Anyone else struggling to transition back to real life post-Christmas? As we navigate the cold, early morning wake-up calls, attempt to motivate ourselves to head to the gym, and steer clear of alcohol this month, it can all begin to feel a little overwhelming. If you’re in need of some extra comfort this January as you attempt to keep up with your New Year’s Resolutions, then look no further than this week’s interview.
This week I had the pleasure of chatting to Asya and Kate, co-founders of fashion brand Sleeper. Sleeper uniquely brings the comfort of sleepwear to luxury fashion. So, grab a hot beverage and nestle in for this week’s chat. We all hope you enjoy!
Thanks for joining me today ladies! Firstly, could you start by telling me a bit about your childhood and how you feel that has influenced you today?
Asya: I was born in Essentuki, Russia, and spent my childhood in Moscow and Kate is from Kyiv, Ukraine, where she is currently based. Our team and production are also located in Kyiv. Kate and I were friends and both used to work as fashion editors for leading magazines in Russia and Ukraine. Fun fact: we both worked at the same newspaper but didn’t know each other back then. Later, in January 2017 I moved to LA and continued managing the company from overseas and, at the end of 2017 I relocated to New York.
It's so interesting that you crossed paths but didn’t meet until later. How did you both get started in the fashion industry?
Kate: I began writing articles on fashion and art-directed shootings for various fashion publications. In 2011 I graduated from Kiev University with an MA in International Journalism. After graduating, I worked for the Information Agency, but shortly after moved onto glossy publications and media management. Since I was 19, I have held Editor-In-Chief positions at Playing Fashion, and at the online version of the Pink magazine.
Asya: In 2009, I worked as a stylist for Playing Fashion and in 2010, while still at university, I became a Junior Fashion Editor for ELLE Russia, which involved styling and directing photo shoots. In 2012, I graduated The State University of Management in Moscow with a Masters in Marketing.
Your backgrounds are so similar. So, how, when and why did you decide to start up Sleeper?
Kate: At the time, both of us were unemployed. I had left my position as Editor-In-Chief of PINK online to pursue religious studies, while Asya had just left her job in Moscow and moved to Kiev to be with her fiancé.
Asya: When we began working on Sleeper, the Revolution was taking place on the streets of Kiev. We all participated in the marches and truth be known, Kate was a real Maidan activist! We lived through a true nightmare. Although the European idea of a Civil Society won out in 2014, it came at a very high price. At the same time, came our recognition and acceptance, and it came fast... All our fears completely vanished. As a result, we stopped being afraid and embraced the new beginning in our lives. Then we came up with the idea of creating a company with its own voice; the one that would bring joy through its simplicity.
That is so inspiring! What strategies do you believe have been key to the success of Sleeper?
Asya: We really wanted to build a company with its own aesthetic that would infiltrate every aspect of the business: our product, our internal relationships, our shoots, even our approach to problem-solving. Our mission was to create a masterwork of quality, humanity, and marketing from our consciousness, paradigms, and awareness.
Kate: It is not only Sleeper’s accomplishments that are important to us; we are concerned about the people who work for us. We want them to be heard and to be happy, and we want our seamstresses to feel dignified and accomplished. That is a key the Sleeper strategy; finding the beauty in everyday life. All the rest: KPI, sales volumes, returns, only indicate our striving to be core players in the industry, and demonstrate how we are equipped to manifest this. Sleeper strives for the absolute best product, customer service, and relationships. As a team, we enjoy excelling and are continuously consumed by the puzzle... like kids.
That’s such a cool way to think about it. What do you think the best part of your job is?
Asya: The emotions we experience; the appreciation and the feelings of pride and respect for everyone who does their best and shoots for the sky. Also, the people: our clients, our employees, and our partners who support us. Twice a month, we hold staff meetings where we read the feedback messages to our seamstresses; discuss what Sleeper was praised for, and what needs improvement. The greatest reward is knowing that we are one big family.
Wow, I love that. So what’s your absolute favourite piece that your family has created?
Asya: My favorite item from the Holiday Capsule Collection is Milk Punch Pajama Set.
Kate: Mine is the Atlanta Linen Dress in Red Gingham from SS19.
Gorgeous pieces! But, what have been your biggest challenges in starting up a fashion business?
Kate: We are from Ukraine, so we’ve lived through two revolutions, and now the country is at war again. Those are real problems; everything that one might consider to be a problem, we treat as an exciting challenge of tomorrow.
I love how grounded you both are. As a brand what makes Sleeper stand out?
Asya: Sleeper reflects the vibe of our generation; our understanding and perception of comfort, sexiness and fun.
I would definitely agree with that! And what has been your biggest “pinch me” moment?
Kate: We are massive fans of Leandra Medine and Amelia Diamond, and literally engross ourselves in reading their articles. So, when we saw these ladies wearing Sleeper, it was a real oxytocin injection for us.
I bet! What inspires you?
Kate: We’ve been discussing this recently, and both agreed that the place that inspires us the most is….an airport. That is where you can find truly authentic street style.
That’s so true. I always see the coolest outfits amid the chaos. So, tell me what’s next for Sleeper?
Asya: We want to open a brick and mortar store in New York someday. But, our big goal is to create our own production with the best working conditions for our employees. We’d like to have an educational centre there and master classes, to make Sleeper an industry leader for quality in the industry. We want to make our production as beautiful as the garments we make.
Like what you read? Head to Sleeper to shop. Or if you fancy checking out some previous interviews you can find them here. All images are via Sleeper.