WITH WE ALL LOVE PYJAMAS -WITH A HEART
Last week, John Lewis released new statistics saying there’s been a 10% increase in pyjama sales this year. That’s a trend actor Robin Wright and her co-collaborator Karen Fowler have tapped into with their altruistic sleepwear range
MADAM PRESIDENT, Claire Underwood, has just flown in from Los Angeles and is sitting on a plumped cream sofa in her suite in London’s Corinthia hotel. She is dressed head-to-toe in sleek black – a nod to #Metoo? – her trademark short blonde hair is smoothed behind her ears, her fringe swooshed over watchful ice-blue eyes. She is every inch precise and powerful – and alarmingly intimidating.
Has she slept well, someone asks? ‘ Three hours! Woohoo, partay!’ she exclaims, punching the air in a manner that is not at all presidential. And – bam! – just like that, the actress Robin Wright, who has for the last five years embodied the character of Claire Underwood in the cult Netflix series House Of Cards, appears.
She is here in London with her friend
and co-collaborator Karen Fowler to promote their brand, Pour Les Femmes, a sleepwear line they set up two years ago. On the rail beside us hang feather-light pyjamas, robes and slips in the finest cotton and linens – the kind Madam President, who cemented the trend for power executive shift dresses and lethal court shoes, would never wear. (‘No! She’s cashmere and silk all the way.’)
The pair have tapped into a growing fashion category – the nightwear and loungewear market is now worth £1,486 million, according to market research company Mintel. It’s an indicator of our times, as the trend for staying in-in and the rise of the 8pm bedtime brigade gathers speed. All acknowledged by John Lewis, which last week released data on the ‘cosy status’ of women’s choices in the UK, noting a 10% increase in pyjama buys in the last year. Meanwhile, nightdresses are most popular in Liverpool, with a 51% uplift in sales, Glasgow is the most luxury region with the biggest increase in silk pyjamas, and in Exeter there’s been a 108% increase in sales of cashmere bed socks.
So it’s no wonder Pour Les Femmes is resonating in the UK. ‘ We have noticed a spike in sales for versatile pyjamas created with comfort in mind. Pour Les Femmes is key for this trend, inspired by vintage designs – the perfect option for day and evening,’ says Matches buyer Chelsea Power, who set up the Pyjama Project this Christmas, working with 12 designers, including Richard Quinn and House of Hackney, to create exclusive PJS that double as night and eveningwear.
But Pour Les Femmes (meaning ‘For Women’) also taps into the sweeping global trend for fashion with compassion. The PLF project has a serious aim: to aid and transform the lives of women in the Congo. ‘It’s the worst place in the world to be a woman. The rape capital of the world, where every 48 seconds a woman is raped,’ says Wright.
Eleven years ago, Wright was introduced to the issue by the American human rights activist (and former special advisor to Bill Clinton) John Prendergast, and has now been to the Congo many times to meet the women in crisis centres and hear their stories. ‘ Their lives, you can’t even imagine. One time I met a 16-year-old and an 82-year-old woman, both raped by 14 or 15-year-old boys with machine guns. What struck me was their stories were no different, their pain was no different, their shame was no different. All I could say was, “What can I do for you – what do you need?” They both simply said the same thing: “Can you be our voice? Because we don’t have one here”.’
When their label launched, it sold $200,000 worth of pyjamas in a month. Working with two local charities, Action Kivu and Synergie des Femmes, they helped set up community centres that provide women with work, fair wages and purpose – learning to sew; their beauty bags are made there. Now they are about to add menswear, kidswear and bed linen to the line.
So, why the global consumer shift towards fashion with a conscience? ‘I think it’s shifting because knowledge is power,’ says Karen. ‘An educated consumer who really cares about the planet and cares about fair wages – it’s just something you can’t ignore any more – or you don’t want to ignore any more. You’re wearing this item on your body and you want to feel good about where it came from.’ It’s about creating something that people can participate in, adds Robin: ‘People can shut down, they don’t want to see it or know about it often because the situation is so big and so brutal, which can leave people feeling helpless. But by gently offering a great product, something that you genuinely want and love, and that has a story behind it, you realise you are helping.’ Pour Les Femmes, priced from £110 to £640, is available at matchesfashion.com, net-a-porter.com and in Selfridges
Star print, £160, Pour Les Femmes (matchesfashion.com) Animal print top, £235, Marc Cain (marc-cain.com) Floral, £398, Richard Quinn (matchesfashion.com) Patterned, £395, House of Hackney (matchesfashion.com) Blue, £180, Pour Les Femmes (matchesfashion.com) Striped, £30, M&S Collection (marksandspencer.com) Pink, £255, Pour Les Femmes (matchesfashion.com) Contrast, £169, The White Company (thewhitecompany.com)