What do you wear to bed? Flannel pajamas? Your boyfriend’s t-shirt? Nothing at all?
During wintertime, I just go for the “more is better” motto. I pile on anything that has polar fleece or wool in it. Imagine Elizabeth Taylor rocking her silky sexy nightgown in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. You see her? Yeah, I’m the exact opposite. I look like a human-sized stuffed animal.
But still, I love the idea of dressing in beautiful pjs and feeling and looking good even though no one’s looking. In some ways, it’s kind of the ultimate way of dressing for yourself.
Liking that philosophy? You’ll certainly like The Sleep Shirt. Launched in 2012 by Alexandra Suhner Isenberg, the label’s forte is minimal sleepwear in the most beautiful cotton – often Japanese. Like great ideas often do, the brand’s concept came about a bit randomly, when Alexandra found a vintage men’s sleepshirt in a London. After producing two very simple designs, popularity just exploded. Alexandra, originally from Vancouver and now relocated in Sweden, has since partnered up with Megan, who works in their Montreal office.
Despite its young age, The Sleep Shirt is doing ridiculously well. Harper’s Bazaar, Teen Vogue and so many other publications have featured their work. The brand also counts Net-à-Porter and Barneys amongst their sales point .
With such an interesting journey in mind, I asked a couple of questions to Alexandra and borrowed a couple of pieces from Megan, in their Mile-Ex studio, and experienced what it would feel like to wear nice pjs – for once – in the privacy of my own apartment.
What is your role in the company and what his Megan’s?
Megan is responsible for the operational side of things (production, logistics, studio manager) and I deal with the online store, business and marketing strategy, and company management. We design together.
How did you two meet?
Megan was as student of mine when I taught at a fashion school in Vancouver, she showed talent and potential from the start. A few months after she graduated I took her on in an assistant position, and her role grew quickly from there. She is now my business partner.
I read that before you found that men’s shirt in London and created The Sleep Shirt, you didn’t give too much attention to the clothes you were wearing to bed. What is it about a sleep shirt that makes the whole process of sleeping better?
First of all, it seemed strange to me that we spend so much money on our beds and sheets but then go to bed in an old t-shirt. Plus, you spend 8 hours in bed a day (hopefully!) so it makes perfect sense to invest in something that is nice to sleep in.
Even though our brand is pricey, when you calculate cost per wear, the pieces work out to be a lot less expensive than a $100 blouse you wear once a month for two years. Our nightshirts are comfortable and great to sleep in, but they are also nice to wear before and after bed. You can eat breakfast in them without feeling exposed. You can lounge around in them and know that you don’t look like a slob. Our pants are way more classy than leggings J
We’ve created a product that is comfortable and chic, which definitely makes sleeping better but also makes time spent at home more luxurious.
The company is based in 3 different places: Vancouver, Montreal and Sweden. What is done where?
Vancouver is our head office and is where we produce our nightwear, but our design studio is in Montreal. I live and work out of Sweden, but the creative things tend to happen when Megan and I are together, and that could happen in Montreal, New York, London, or Paris, depending on where we need to be for things like press days and tradeshows.
Living in Sweden, would you say that Scandinavians have a different approach to sleeping rituals?
I am not sure the Swedes have very different bedtime routines, but I think the sunlight plays a role. Homes have a lot of white in them to brighten things up in the long winter, and windows need to have blackout curtains for when the sun sets late and rises early.
As for relaxing, Swedes all have a minimum of 5 weeks holiday a year, and vacations (called “semester” here) are considered important and essential (I couldn’t agree more.) The typical Swedish summer holiday is to spend 4 weeks in your summer house in July, most families have one and people get together and relax and spend time in the nature (sometimes without mod cons like running water and/or electricity.)
What are your plans for The Sleep Shirt?
We plan to launch a collection of jerseys and expand the bedroom and home offering on our website. We’ve just started selling these incredible down duvets from Norway, and I want to continue growing our selection of beautiful, practical things that help make sleeping better.
What would be your #1 entrepreneurial tip?
Have a plan. Even if it might change, you need to start with a plan and that includes being realistic about the time and money needed to grow a company.
Quick and oh-so fun Q&A
What’s your evening ritual like?
Quite boring! I brush my teeth, wash my face, check on the kids, give the dog a bedtime pat, put my hair up, get into a nightshirt, and get into bed. Sometimes my husband and I will watch a show on the iPad but I usually fall asleep really quickly.
What the best song to fall asleep on?
I am not a big fan of listening to music when I fall asleep.
Which The Sleep Shirt shirt do you wear at home and why?
I wear the Long Sleep Shirt in the classic fabrics. If it is super hot, I will wear a Sleeveless Nightie. I also product test other items, but the Long Sleep Shirt is by far my favourite for bed. I wear the rest of the collection as day wear, the tops can be worn with jeans.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
Wish I could sleep for another hour. Even if it’s the weekend and I slept in, I could always get more sleep.
I never go to bed without…
Giving my dog, Wanda, a pat and a snuggle.
Photos by Naomie Tremblay