Pyjamas that will give you the sweetest dreams

Pyjamas that will give you the sweetest dreams

So can you tell us about the concept of Sleepy Wilson?

I have generally always had a love of pyjamas and also battled with sleep issues since I was a teenager. When our two children came along, like a lot of other new parents, we experienced a whole new level of sleep deprivation and started looking into ways to improve sleep for the whole family.

Having a background in textiles and fashion, I was able to draw on my experience of fabric technology and factory sourcing to ensure we developed a product that not only has performance benefits but is beautiful and sustainable.

Our eldest son really struggled with eczema and was generally a very hot and sweaty little boy so we started to investigate fibres that might be gentler on his skin and to make him more comfortable in bed. We were really drawn to the inherent natural properties of silk. It’s temperature controlling, breathable and hypoallergenic, making it brilliant for sufferers of many skin irritations and allergies such as asthma. We discovered that a lot of high street pyjamas are made from synthetic fibres such as polyester, which traps heat and is a perfect environment for dust mites.

Our main objective with Sleepy Wilson is to create a product that is truly ‘fit for purpose’ and produce it in an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable way to help people get a better night’s sleep.

How did you come up with the brand name?

When it came to dreaming up a name for our PJ brand for both adults and children, it was fairly simple. Our surname is Wilson, and for a long time we were pretty much always very, very tired! We wanted something that was personal to us and that people could relate to and understand so Sleepy Wilson was born!

Are you both working full-time on the Sleepy Wilson brand now?

Yes we are. After initially working from home, we’ve been based in a studio at The Pantiles Chambers in Tunbridge Wells for the past year. Prior to that we ran a fashion consultancy for four years helping other brands design and manufacture their clothing ranges, so it was a natural progression to finally do it for ourselves!

Tell us about the pros and cons of working together. . .

Well, being in the business every day together means we both know what’s happening in every aspect, but thankfully we have very different personalities and can tackle different issues. As our business and family are completely intertwined, we know where we have to balance work with home – on occasions one will take precedence over the other and we are able to separate and deal with it, as and when that happens.

On the other side of that there is never any real break from work, which can sometimes get a bit overwhelming. 2019 has been a massive year for us, so going forward achieving balance is something we will be working on!

You’re based at The Pantiles Chambers, what’s the benefit of not commuting to London?

Having a young family means working locally is great as we can react quickly if anything should happen at school. However, we do visit London frequently and love being able to get there in under an hour, it gives us so much more flexibility to meet with suppliers. We also travel quite a lot to our manufacturers so being within 45 minutes of Gatwick allows us to fly to Portugal, for example, one morning and be back that evening or the next day.

What’s your USP in the luxury sleepwear market?

For us, it’s no longer enough to just make a beautiful product, the fashion industry is one of the worst contributors to the global climate crisis, therefore we are committed to using biodegradable materials across all of our products, from pyjamas to packaging. We have no toxins, harmful chemicals or single use plastics in our production and promote full visibility of our supply chain from raw material to delivery. Even our mailer bags are fully compostable and biodegradable. We are also part of ‘Fashion Revolution’ and ‘Labour behind the Label’, who campaign globally for garment worker’s rights, transparency and a fair wage for all concerned. Going forward we are working with DHL on their Go Green campaign and Trillion Tree Campaign to help neutralise our carbon footprint.

Do you source your fabrics from the UK?

We produce a heritage collection from a blend of woollen yarn and silk which is manufactured in a 10th generation, family owned mill in Sudbury. However, our top grade 19mm charmeuse has been specifically and directly sourced from Huzhou, in China, the original birth place of silk. Sadly there is no silk spinning or weaving in the UK, all of the raw materials come from China, India and Brazil.

What inspires your designs?

The metamorphosis of earthly caterpillar into beautiful butterfly, after a good night’s sleep is the inspiration of our prints and colour palette. We generally take hues and shapes from nature and then work them into various sketches/artworks before translating them 
onto the computer. Looking at the structures of a butterfly or a caterpillar in close-up is fascinating, teamed with the vibrant colours of their habitat.

The fashion industry is one of the worst contributors to the global climate crisis, therefore we are committed to using biodegradable materials across all of our products, from pyjamas to packaging

Inspiration for our designs is always based on comfort and practicality. For example, we have added some stretch into our silk, to make it easy to turn over in bed or stretch out like a starfish… which is the position our children like to sleep in, especially when in our bed! Having worked in fashion for over 15 years, I am a perfectionist when it comes to garment construction and feel clothes should be as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside, so French seams and concealed hems are also woven into all of our pieces.

Do you hand-draw any of the prints?

Yes, the initial design direction and development starts with lots of doodling at the kitchen table, mood boards and fabric manipulation, but once we’ve gone through the process of what works and what doesn’t, defining the colour palette against our market and trend forecasting, we refine it on the computer and get it ready for printing.

What are the key benefits of running your own business?

Having the flexibility to work around family life. If we are not with the children, we are generally working, it is definitely not a 9-5 job but one that allows us to drop the kids at school in the mornings, do their homework with them in the evenings and all sit down together for dinner. It’s something that takes 100 per cent commitment, along with boundless perseverance and confidence to keep going, but at the end of the day we wouldn’t change it for the world.

How has your debut collection been received?

Well we launched on November 8 after a short lead-up on Instagram and have been delighted that a lot of initial enquiries have turned into sales! We’ve had a lot of interest from press on the product side, but also on sustainability and the well-being side of getting a good night’s sleep – which is what it’s all about really! Interestingly, we are also getting enquiries from women experiencing hot flushes associated with the menopause. Silk is naturally temperature regulating so it can help the body cool down when it overheats and our PJs are also moisture-wicking and hypoallergenic.

How have you marketed Sleepy Wilson?

So far, we have been lucky to have features in local press and used mainly social media and influencers. We are, however, working on our marketing plan for next year which will help us firmly establish Sleepy Wilson in the luxury sleepwear market.

Have there been any challenges so far?

Our main challenges have been co-ordinating all steps of the process and managing the individual suppliers and compliance associations involved. We are very conscious of over-production and over-consumption and therefore want to produce our collections carefully and sustainably. This however has an impact on price points as smaller quantities take more time and effort to produce. We are also keen to work on a zero waste policy where our off-cuts are used for other items such as eye masks or padded hangers, pillowcases etc. These can then be sold to raise money for charity but, again, co-ordinating lots of small pieces with main production can cause confusion. We are steadily making progress though!

Will you be launching another collection any time soon and will there be any repeat prints included?

We do have plans to extend the range, our initial collection is made up of what we believe are the ‘staple pyjama pieces’ – comfortable and versatile, that can be teamed with other pieces in your wardrobe. I recently wore our Poppy PJ blouse with a pair of jeans to a birthday party, sowe will be adding additional pieces to compliment them. If properly cared for, these pieces will last you a lifetime, so we are not going to be bombarding our customers with emails pushing to buy a new set every season, but we will keep it fresh and add in new pieces throughout.

Sleepy Wilson on social media

Has social media played a big part in establishing and promoting your business?

Yes, a huge one! Everyone seems to direct so much of their life on their phones these days, so ensuring you have an active profile on social media is crucial. The rules for Facebook and Instagram seem to change so frequently, though, it can be hard to keep up with and not get lost in all the noise…

What are your top tips for using influential apps like Instagram?

We are far from experts at social media, but I think it’s best to say what you feel at the time based on the image you are posting – that way it’s always authentic. Then post every day for a week or two and see what times you get the most engagement, so you can start to see if you are connecting with your target audience or not, and think about what you need to do to fix it or do it differently.

You have worked with a few local influencers such as Rebecca Doyle from The House Build to launch Sleepy Wilson. How does this type of collaboration benefit both you and them?

We were incredibly lucky that Rebecca had recently decided to promote her beautiful home as a photoshoot location, which is how the collaboration came about. We had been looking for a suitable space to photograph our collection, so the opportunity to work with Rebecca came along at just the right time. We had ten child models on the day of the shoot, along with some adult models, a stylist and a photographer. It was rather scary knowing what a pristine home we were in! Thankfully there weren’t any catastrophes and the results were fabulous. Rebecca was an absolute pleasure to work with.

Do you find there’s a good local support network of influencers here in Tunbridge Wells?

Definitely, we have been really well received over the past few months leading up to launch. It’s really important to us that people fully understand our brand ethos, otherwise there is little authenticity for them or their following. Influencers in Tunbridge Wells have a great grasp of the local and regional market, and some work internationally, so there’s great variety in terms of demographic versus aspirations. It’s really nice to see what product works for different people.

What do you enjoy about being part of this community?

We only moved here in August last year, but from the outset we have been truly overwhelmed by the friendliness and generosity of people. Tunbridge Wells is home to such an array of creative professionals that we have been very warmly welcomed, from our children’s school to the people we meet through work on a daily basis. There is such a community spirit and starting up a new business can be a very lonely, daunting task, so we are very grateful.

Do you have any celebrity clients yet?

Well it’s very early days, but yes there are a couple of very exciting ones in the offing! That’s all I can say for now as I don’t want to jinx it!

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