A sleeper hit
Designer pajamas are returning to the bedroom, but also taking to the streets. As Jeremy Freed writes, the category owes its revival to athleisure and the gig economy
There was a time, before sweatpants and central heating, when most people owned clothes specifically designed for sleeping. But we have since foresaken silk PJs, cozy dressing gowns and monogrammed robes for old T-shirts and boxer shorts, in doing abandoning a whole category of fashion. Now, a growing number of designers and brands are endeavouring to bring sleepwear back.
"I'm in my early thirties and having a set of pajamas is one of those benchmarks of adulthood that kind of makes you feel like you have your life together," says Sammi Smith, whose sleepwear brand, Soft Focus, will launch in November. The first collection features pajama sets and robes in black, white and a denim-esque indigo — a Canadian tuxedo you can wear to bed. "It's a treat to yourself," Smith says. "It's maybe not something that other people even see, but in your IKEA-filled apartment it's this piece of luxury that you can hold on to. It's full-on adulting for me."
Smith's pieces are the perfect outfit for a lazy, lounging, coffee-sipping Sunday, but like many designers reinterpreting sleepwear right now, she also has her sights set beyond the bedroom. Harri Cherkoori's brand P.Le Moult offers a range of fetching striped cotton loungewear, much of which looks like something your great-grandfather might have accessorized with a floppy cap and a pipe. "Our pieces are easily worn with just a T-shirt or a bomber jacket, or as a set, giving a retro track-suit vibe," he says. The brand is the brainchild of Cherkoori's wife, designer Praline Le Moult, whose great-grandfather Eugene was a famous butterfly hunter and adventurer who lived in the jungles of French Guyana. Le Moult's designs are based on a trunk full of Eugene's clothes that remain in use by her family, with a dash of style inspiration from the Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman movie Papillon. "Eugene had clothes made that he could move in," Cherkoori says. "He'd have to get out of bed in an instant, so his clothes would be categorized as activewear."
Butterfly hunting notwithstanding, part of the 21st-century's pajama renaissance is owed to comfy sleepwear being the perfect work uniform for the gig economy. "So many people are freelancing and working in non-traditional ways, so they're dressing very differently," says Miriam Zittell, co-founder of Ware, a unisex sleepwear line produced in small quantities from luxurious dead stock fabrics. Zittell, who owns the rug shop Mellah, and her business partner Adrienne Shoom, a former style director at Joe Fresh, started their brand earlier this year, and were surprised by the immediate demand for their pajama sets, slip dresses and robes.
"Pajama dressing is an extension of athleisure," adds Shoom, noting that Ware's collection is intended to transition easily between lounging at home and stepping out into the city. "Maybe wearing the full set is a little dramatic, but wearing the pajama pants with a big sweater is cool." Their limited-run robes in boldly patterned stretch silk are the ultimate statement piece. "You kind of feel like a rockstar," Zittell says.
Whether or not you'd rock your jammies to the office or a night on the town, to behold the breadth of designer sleepwear currently on offer is to wonder why this wardrobe segment spent so long in the dark. Changing tastes and modern practicality aside, what's the point of owning something beautiful if you can't wear it out?
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