Approaching its twelve-year anniversary with all the success and acclaim of a heritage brand founded centuries ago, luxury sleepwear brand Olivia von Halle is having quite the moment.
The nighttime brand of choice for fashion editors across the world and the ultimate status symbol for Hollywood’s actresses and London’s poshest, Olivia von Halle – whose cashmere pajamas retail for £2,450 and silk robes for £3,300 – are the words on everyone’s lips, especially as we enter the festive season.
“It’s not an easy time to have a brand,” von Halle tells me over Zoom. “I think to be able to have that customer, we’re super, super lucky.”
Von Halle, who is talking to me from her place in the English countryside, is sat opposite me fresh-faced, her hair pulled back into a ponytail.
It takes me something of a record-breaking two seconds to decide that the founder of one of fashion’s chicest brands is the ultimate girl’s girl. When we log on, she apologizes to me when we first log onto Zoom for not wearing makeup; and when I tell her I’m not wearing any either, she tells me how good I look.
Still beaming, I ask Von Halle to talk me through the founding and formation of her brand.
“So it all really started when my husband and I got married really young,” von Halle responds brightly. He was 23 and she was 25. “Which makes me sound ancient.”
I tell her those were the same ages that Alexa Chung dated Alex Turner so she’s in good company. “Really!” she says. “Are they still married?” I don’t think they even got married in the first place, I reply.
Von Halle and her husband moved to Shanghai shortly afterward, where she worked as a trend forecaster. “It was the end of the noughties,” she explains. “At the time, the way that women were dressing was like, all bandage dresses, huge shoes… It was painful to be a woman! It was so uncomfortable.”
“And we were very big into partying; we’d go out three, four times a week,” she continues. “And we loved the after-party. We’d bring back, life, half the club back to our flat in Shanghai. And it was as if the party started at four in the morning, and kind of went from there.”
Von Halle would especially love coming back and taking off the aforementioned tight dresses and shoes, and putting on these pajamas, which have “always been a big thing out there”, she tells me.
Soft pajamas quickly became accessorized with big costume jewelry and fake fur coats, and then graduated to being worn in the daytime, even to her 26th birthday party.
“So you know how in fashion the pendulum swings,” she says. “Things couldn’t get any tighter. And I just felt like the way that women were going to dress was going to dramatically change. And that we were part of that change. And so to suddenly be really covered up felt refreshing and modern and decadent and loose.”
“It was sexy,” von Halle continues, “but in a very different way.”
I can’t help but notice that von Halle was my exact age when she started “making pajamas for friends and family.” Yet it was a move back to London in 2010 that proved a pivotal moment. Her signature look continued when back in Blighty, but her tailor told her he couldn’t keep making pajamas at her pace, and urged her to find a factory.
So von Halle got to work. She did her market research, as she explains to me, and noticed that there was “just nothing like that available.”
“There was obviously a massive gap in the market,” she says. “And that’s when I decided to do it. I always wanted to make my name synonymous with luxury… Synonymous with the best pajamas in the world.” Fast forward a full decade, and Olivia von Halle the brand has come to stand at full fruition of Olivia von Halle the woman’s dreams in her early days.
It’s been years since David Beckham was first snapped buying Olivia von Halle for Victoria – which von Halle has previously signaled as the start of the craze – the latter still posts her love for the brand on Instagram, while across the Atlantic, celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Lopez are fans, with even Madonna recently joining the club.
“It’s been such a journey,” von Halle acknowledges. When I ask her for advice for aspiring fashion designers of today, she credits “naivety, and the courage to start something.”
“I really struggle to get my head raound it,” von Halle tells me, as we then discuss her celebrity clientele. “I think I’ve got quite a weird response to when really amazing things happen… I find it hard to wrap my head around.” She falters slightly and laughs. “It is lovely but it doesn’t really have any more meaning than that.”
This is not just lip service; von Halle means it. She is not on social media and she doesn’t frequent fashion parties; as one former employee, who she describes as an ‘amazing girl,’ told von Halle, she’s the first founder she had worked for who does not want to become a celebrity.
“I’m very much happy with my friends and my family in the countryside,” von Halle, who was raised in rural England, says grinning. So no Celebrity Bake Off any time soon? “Oh god no. I’m the world’s worst cook.”
Instead, the founder enjoys prioritizing what is “really important” to her: her children, the environment, rewilding and spirituality.
I tell her that at college her pajamas were big ticket items for birthdays; girlfriends of mine would squeal with delight upon unwrapping the brand’s white boxes, fawn over the silk pajamas in shades of luscious scarlets and golds and emeralds within.
“That is one of the most special and wondering things about doing what I do,” von Halle says, with a genuine passion in her voice. “So many times I meet people and they’ll say, ‘oh, that was my 21st birthday present for my best friends.’ Or that ‘I bought myself a pair of pajamas after I worked my ass off and put my deposit down,’ or ‘the morning of my wedding, I got ready in your pajamas.’”
“And I feel like to be in these people’s lives, these important moments… That’s such a lovely thing to have.”
What drives the brand, von Halle continues, is the feeling that the product goes beyond being merely pajamas. It is important to her, she says, “to have products that are transformative for people as well.”
“You become this other person in your head,” she declares. “You open the door to your ex-boyfriend looking fucking amazing.” This is not the first time in the interview that von Halle has made me burst out laughing.
As if further evidence was needed, the Queen of Pajamas is a bonafide girl’s girl. I ask her about the future for Olivia von Halle, feeling quite glum that our time chatting is coming to an end.
Fans of the brand can look forward to exciting upcoming collaborations; otherwise, von Halle is looking into opening franchise stores across the Middle East and the States. “So that’s the sort of stuff I’m most excited about for the brand at the minute,” she neatly summarizes, yet again smiling at me across the screen.