Back in 2014, amidst the anti-government clashes and ousting of then-President Viktor Yanukovych, the annexation of Crimea, and the subsequent hostilities in eastern Ukraine, two girls in their early 20s decided to launch Sleeper – a brand that would change the notion of loungewear for good.
It is not easy to catch them – Asya Varetsa is now based in NYC while Kate Zubarieva has a schedule full of business trips. Still, see over a pivotal turning point in their life is rooted in Kyiv, where it all started four years ago. Varetsa remembers. “In late November 2013, I was relocating from Moscow to Kyiv. My train arrived at the station in the morning of the day the pro-European protests started. Kate came straight from Maidan Nezalezhnosti to meet me. She was a true Maidan activist.”
What Dreams May Come
These former editors of Elle Russia (Varetsa) and Pink (Zubarieva) were both unemployed at the time. One afternoon, cooped up in their apartment, they found themselves engrossed with in Curly Sue and Kelly Lynch’s character who, above all, looked stunning in her home-wear.
The idea of creating trendy homewear came to Kate in a dream on Christmas eve. Six months later, the girls launched the first collection of ‘walking sleepwear’ with a start-up capital of just 2 000 USD.
Equally good for nights and days, chic Sleeper pyjamas and robes are multifunctional and can be worn both indoors and outdoors – to coffee shops, parks, art galleries, theatres, and parties. The pair says the idea is you can easily mix the silk top of your pyjamas with a business suit, silk pants with a T-shirt, and pyjamas with a trench. The robe can serve as a summer coat or wrap dress.
Comfort and Beauty
Sleeper espouses the aesthetics of comfort, which nowadays means you feel good wherever you go and in whatever you do. It is all about your perception of making the world a comfortable place. The duo agree: “Sleeper is a story about love for yourself and what happens to you when you are alone. It is as vital as socialising.”
After making their debut with the Fall/Winter ‘14-‘15 collection, Sleeper was noticed by Franca Sozzani, Vogue Italia’s editor-in-chief, who named it brand-of-the-month. Last year, Marie Claire US declared a Sleeper linen off-the-shoulder dress “the best garment of the year”. In 2017, Sleeper’s revenues grew by 150% compared to 2016, and by 500% compared to 2014, with the US market currently accounting for 80% of sales.
The girls’ collections are now available at Barneys, Harrods, Moda Operandi, Opening Ceremony, Secret Location, Mohawk Store, Fortnum & Mason, and many other stores all over the world. Sleeper’s fans include Leandra Medine, Emily Ratajkowski, Aurora James, Rita Ora, Mira Duma, Veronika Heilbrunner, and Eleonora Carisi.
One name is still missing in this impressive list. Varetsa and Zubarieva add, “At the very beginning, we drew inspiration from Kelly Lynch starring in Curly Sue. To see her wearing our robe suit would be the highest honour.”
Sleeper also offers options for children and men, however a ‘walking sleepwear’ concept appeals less to the guys. “After all, men are not as resolute as women, and many of them are quite conservative. By no means, this applies to all our clients – there are some who confidently wear our pajamas with loafers, Varetsa and Zubarieva say. “It’s very cool.”
Though Varetsa moved from Russia to Kyiv, Sleeper is a 100% Ukrainian brand. The pair elaborate: “The brand was created in Ukraine by Ukrainian women. Furthermore, Sleeper stems from Kyiv’s Podil. There is so much freedom in the brand: while creating it, we felt like we were utterly free.”
Headquartered on Bratska street, Sleeper supports local production and artisan-manufacturing traditions with all pieces hand-crafted out of natural eco-friendly fibres only, such as silk, linen, and cotton. A dedicated seamstress with 30 years’ experience spends 8-12 hours on one item.
Sleeper never stops dreaming. The next step will be setting up an office in NYC.
Where to purchase Sleeper in Kyiv:
Corner Concept Store
Prices range from 3 000 to 9 000 UAH
“My day starts with breakfast – it’s essential as it’s the only time when I can sit down and prepare for the day. I am a hard worker and spend time productively, but I have a rule that I put aside my laptop at 19.00. Then I usually cook dinner, go out on a date, or meet my friends.”
~ Asya Varetsa
“Until midday, I am occupied with non-office things – meetings, negotiations, writing texts, or working with documents. I promise myself not to check e-mails before breakfast – but usually do not stick to this. I spend most evenings with my friends, family, and loved ones.”
~ Kate Zubarieva