Olivia von Halle may be in the business of luxurious sleepwear, but her brand really began with parties. Back in 2008, she was living in Shanghai and working as a trend forecaster. "I had the most amazing tailor who made silk pyjamas for me – I lived in them," she tells Refinery29. "I wore them to dinners with heels and mega jewellery, but most of all we had some mega after parties in our apartment and I would always change into them and host the party, cigarette in one hand and gin and tonic in the other."
As friends and family became obsessed with her lavish nightwear, von Halle began making it for people, and soon realised she had hit on something. "I diligently wrote down everyone’s measurements and went back to my Shanghai tailor with an order list as long as my arm," she says. "He laughed, told me that he did have other clients and advised me to go and look for a proper manufacturer. It was a very slow eureka moment – I realised there was nothing on the marketplace like it and decided to launch my own brand."
Back then, luxury pyjamas weren't a shoppable fashion category of their own, which made von Halle want to go all-in. Her aim to make her name synonymous with the world's chicest evening wear – "My main motivation was proving people wrong, and it's proven to be a very strong driving force behind the business!" – has certainly succeeded. Harrods, Selfridges and Net-A-Porter all snapped up her designs, and now more than 130 retailers in 26 countries stock her brand.
Opening her flagship store back in 2016, next year will bring two more bricks-and-mortar stores. The brand is known for its bold and graphic prints, from vintage-esque paisley in jewel tones to animal motifs on rainbow hues, all created in house at von Halle's HQ: a Georgian townhouse in Bloomsbury.
"Each collection has a starting point: it might be a line from a book, a 1970s muse, a painting, or even a movement in a country," she explains of her process. "In the past, collections have been inspired by café society in the 1950s in the south of France, a line from an Ayn Rand book, or for next season (Resort '20) we are looking at the work of the artist Hieronymus Bosch – I called my son Hieronymus after him! It can be really diverse but it has to excite me and the design team, and feel like it hits the zeitgeist."
The Lila pyjama set – the design that launched the brand – is still the bestseller, but the offering has since expanded to include dressing gowns, camisoles and eye masks. 2016's super successful Missy silk cashmere tracksuit has been worn by the likes of the Hadid sisters, Rihanna and queen of the '00s tracksuit, Jennifer Lopez.
It's fitting, considering the glamorous beginnings of von Halle's label, that this year she launched ready-to-wear, starting with silk evening dresses. One scroll through the brand's Instagram feed and you'll see customers wearing pieces in the daytime, just as von Halle did in Shanghai. "This year our focus has been on expanding our ready-to-wear offering, after huge demand from customers for beautiful silk dresses to wear to weddings and events," she explains.
"It started with a silk slip dress called the Issa which was originally designed to be worn to bed, but was picked up by stylists and worn by Hollywood A-listers on the red carpet, and has become one of our party dress staples." The dresses have a laid-back glamour that pairs sumptuously with a cocktail and a killer pair of heels. Her most recent collection, Resort '19, "was inspired by the glittering café society of the 1950s so it was really fun to play with new fabrics like beautiful silk velvets."
Ahead of party season, we asked the woman herself how to spend a cosy night in – wearing her most luxurious silk pyjamas, of course – and what makes a party unforgettable.
Hi Olivia! As the nights are drawing in, tell us what your ideal duvet day looks like...
Duvet days are few and far between for me since having kids but I used to excel at them… There is something wonderfully decadent about having a long bath in the morning, especially with the morning papers and a cup of Earl Grey tea, or a podcast.
Then back into bed with a face mask, hair mask and completely covered in moisturiser, with the remainder of the paper. I have a weird rule where I would happily devour a whole meal in the bath (my long-suffering husband has been known to bring me supper in the tub) but I hate the idea of eating in bed – crumbs in the bed? Not chic. So downstairs for lunch, eaten in my pyjamas standing up at the kitchen counter and consisting of something that I would only make for myself, like cheese and mango chutney on crackers.
Then back to bed to sleep for most of the afternoon, waking up extremely confused that it's 6pm and dark outside. Out comes the wine, on goes Netflix and a favourite film or TV show – I’m currently loving Good Girls and The Good Place. Then back to sleep early with that strange feeling in your limbs when you have been in bed too long, have done no exercise at all and it's definitely time to leave the house tomorrow and go back to work!
Party season is here – who are you likely to call for a wild night out?
My best friend Alice always has a naughty glint in her eye and is up for just one more drink…
What's your poison of choice?
My signature cocktail is called a Suffering Bathwater and was invented on the back end of a particularly debauched night. It's three parts gin to one part Cointreau with a dash of lime. It is absolutely lethal but tastes delicious and is sure to make any party go with a bang.
Which tune is guaranteed to get you on the dance floor?
"I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)" by Daryl Hall and John Oates is a disco classic I would break off any conversation for.
What is the most legendary party you've been to, and what made it so memorable?
Mary Charteris and her father and stepmother held a joint party for her 30th and their wedding anniversary at their house, Stanway, last year. They really know how to party and at 6am, when the sun came up and the whole party was still in full swing, they put their fountain on, which is one of the highest fountains in Europe, and everyone just flooded from the dance floor onto the lawn to watch it. The music was amazing, the guest list was so diverse with such an amazing range of people and backgrounds, from the fashion, music and art worlds, and everyone was out to have a good time.
What are you planning for New Year's Eve this year?
New Year’s Eve is always a bit overrated and London is so busy, so we are going to a friend’s house in the English countryside with a big group. We’ll have a big, boozy late dinner, so we can get the countdown part over straight after dinner and it isn’t hanging over us, and then just party on though.
What is the ultimate formula for a perfect party?
Fun people, strong drinks, low lighting, a ridiculous outfit, and my brother Alec Falconer on the decks.