MEET THE WOMAN CREATING PYJAMAS TO WEAR TO DINNER, COCKTAILS AND THE OFFICE: FRANCESCA RUFFINI
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