount of make-up.
Working in the fashion and beauty industries, people underestimate it a lot. Have you ever encountered any type of biases since you launched?
I started the business and my husband was always very supportive, but then 6 years ago he came to work for the business full time and ever since he’s been there, people always assume “oh you do the creative things and he runs the business.” That always drives me absolutely mad, there is always that assumption, and as the business grows, I am focusing more on creative and he does more business. But I started it on my own.
You’ve been running for over 10 years now, where do you want the brand to be in the next 10 years?
I think we will probably branch out into many different things. I want to consolidate us as being the absolute best nightwear brand in the world, but I would love to get into homeware and beauty, I think it could be really amazing.
You can now shop Olivia von Hale by clicking here.