Global Young Designer Spotlight: Sleeper
Sleeper wants to change your waking wear. These luxe pyjamas are made for those (aka all of us) who've longed to roll straight from bed to boardroom. We caught up with the design duo behind this life-changing brand.
23 September, 2019
Ever longed to saunter straight from bed to boardroom, without the need to change from pjs to power suit en route? If the answer is "yes" (and for anyone with a persistent 6am alarm, how could it not be?) Sleeper, the Ukrainian brand with utmost respect for chic personal style and Z-catching, is about to make you feel seen.
In fact, Sleeper itself is the byproduct of a power nap (but more on that later). Having swooned over the plume-lined pyjama bottoms and so-comfy-it-could-almost-be-a-nighty-hold-on-a-second-maybe-it-is-a-nighty linen smock dresses, we were giddy to meet the Katya (Kate) Zubarieva and Asya Varetsa, the design duo behind this life-changing brand (and that's not hyperbole).
Homebase: Kiev and New York
Type of brand: Sleepwear-as-leisurewear
Where did you grow up?
Kate: I was born in Kiev, and spent most of my childhood in North Korea. My father served in the military and my mother worked as a journalist.
Asya: I was born in Essentuki, Russia to a family of archaeologists and grew up in Moscow.
Define your brand:
We're the first "walking sleepwear" brand.
Unpack the "walking sleepwear" concept for us…
Asya and Kate: It's pajamas which can be worn outside. You can wear a pajama top to the office instead of a regular shirt, or a silk robe can function as a summer coat - our silk white pajamas can even serve as a wedding outfit.
What's the allure in wearing PJs all day?
Asya and Kate: You wake up in your pajamas, throw over a coat, slip in sneakers or mules, and voila: you are ready to go out for your morning cup of coffee. We wanted to create something that surpasses its original and expected purpose.
How does the name Sleeper connect with your brand?
Kate: Our company started with the dream and the name totally reflects the story of our brand and the philosophy behind it.
Asya: The idea to create Sleeper occurred for Kate during a deep Christmas-time nap after watching Curly Sue. She dreamed she was standing in the middle of a pajama factory. Kate shared her dream with me and, six months later, Sleeper launched its first collection.
Do you consider Sleeper a Ukrainian label?
Kate: Yes, for sure. I manage operations and finances from our headquarters in Podil - my favourite district - in Kiev.
Asya: I am based in NY, from where I oversee sales, marketing, PR, content and customer support teams. I also used to live in Podil, but moved to New York's Carroll Gardens area at the beginning of the year and have no plans to leave. Everything you might need is really close, there are lots of farmers markets, butcher shops and parks, which I really like.
What does your creative process look like?
Asya and Kate: We oversee the design process together because our differences complement each other constructively. Kate thrives on art, history, colours and texture and I am deeply inspired by modern design, architecture, forms and shapes. The best solutions appear to be somewhere in the middle of our likes and dislikes.
You also carry a bridal range. Tell us about that…
Kate: We just let ourselves imagine how chic and cool it would be to get married in silk sleepwear, which can perfectly flatter bride's shapes and make her feel comfortable, but still stylish. No matter where your ceremony takes place - by the seaside, in the woods or at the city hall - it's all about being honest, happy, feeling loved, supported and not overcomplicating things. We're planning to expand our bridal line with the new designs very soon.
Where are your materials sourced?
Asya and Kate: Currently we work with suppliers from Belarus, China and Turkey. We consider our suppliers meticulously, and closely study materials before sourcing. We aim to select responsible textiles. For example, our silk is sourced from an Oeko-Tex certified factory in China, which indicates that the textile product is free from certain groups of harmful substances. Our suppliers use environmentally friendly azo-free dyes as well.
Why the switch from publishing to fashion design?
Asya: At the time, both of us were unemployed. Kate left the position of editor-in-chief of PINK online to pursue her second education in theological studies, whereas I left my job in Moscow and moved to Kiev to be with my fiancé. Our experiences pushed us to create something new, something that belonged to us.
The Atlanta is probably your most iconic piece, but which is your favourite?
Kate: My favourite is Atlanta linen dress in Polka Dot. Asya: … and mine is Black Tie pajama set.
Is travelling a source of inspiration?
Kate: Of course! Traveling is a huge source of inspiration for me. You always return from a trip and feel you're a slightly different person. For me travelling is not about having a rest, but more about exploring the world and myself.
Asya: Kate and I travel together at least once a year; it helps us breathe in the new ideas. The last trip we took together was to Japan - it had a great influence on our latest collection.
Three destinations on your travel wishlist:
Kate: Kamchatka, Iceland and South Korea.
What are your go-to airport outfits?
Kate: If it's warm, I'll wear my favourite navy linen pajama set with trousers and a pair of Sleeper shearling slippers. If it's cold outside I'll go for a comfy knitted cashmere set with trousers and add the compression socks. Also, a Korean sheet mask is a must.
Asya: Ha - we are basically twins in the way we dress to the airport. I also always wear our slippers and combine them with the black silk pajama - I've been wearing this set for about three years now and it's my absolute favourite.
Advice on lightweight dressing for summer…
Kate: Give preference to natural fabrics such as linen or batiste, always choose the loose silhouettes, pick shoes which are made with natural materials and say no to high heels.
Asya: Also, crop tops and sport bras are great for the heat.
What else is in your SUITCASE?
Kate: My first aid kit, a swimsuit (I adore swimming) and a good book.
Asya: Candies for the team and samples for the stores.
What are you reading right now?
Kate: The Compromise by Sergei Dovlatov and The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk.
Asya: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg.
Any good podcasts that you're listening to?
Asya: I love podcasts! Second Life, Stupid Genius by Emma Chamberlain and The Glossy Podcast are my personal favourites.
What's next for Sleeper?
Asya: This year we want to open an office in New York. We also foresee Sleeper beginning offline sales at pop-up stores in the city, as well as seasonal sales at resort locations during the summer. We're also planning to launch a woolen line at winter resorts. We think that these initiatives will guide us in terms of where we should open our first brick-and-mortar store.
Kate: We will also strive to create ecological models for production and internal relationships at the company. Design doesn't end with the garment - it also represents the way the clothing is produced.
Kate's Pocket Guide to Kiev:
STAY: Hotel Salute or BURSA.
EAT: Adelle, Yaroslavna and Sho.
DO: Take a walk around Podil and along Andriyivskyy Descent, and explore Kiev Pechersk Lavra (the Monastery of the Caves).
SHOP: Syndicate for contemporary Ukrainian streetwear; TSUM (third floor) for modern Ukrainian designers; Goodbuyfashion for a great vintage catch.
Asya's Pocket Guide to New York:
STAY: Rent an Airbnb in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.
DO: The Duplex Piano Bar and Cabaret Theatre.
SHOP: The RealReal.