Remember the name Sophia Graydon. It just might be America’s next great specialty designer label.
But before that can happen, Monica Nassif has to convince women to start treating themselves a little better at bedtime.
Nassif is the CEO and founder of the Minneapolis-based Sophia Graydon, a premium sleep and loungewear label that made its debut last month with a world-class collection of luxury pajamas, robes, nightshirts and other lounging apparel.
To get a sense of the new label’s aspirations, and what it’s capable of, have look at the midnight-blue French lace pjs from Sophia Graydon’s Odessa line, below. Prepare to gasp.
Most women wouldn’t dream of draping themselves in such breathtaking finery before climbing into bed — which is both the challenge and opportunity facing Sophia Graydon.
“There are not a lot of options for those consumers who invest in their day fashions to do the same in their relaxing hours,” Nassif told Lingerie Talk this week.
“Before this, I really had only three choices for sleepwear. I could put on my granny flannels, or wear swatches of polyester, or put on my yoga clothes again.
“But who said style has to end at dusk?”
The concept for Sophia Graydon — the brand name is an amalgam of names of two family members — evolved while Nassif was running her previous business, the Caldrea/Mrs. Meyer’s brands of homeopathic home products.
While attending wholesale trade shows in Europe, she saw a connection between how consumers invest in their homes and in themselves — and a gaping market opening.
“Here were women spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on bed sheets, duvet covers, pillows, etc. … but what they are putting on their own skin doesn’t compare. I thought, ‘Why is she sleeping in $1,000 sheets but her pajamas are a polyester blend?’”
Nassif sold Caldrea in 2008 and began developing a plan for Sophia Graydon, based on the European atelier model of small teams of artisans working together on luxury products. At the same time, she scoured the world for the finest (and sometimes unexpected) fabric options.
It’s a committed made-in-USA brand with a team of eight employees plus contract sewers, working from two ateliers in Minneapolis and New York City. Its first collection, which has already been showcased in Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily, offers artistic, exquisitely crafted garments in lace, cotton and silk charmeuse as well as — prepare to gasp again — the Grand Marais robe (below) made from Scottish cashmere overlaid with a silk floral print.
Sophia Graydon isn’t shy about declaring its “singular mission”: to create the most beautiful women’s sleepwear in the world. You’ll see evidence of that commitment in the small details in each garment: finished petite French inside seams, deep hems, silk binding on outside seams, shell buttons and expertly constructed waistbands.
“We believe a garment should be finished as beautifully on the inside as it is on the outside,” says Nassif, whose uncompromising standards come from growing up in a “family of seamstresses.”
Where the brand really makes its mark is in its Sophia line of cotton pjs — not the sort of garment you normally consider a luxury investment. Sophia Graydon’s approach is to use the same kind of tailoring and materials seen in men’s tuxedos for this typically lowbrow product. They use a breathable woven cotton from Switzerland that is normally used in premium men’s formalwear, add a unique cuff design, and produce a men’s-look ensemble suitable for both day and night wear. Have a look:
“No one’s thought about cotton as a luxury product,” notes Nassif, who shopped fabric exhibitions in New York and Paris to find materials that matched her vision.
Sophia Graydon’s approach to cotton is indicative of its overall approach to the luxury sleepwear market. It’s an apparel category, Nassif says, that is both “everywhere and nowhere.”
“Everybody does sleepwear. But at the same time it’s nowhere in terms of trend, fashion, elegance.
“We see a real opportunity to elevate the blandness, the tiredness of the entire category.”
Sophia Graydon isn’t for everyone: that French lace pajama set costs more than $1,200 and the exotic cashmere robe goes for nearly $4,000.
The label is targeted at women aged 30-50 and will be prominent in the luxury gift market come Christmas, Valentine’s Day and other romantic holidays.
For now, the only place you’ll find Sophia Graydon is through its online webshop. The company will be pursuing other direct sales channels next year and aims to have a boutique one day, but for the moment it’s not looking for third-party retail partners.
And now the question that everyone will want to ask: what does Monica Nassif wear to bed these days, now that Sophia Graydon is on the market?
“I don’t know you well enough to answer that,” she says, laughing. “But it has improved.”