In the Spotlight - Sleeper
Very few times do you have the pleasure to come across a brand that both inspires you to create and motivates you to make a difference. Sleeper does both. Its their story that we fell in love with first followed shortly by their amazing assortment of sleepwear.
Sleeper was launched in 2014 by two former editors Kate Zubarieva and Asya Varesta, against a backdrop of chaos something amazing was created that connects a community and speaks to their strength and reliance. Its their commitment to quality, their passion to support local women, and their drive to produce something unique with no compromises.
We recently had the pleasure to talk to them about their brand, what drives and inspires them that is why we have chosen Sleeper as our our first “IN THE SPOTLIGHT”
How does one come up with a brand like Sleeper against the backdrop of the height of the Ukrainian Revolution? What was your driving force, and what kept you motivated?
When we began working on Sleeper, the Revolution was taking place on the streets of Kiev. We all participated in marches; Katya was a true Maidan activist. We had all lived through a true nightmare. Although the European idea of a Civil Society won in 2014, it came at a very high price. At that very time, came our recognition and acceptance of true values, and it came fast. All our fears vanished completely. We stopped being afraid and became ready to start a new page in our lives. Then we came up with the idea of creating a company with its own voice; the one, which would bring joy in simple situations. Honestly, everything was so unassuming and natural that we call it divine intervention.
For us the comfort of our home is sort of a subculture; it’s a tiny religion we are so vigilantly preaching. It is candid and personal. At the time Sleeper was launched, back in 2014, it was really challenging to find elegant and chic nightwear outside of a luxury end of the market, never mind the loungewear that could be worn outdoors. So we kind of lived our dream.
The idea to create homeware occurred during Kate’s deep Christmas nap after watching “Curly Sue.” She shared her dream with Asya Varetsa and 6 months later Sleeper launched its first collection. And in two more months, then editor-in-chief of Vogue Italy, France Sozzani, named Sleeper the brand of the month. Ever since then, Christmas is our favorite time of the year.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in the early days while developing the brand?
We had never run any business before launching Sleeper. We’re from Ukraine and when we started our business the revolution was taking place on Kiev streets. But this situation had only made us stronger. Business is the same work as to be a doctor or an editor, you only have to learn fast. We believe this is our strong point.
Where do you get your inspiration from, and what lessons have you drawn from your experience in the Fashion industry?
We had been discussing this lately, and saw eye to eye that the place, which inspired us the most is.an airport. That’s where you can get indeed inspired by authentic street style.
Stay true to yourself. Fashion has lost its dictator powers, and this is good news. We live in a time of multitude trends, meaning that more often than not absolutely contrasting things can be equally in style. It’s much more fun to live in the world where you can be yourself and enjoy life.
What has been the key to the success of the brand?
We didn’t try to please anybody, we just did everything as if it were intended for ourselves, dreamt a lot and converted our dreams into goals immediately. We have always had very strict working standards in everything including creating, shootings, relationships within our team – you should do everything like there’s no tomorrow. People feel this energy and sincerity momentarily, and that’s why they support us so much. You can’t fool people; you should always do your best.
How do you remain true to your values as the brand continues to grow and develop a loyal global following?
Surely, there has been a lot of progress since we’ve started. We are constantly involved in making our garments better. We are discussing the customers and buyers feedback messages on a weekly basis with our whole team.
At the same time, our own production is based in Kyiv and is located in the same space where the headquarters are, so we can supervise the quality of each seam, share the news and maintain very warm relations. We have more than just a factory. Our team’s spirit plays a tremendous role in what inspires us to move forward on the everyday basis. These values remain the same.
You have dubbed the line "walking sleepwear". To someone not familiar with the term, what does it mean?
We created first walking sleepwear brand Sleeper, and we have decided, that namely pajamas and home wear will be our brand’s concept. We came up with the idea of pajamas, which one can wear outside, i.e. you can wear pajamas top to the office instead of a regular shirt; a silk robe can function as a summer coat, and our silk white pajamas can serve as a wedding outfit.
We have decided to create garments for life’s happy moments. It’s hard to imagine a girl in a white linen dress with its shoulders lowered, having a serious and grumpy/cranky face. Obviously, we make dresses and pajamas for special occasions: when we rest, go to the beach or travel.
Why was is so important that you support local artisans in the production process?
All our garments are hand-crafted by artisans with the minimal involvement of machinery and allowing to reduce carbon emissions. Some of our seamstresses have up to 30 years of professional experience and spend 8-12 hours on one item.
We are concerned about the people who work for us. We want them to be heard and be happy. We want our seamstresses to feel dignified and accomplished. That is the Sleeper concept; its beauty of everyday life. That is what Sleeper accounts for. All the rest – KPI, sales volumes, returns, - only indicate our striving to be the aces in the industry, and how we are equipped to manifest this. We think it’s a Japanese story. Strive for the absolute: the product, customer service, relationships.
It is also of the utmost importance to keep workplaces safe. We ensure fair working conditions and offer competitive salaries, formal employment, paid vacations and sick pays to all our employees.
We also welcome college students by offering them internship programs and giving sewing master classes.
What is your favorite piece and how do you wear it?
Our team really loves pairing a silk or cotton PJ blouse with jeans or trousers. And you can go to different places - a coffee shop, a park, an art gallery, movies, even a business meeting (btw, Sleeper founders wear Sleeper to business meetings all the time :), and of course, to the party. Actually, you can go everywhere.
Kate’s favorite outfit now is the white suit made of cotton and cashmere. It is very unpretentious and really elegant.
What is next for the brand what can we look forward to seeing?
What we know for sure is that we have a big dream to open a huge factory with a learning center where we’ll be sharing our experiences and educate new generations of seamstresses, embroiderers, engineers, technologists to design first-class clothes. We also foresee Sleeper beginning off-line sales in metropolis pop-up stores as well as seasonal sales at resort locations during the summer. We never stop dreaming and plan to have an office in NYC and even open a brick-and-mortar store there some day.
Sometimes it’s in the unexpected places and unimaginable circumstances that we find inspiration.