Francesca Ruffini is re­luc­tant to be fash­ion­able. In her home in Como, north­ern Italy, she started mak­ing the py­ja­mas she wanted to wear us­ing the silk that the area is known for. Al­ler­gic to ev­ery­thing but cot­ton and silk, and want­ing to be com­fort­able day to day, “I made some spe­cial pieces for me, just for my per­sonal daily wear. They’re use­ful with el­e­gance, that’s all. It’s not a fash­ion story”. But I’ll have to dis­agree with her there. Since the launch last year, Ruffini has taken py­ja­mas not only out of the bed­room, but out of the house al­to­gether — it’s not un­usual to see a pair of F.R.S. (named both For Restless Sleep­ers and with Ruffini’s mono­gram) py­ja­mas be­ing worn out to din­ner, to the the­atre, front row at a fash­ion show.

Ok, so per­haps they have been a lit­tle pop­u­lar, she ad­mits. “They be­came, for a few sea­sons, a kind of fash­ion. I was re­ally sur­prised, and a lit­tle bit up­set. It was a niche no­body was in, and now ev­ery­body seems to want to make py­ja­mas — why?” Be­cause they looked so won­der­ful, of course, as the Ital­ian style set wore them with jew­elled san­dals and over­sized ear­rings to din­ner — more ef­fort­less than a dress, more stylish than denim.

“It wasn’t such good news for me! This was my small lit­tle world in Como, with all my fab­rics, all my prints, all my dreams, and when I saw all these very im­por­tant de­sign­ers mak­ing py­ja­mas in their col­lec­tions... it started from there, and then they ar­rived in Zara! If I go into Zara, I can buy py­ja­mas nearly ex­actly as mine, 100 euros, made I don’t know where.”

As a con­sumer, there’s an ap­peal in feel­ing lit­tle bit un­dressed. “When I was a child, the first thing that I’d do when I got home, even if it was two o’clock in the af­ter­noon, I’d change from my school clothes into py­ja­mas,” says Ruffini.

Not that she holds with the cur­rent predilec­tion for ath­leisure wear — the words ‘gym pants’ and ‘baggy’ come from Ruffini’s mouth like curses.

Her fo­cus is on el­e­gance, el­e­gance, el­e­gance. “Even if the model is very sim­ple, if you use a su­per-rich silk, that’s a black tie fab­ric, a haute cou­ture fab­ric — so then no­body re­alises they’re py­ja­mas.” The de­signs stem from clas­sic mas­cu­line py­ja­mas — the overtly se­duc­tive py­ja­mas so often made for women have never ap­pealed — “that’s an­other world”, she tells me. But they are cut “with ob­ses­sion, be­cause they must be com­fort­able, but at the same time, they must fit per­fectly like women’s trousers”. Ruffini wears hers with a jumper and Vans when she’s trav­el­ling, with a neck­lace to din­ner.

The Daily Tele­graph’s fash­ion di­rec­tor Lisa Arm­strong can often be seen at her desk wear­ing PJ trousers with a blazer, or the blouse tucked into navy cot­ton trousers.

“In my mind, it’s al­ways bet­ter to stay a lit­tle bit low pro­file than to show off. I never would come to a party dressed in cou­ture,” says Ruffini. “I’d pre­fer that dur­ing the party, some­body might just say, oh, this is nice. In my opin­ion it’s also how you wear your hair: I’ve al­ways worn my hair in a ba­nana, it’s like a chignon, since I was a 20-year-old girl. It was a lit­tle bit too old for me then, but now it’s per­fect. I re­ally hate when women that are 50 and 70 dress like a girl who’s 20, 25 years. For me, it makes no sense. They’re not at peace with them­selves.

“I’m over 50, and I never wear some­thing that’s shorter than midi.”

She ad­mires Jac­que­line Kennedy’s style as “she was al­ways her­self ”, but thinks Me­la­nia Trump is dressing up as some­one else: “it’s not very nat­u­ral. Why do you need a stylist? You can do it your­self with your taste, your per­son­al­ity.” Ruffini’s own taste is more Amer­i­can than Ital­ian, she says, as “Ital­ian is a lit­tle bit more styled. It’s per­fect, it’s al­ways co­or­di­nated, if you wear the red shoes you must wear the red bag — no, it’s not my taste. No­body ever needs to know that you are wear­ing a de­signer. They must recog­nise you in your dress be­cause it’s your way of dressing.”

For Ruffini, suc­cess isn’t some­thing to be mea­sured in sales (although Matches, Net-A-Porter and MyTheresa aren’t com­plain­ing about the brand’s saleabil­ity). She would pre­fer to stay in her niche, mak­ing these pieces that she is so pas­sion­ate about — no big­ger line, no col­lab­o­ra­tions. Per­haps, she con­cedes, her silks could “dec­o­rate the table, the bed, the bath­room. You could use them also for fab­ric, wall­pa­per, why not?” It’s clearly a dis­parate busi­ness model to the one her hus­band, Remo Ruffini, works to as CEO of luxury fash­ion house (and com­mer­cial gi­ant) Mon­cler.

“It’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent men­tal­ity, be­cause he lives in a su­per-big world, and he must face ev­ery­day a re­al­ity that is com­pletely dif­fer­ent to mine. But he al­ways en­cour­ages me to do more, and try to go on­line with my es­hop. And my sons, be­cause they’re very young, they see this world with eyes on the vir­tual, on the in­ter­net. They say to me, ‘in one click, a mil­lion peo­ple can see you!’”

She laughs — but I’m not sure she likes the idea.


Aymeline Valade wear­ing F. R. S by Francesca Ruffini walks the run­way at the amfAR Gala Cannes 2017 on May 25, in Cap d’An­tibes, France.


Francesca Ruffini and her hus­band Remo Ruffini at­tended a fash­ion show in Paris in 2013. PASCAL LE

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