Pyjamas in the daytime? With Olivia von Halle’s extravagant creations, you’d want to wear them all day.
‘Classy’ might not be the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of pyjamas – but British designer Olivia von Halle has a very different approach towards the world of sleepwear. Luxurious silks, painstaking brocades and striking prints are all par for the course in the designer’s eponymous loungewear label.
She speaks to us about her maximalist aesthetic from her London studio Ñ an avant-garde space that looks like its taken straight from Gatsby’s mansion.
You studied fashion when you were in school, but what made you want to focus on sleepwear?
Sleepwear was almost completely ignored at the time, no one was doing anything of note or owning that space – and that really excited me. I felt there was so much potential there. I began working as a trend forecaster and had a feeling that pyjamas was set to have a huge moment.
When did you realise that you wanted to turn making luxury pyjamas into a brand?
In 2009, I moved to Shanghai and was working as a trend forecaster and luxury brand consultant. I had the most amazing tailor there who made me an incredible pair of printed silk pyjamas. I started to wear them to dinners with heels and mega jewellery, I walked the dog in them and I changed into them to host mega after parties in our apartment – cigarette in one hand and gin and tonic in the other. I was obsessed. All my friends loved them too and I started making them for friends and family for Christmas and birthday presents.
“I started to wear my silk pyjamas to dinners with heels and mega jewellery, I walked the dog in them and I changed into them to host mega afterparties in our apartment – cigarette in one hand and gin and tonic in the other. I was obsessed”
I went back to London and everyone I saw wanted a pairÉ I diligently wrote down everyone’s measurements and went back to my Shanghai tailor with an order list as long as my arm. He laughed, told me that he did have other clients and advised me to go and look for a proper manufacturer. It was a very slow eureka moment Ð I realised there was nothing on the marketplace like it and decided to launch my own brand.
At the time, since pyjamas were in no way ‘a thing’ Ñ there was something rather cringe about it, so once I decided to do it I wanted to go big. My aim was to make my name synonymous with the world’s best pyjamas and grow a global brand off the back of it. My main motivation was proving people wrong, and its proven to be a very strong driving force behind the business!
Where do you get inspiration for new PJs from?
It might be a line from a book, or a 1970s muse, or a painting, or even a movement in a country. In the past collections have been inspired by Café Society in the 1950s in the South of France, a line from an Ayn Rand book, or for next season, we are looking at the work of the artist Hieronymus Bosh Ð I named my son Hieronymus after him! It can literally be anything, but it has to excite the design team and me and feel like it hits the zeitgeist.
We don’t believe in looking at what other brands are doing or just designing what we think our customers will like, what sets us apart is we are very true to the design process and that’s why the collections work.
What’s your secret for getting sleep on long flights?
I try and set my clock as soon as I board and start thinking in the time zone of the country I’m landing in. I don’t let myself doze when I first get on, tempting as it is when you’ve been packing and rushing around, because this always messes up your sleep later on. I plan my journey and when I’m going to sleep, watch a movie, have a teeny bit too much to drink, then OvH eye mask on, earplugs in and I’m out.
Top tip, never fall asleep with your seat belt not showing as fastened – many an excellent bit of plane kip has been interrupted by an overly zealous flight attendant checking your seat belt is on during some turbulence!
Must-haves in your bag when travelling?
OvH Claude eye mask, I love the embroidered lobster and they come in a little silk pouch which protects it in your bag when travelling.
Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Face Mask.Yes you look like a bit crazy but your skin will be fabulous when you get off the flight!
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones and iPad – I hate relying on the in-flight system.
OvH Lila pyjamas to change into on the flight – if it’s a long-haul flight I do prefer to change out of my tracksuit into pyjamas when I sleep. It gets my mind in the right space.
La Mer lip balm – cabins are so drying, and this lip balm is just the best.
Tell us one overhyped attraction or place in your city, and one underrated one.
I never understand why people come to London and then hang around in Trafalgar Square, I want to run up to them and say get out of tourist London and go and hang out where real Londoners do! Notting Hill, Shoreditch, anywhere but here!
I love the canals in London and think walking from Angel in Islington to Little Venice in Maida Vale shows you a completely different side to the city. The walk takes you on so many different parts of London, from Camden Locks which is the home of punk, past some of the most expensive houses in London in Regents Park and right through London Zoo Ð its magical.
In your opinion, what’s the most fashionable city in the world?
I recently went to a Prada party at their new house in Shanghai and I was absolutely blown away by how stylish everyone was and how it was a style that was super unique to Shanghai. The men were almost more dressed up than the women and although it was pretty hard to pin down I would describe what they were wearing as 80s TV detective meets Mad Max. I lived in Shanghai years ago and it was really exciting to see this new-found confidence and playfulness with fashion, and them creating their own style. London is always cited as being the most creative fashion city but these Shanghai fashionistas put us in the shade!
Sum up your home city using one of your pieces
Like London our Hero Agatha dress makes a statement and is classically beautiful but with an unexpected edge. ◼
© This article was first published in Dec-Jan 2019 edition of World Travel Magazine.