LONDON, United Kingdom — Spring/Summer 2016 was, once more, the season of the slip dress. Languid dresses appeared on the runway at Gucci, Céline and Givenchy, bringing nightwear-inspired silhouettes and references to the fore again.
“Whether it’s a corset, some sort of waisting item worn over a top to reference the body, or a Victoriana dressing gown, nightwear is a huge reference point for so many designers,” says Lydia King, womenswear ready-to-wear buying manager at London department store Selfridges.
“We noticed a 1990's mood the past couple of seasons: hip-hop soundtracks, ‘ordinary’ clothes and, in particular, the mix of slip dressing with sportswear,” agrees Natalie Kingham, buying director at Matchesfashion.com. "It felt like a take on underwear as outwear,” she continues, naming Saint Laurent, Haider Ackermann, Chloé and Vetements as just a few of the latest brands to get behind what has become a consistent reference point in fashion over the past seven years.
The nightwear-as-daywear trend first hit the catwalk back in September of 2008 at Dolce & Gabbana’s Spring/Summer 2009 show. By 2011, pyjama dressing was everywhere, from Céline to Thakoon. But the trend seemed to truly reach its zenith for the Autumn/Winter 2013 season, when the designer Marc Jacobs referenced pyjamas at his eponymous main line, his diffusion line and Louis Vuitton (where he was creative director), wearing a different pair of pyjamas for his bow at the end of each show.
We see such huge growth at the moment with nightwear.
But the growth of nightwear goes well beyond the recurring riffs seen on the catwalks. In 2014, the global nightwear market (defined as all clothes designed to be worn indoors/in bed including pyjama separates, pyjama sets and robes) reached $29.2 billion, expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 11 percent from 2009 to 2014, according to Euromonitor, which expects the category to grow an additional 16 percent between 2014 and 2019, driven, in no small part, by demand in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Retailers have been reaping the rewards. Barneys New York, Mr Porter and Matchesfashion.com have all seen significant growth in the category, while at Selfridges, nightwear sales have exploded, growing 500 percent in three years. In spring 2016, the department store will launch Body Studio, a 37,000-square-foot space housing lingerie, nightwear, swimwear and hosiery.
“It’s really a very high-density sales area for Selfridges,” says King on the importance of nightwear. “Growth spans right across our offer, where cashmere dressing gowns can be over £2,000, but — on the flip side — really fun Cheek Thrills knickers are just £15." But in recent seasons, it's accessible luxury price points (between £100 and £500) that have been most dynamic, reveals King. Emerging nightwear specialists have also performed well, she says, naming Olivia Von Halle, Morv (Moon) and Dear Bowie as the most productive lines.
The silhouettes in the sleepwear world are not just limited to nighttime use.
So what's driving the growth?
“The silhouettes in the sleepwear world have become more versatile. They are not just limited to nighttime use, but worn as underpinnings, or as casualwear at the weekends or at home,” observes Tomoko Ogura, senior fashion director at Barneys.
“People are really starting to look after themselves and care about their bodies. Relaxation and mindfulness are at the forefront of everyone’s mind and luxe-loungewear is the perfect accompaniment,” adds Katie Atkinson, senior editor for intimates and swimwear at WGSN.
“The rise of the luxury sportswear business has certainly played a role,” says Sam Lobban, buying manager at Mr Porter. “Brands like Brunello Cuccinelli, Loro Piana and Tom Ford and their introduction of sportswear — very luxurious, but ultimately sportswear — that lends itself to following through to very nice weekend/eveningwear and nighttime wear.” For men, Lobban sees the growth of the nightwear category as “more of a lifestyle choice; it’s more around comfort.”
As the market grows, luxury brands like Alexander McQueen, Valentino, Versace, Stella McCartney, Gucci and Victoria Beckham have increased their presence in the nightwear category, while on the high street, retailers like Topshop and J.Crew have ventured into the market, introducing fashionable nightwear at contemporary price points. "High street brands are starting to bring out 'luxe loungewear' collections at a higher price point than their core range," notes Atkinson. Topshop offers silk slips for £35 and embroidered kimonos for £78, while J.Crew stocks $175 silk slips and $95 flannel pyjama sets.
For some of the biggest luxury underwear players — able to capitalise on the synergies between underwear and nightwear — the opportunity has been particularly attractive. Sales for Agent Provocateur’s more accessible nightwear offering have doubled in the last five years, while sales for its higher-end 'Soirée' range have grown threefold, according to chief executive Garry Hogarth. “We have steadily increased our product offer in this category,” he says.
Nightwear is also one of the most important categories for lingerie brand La Perla, says Nick Tacchi, the company's global marketing director. “Each lingerie collection includes nightwear pieces playing on the same themes as the underwear garments,” he explains, adding that the brand is currently doing double-digit growth and that “sleepwear has definitely played its role.”