It’s hard to tell when the celebrity-driven trend of wearing PJs in public actually began, but we know who’s behind it.
It was Rihanna, that mischievous style chameleon and just-can’t-help-herself trendsetter who started showing up on red carpets and club openings a few years ago dressed in sleek silk pyjamas or sometimes just a sheer ankle-length nightgown.
But what began as paparazzi bait evolved into a full-blown fashion trend, and suddenly nightwear-as-daywear was a thing. Often criticized and even mocked, it’s the new frontier in casual-but-cool style, and it’s here to stay.
One new label from NYC is staking out market share in the new category with a catchy new slogan — “from sleep to street”.
Alexis Mera debuted this winter with what it calls “RTW loungewear” — a new fashion hybrid that mixes elements of loungewear, sleepwear and sporty ‘athleisure’ apparel.
“Why shouldn’t women be able to wear their most comfortable clothing in and out of the house, while still looking put together and sophisticated?” says Alexis Damen (below), the brand’s 29-year-old Brooklyn-based founder.
If you’ve always wished your bedtime sweatpants and tank could carry you through the day, this is your brand. Better yet, if you’re a chronic sleepwalker then Alexis Mera might save you some embarrassment when you wake up while wandering around the neighborhood.
Launched in February after nearly a year in development, Alexis Mera weaves together several emerging developments in casual fashion. It’s a lifestyle brand that delivers a series of minimalist, multi-purpose essentials meant to be mixed-and-matched.
It’s also a homegrown Made-in-America brand that’s proudly part of the ‘slow fashion’ movement. Garments are cut and sewn in Manhattan’s garment district, from micro modal and supima cotton milled and knit in a North Carolina factory.
And if that’s not enough to earn your allegiance, Alexis Mera has partnered with Step Up, a charity that provides mentors for underprivileged and at-risk girls, committing 10% of sales to the group. It pledges to support other women-centric charities as the brand grows.
Philanthropic, eco-sensitive, socially engaged and on-trend: if these are the ingredients for success in indie fashion today, Alexis Mera could easily become a template for other forward-thinking designers to follow.
This is also a brand with a compelling backstory. Damen’s family has been in the textile business for generations, and her great-grandfather traveled by bicycle through the Netherlands in the mid-1800s selling textiles to farmers. Later, the family moved from its roots in Belgium to Rotterdam, opening textile shops (above) that served the women’s apparel industry. (The name ‘Mera’ is both Damen’s middle name and the given name of her great-grandmother.)
Growing up, Damen’s Opa (grandfather) would tell her stories about spinning, weaving, dyeing and finishing fabrics, and traveling around Europe to find new textiles for the family shops.
“There never was a suggestion or a push that I should enter the business, it just sort of worked out that way,” Damen, who still visits family in Rotterdam every year, told Lingerie Talk. “But my grandfather is very excited that someone in the family is still doing this.”
Damen entered the industry in a more conventional way, studying fashion merchandising at the Fashion Institute of Technology and working for the esteemed pyjama brand Elizabeth Cotton, where she learned the innumerable chores involved in running a successful indie label. After graduating, Damen joined a firm that produced private label and branded sleepwear lines for DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Lucky and other mainstream brands.
That experience motivated her to get away from fast fashion and overseas production and into a new direction that reflected her values and personal ideas about modern sleepwear fashion — a category that is dominated by conventional styles.
“There’s a huge trend in comfortable, stylish lounge and athleisure wear today,” Damen says. “Things are becoming less seasonal. People are looking for things that are more versatile, that they can wear all the time.
“We noticed women don’t have weekend wear and work wear anymore. Women are looking for sleep-to-street, day-to-night, and weekday-to-weekend wear.”
Alexis Mera offers a range of affordable tees, tanks, T-shirt dresses, jogging pants and short in a variety of graphic prints and patterns.
The instant bestseller turned out to be its floral jogging pant in a stretch jersey fabric — it’s the kind of stylish multi-use garment that works as a PJ bottom, as part of daily fashion ensemble or even something you’d wear to yoga.
“People are buying the floral print the most because it’s something they can wear everywhere,” Damen said.
Damen works full-time on Alexis Mera from her home in Ditmas Park, alongside husband Marcio dos Santos, a software engineer who built the company’s robust e-commerce platform. She says she typically visits the 38th Street factory once a week to meet with the factory owner and pattern-makers to ensure quality craftsmanship.
Alexis Mera offers free U.S. shipping on orders over $150, and same-day delivery in New York City. Here’s a look at the brand’s debut catalogue.