Not many people can say Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow go to bed with them, but Olivia von Halle has made a name for slipping between the sheets with some of the world’s most famous women.
The designer, who launched her eponymous nightwear label in 2011 has single-handedly redefined the humble pyjama – elevating it to cult status with her slinky silk sleepwear (think more glamorous post-party lounging and G&T’s in crystal highball glasses, less tracky bums and slippers).
We caught up with the designer at the Islington home she shares with her husband Hugo and three year old Boxer, Bathtub (more on that name later), to talk about growing up as one of eleven on a farm, emulating Cher from Clueless and life with a bounding Boxer.
How did the idea for your label Olivia von Halle come about?
I moved to Shanghai after getting married in 2008 and was working there as a trend forecaster. Being 6ft tall I was laughed out of every shop in Shanghai, so I found the most incredible tailor. He was every girl’s wildest dream and could replicate Lanvin dresses from pages torn out of Vogue. One day I started fantasising about how elegant it would be to have a beautiful pair of printed silk pyjamas to lounge around in when coming home from partying with friends. He made me a pair and I instantly became addicted to them and started wearing them all the time. Friends begged me to make them some and before I knew it I had an order list longer than my tailor could ever manage, so I decided to launch the Olivia von Halle brand.
What first sparked your love of fashion?
My mother has a pathological phobia of shops and shopping which meant I had to survive on hand-me-downs. I first became interested in fashion when I was about 12 – it was 1995 and I desperately wanted to fit in with my friends and look like Cher from Clueless. Alas I lived in the middle of the countryside and my only source of clothing was a giant trunk in our playroom filled with my grandmother, mother and four aunt’s rejected clothes from the previous forty years.
I quickly made the realisation that I was never going to have the money or the means to get to New Look in Sevenoaks so I had better embrace whatever was in this box. Needless to say I spent most of my youth looking like a granny from the 70s but it certainly forced me to develop a unique sense of style and a fearless way of dressing, and started my love of fashion.
Have pyjamas been neglected from a style point of view?
When I first started the brand, all nightwear seemed to fit into one of three categories; mature older lady, scarily sexy or little girl covered in cartoons. I wanted to create lounge and nightwear which had a modern, high-fashion feel which you felt sexy in but you would wear in front of friends and still feel cool. I think since pyjama dressing became a big trend a couple of years ago there has been a huge revival in the nightwear market and I would like to think we are leading the way in that.
Why do women love slinking into your PJ’s so much?
They are beautifully cut and made with a quite a heavy 19mm silk which has a stunning drape and feels incredible on your skin. I think they plug into every womans fantasy about being the sort of person who comes home and curls up with a wonderful book and a gin and tonic, rather than plonking down in front of the TV in tracky bums with a curry. They make you want to be the best version of yourself!
You must have a pair for every night of the week! Would you ever be caught dead wearing a baggy t-shirt to bed?
Owning lots of OvH products is a perk of the job and I love wearing them, although I do often get caught out at home testing out new ideas! I love buying different nightwear on my travels and seeing if we can make it work for the brand. At the moment I am loving an enormous men’s nightshirt I bought in Morocco – we are working on the pattern to see if we can update it and make it work for the next collection.
Can you reveal some well-known women that wear OvH to bed?
We are lucky to have a loyal celebrity following; Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow, Katy Perry, Poppy Delevigne and Rita Ora are all big fans of the brand.
When you’re not looking luxe in a pair of your PJ’s, how would you describe your style?
I am terrible at doing ‘relaxed day casual’ – I bought my first pair of jeans this year! I’m very happy in gym / dog walking gear; Lululemon and Lucas Hugh activewear, no make-up, nike air max trainers and my husbands old shooting jacket.
For meetings, parties and dinners I go completely over the top. I am an obsessive fan of Alessandra Rich (I now have 12 of her dresses), which I wear to pretty much everything. They are beautifully cut, so well made and tread this amazing line between stupidly pretty and edgy cool. I don’t know how she does it, she is a genius. I love Celine bags, Charlotte Olympia shoes, Jessica McCormack jewellery and Prism eyewear and beachwear. I love stand-out attention-seeking pieces – at the moment I am obsessed with a Miu Miu coat I got in an outlet in Milan. Its white PVC and makes me look like a mad scientist.
Have you always been an animal lover?
I am very much a country girl, I grew up on a farm in Kent with eleven members of my extended family. It was beautiful chaos. We had horses and so much freedom – it was the days before mobile phones and my sister and I would ride all around the countryside without thinking to tell my parents where we were off to. I lived for my horses and had every other pet imaginable; cats, guniea pigs, chickens, a pot bellied pig, my beloved rats, fish. Everything except a dog, which I was understandably desperate for.
Bathtub is definitely a unique name – how did she get it?
Bathtub is named after a horse I knew when I was a child – he was a huge black hunter and was called Bathtub because he was so comfortable to ride. He was an amazing horse, very noble and powerful but gentle – when we first saw Bathtub (the dog) at eight weeks she stood out from the rest of her litter and there was something of Bathtub the horse in her. So we named her after him. She’s quite the little celebrity in our area because of her name and all the kids at the local school adore her. Her name is super handy when calling the vet – there is no confusion over which dog you are calling about!
Have you owned Boxers before?
I was so desperate for a dog growing up and so when I went to university I got an amazing whippet cross Jack Russell called Pudding. She came everywhere with me, even lectures! We then rescued a boxer when we were living in China and fell in love with the breed, she sadly died in quarantine coming back to the UK and we did think about other breeds but once you have a boxer other dogs just somehow don’t compare. They are hysterically funny, such characters, loyal and boisterous and they never grow up. Word of warning to anyone thinking of getting a boxer in London though – prepare to walk them for 2 and a half hours a day otherwise your life will be made a misery! They have so much energy.
Tell us how she makes you laugh?
When you say the word ‘cat’ she tears all over the house trying to find the supposed intruder. She also loves muddy puddles and will put her whole head under water and comes up with a full on mud facemask on. She loves children and since our house over looks a school, whenever the bell rings she runs up to the top of the house to watch them playing – that is seriously cute.
QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS – BATHTUB:
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Playful, eccentric, determined.
Finish this sentence: I’m happiest when……..
I have run onto a football pitch, burst their ball and have 23 people chasing me to try and get the ball back.
What’s your favourite treat?
I prefer my ball to treats but I am partial to a veal rib.
When was the last time your cried?
This morning when the plumber wouldn’t play with me. Outrageous.
What’s you worst habit?
Farting when I’m at the OvH studio. It makes everyone’s eyes water.
Who would play you in a film of your life?
Kathy Burke – only an actor of her comic genius could do me justice. And she grew up on my street.
Describe your ideal day?
At 7am I get out of my bed in the kitchen, woof outside Mum and Dad’s door until they relent, let me in and lift me onto their bed. I refuse to jump onto the bed or into the car. I am capable but prefer to be lifted. So much more ladylike. I laze around in bed with them until 10am when we head straight to Hampstead Heath with my best friend Betty the Beagle. Tear around the Heath for at least two hours, swim in all three lakes, apply a mud face mask.
Home to break my fast – I am on a raw food diet (Basils) but prefer Lily’s kitchen campfire stew. Sleep for a couple of hours, then a two mile walk down the Regents Canal to Victoria Park chasing a few cyclists en route. Back to sunbathe in the garden for an hour or so before meeting my friend Kuulu the Whippet and heading to the Drapers Arms in Islington for dinner – I would recommend their roasts and the scotch eggs are delicious. Fall asleep in front of the fire there and then potter back home to my Bone & Rag bed to dream of doing it all over again.
See more about Olivia von Halle and the full collection at – oliviavonhalle.com