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Given the time spent trying to perfect that "I woke up like this" look, life would be far simpler if we could roll out of the house in the clothes we slept in. That's the goal behind Lunya, a luxury sleepwear startup that's reinventing the tired PJ set.
Founded by entrepreneur Ashley Merrill, the brand spent two years developing stylish loungewear from the world's comfiest fabrics before it launched in November 2014. Comprised of incredibly soft basics that can go from the bedroom to the boulevard, the line features standouts like a plaid top and shorts set ($130), a nearly-seamless romper ($168), swingy cotton and bamboo shorts ($55), and more.
On top of crafting wear-anywhere essentials mindfully made in the best factories around the globe (including in the US and Peru), the label keeps price tags low by offering its pieces directly to consumers online. Shoppers can also buy Lunya IRL at its dreamy showroom in Santa Monica, where we met up with Merrill to chat more about the brand.
Below, read on to find out more about the frat shirt that sparked Lunya, the pieces that Merrill's living in right now, whether expanding to more sleep-related categories is in the cards, and more.
What were you doing before founding Lunya?
I worked at an online media company where I did a variety of things: marketing and advertising, business development. Then I launched a portal called Momtastic; I didn't have kids at the time.
I was learning as an entrepreneur how to launch a business, how to build an audience [and] a brand; after that, I decided to get my MBA at UCLA. Right around that time I actually also realized I was pregnant. I always was worried that having kids would stop me from doing my dream. Even though I wanted kids, I inherently knew what the commitment looked like.
I had been sitting on this idea for a long time. The second I realized I was pregnant, I had that "now or never" moment and even though I was in business school, I suddenly was like, "Okay, now's my chance. If I'm gonna do it, I've got nine months — ten, actually." So that's when I started Lunya.
What's the story behind the brand's name?
There's a Swedish word, lugna, that means "calm." It's such a pretty word, but then when I would show it to all of my American friends, they'd say, "LUG-na." That sounds [like] an IKEA product, so I spelled it phonetically. It also harkens to luna, which is perfect is sleepwear. So in so many ways, it was a good fit for us.
Why did you decide to pursue sleepwear?
I was in my bedroom and I caught my reflection as I was walking by the mirror. I was wearing my husband's boxer briefs and his old frat shirt; it was just really soft and then I thought, "Okay, this is what they mean when you're really letting it go. I can think of something that's comfortable and cuter than this."
I started trying to find something that was comfortable and stylish. I found things that really ultimately didn't suit, like lingerie: it's cute but it's not comfortable. If I'm given a choice between that frat shirt and lingerie, I'm gonna reach for the frat shirt.
I found the frumpy PJ set, and it's just not a good look. I'm like, "I'm too young for this, I'm not ready to hang it up just yet." I tried that little set that's typically on the market — the drawstring pant with the spaghetti string top — I'm finding myself waking up and hanging out on top [with the fabric] twisted, or on that giant knot that's much too thick for sleeping. The shorts are all hiked up and the center seam doesn't fit with a woman's anatomy.
I realized that there's a big opportunity for someone to take a fresh look at sleepwear. I always parallel it to the athletic wear industry because it has a lot of needs to be satisfied: is has to be able to function and look good. All those same rules apply to sleepwear; you just don't think about it.
Plus, why would you own something and designate it for the house just by virtue of it being so ugly? I always wanted something that would be effortless and make you look your best. There's no reason why, if you solve that problem, it wouldn't translate out of the house.
What are some of your favorite pieces?
For a statement piece, The Romper is definitely one of my easy favorites. It's got a kangaroo pocket; this was a real feat to design because it's got no center seam, which construction-wise is really tricky. It's super flattering; I'd wear it with tennis shoes and people were stopping me saying, "You look so cute!" I'm thinking, "This is the best thing ever because I didn't put any effort into it."
My everyday go-to is the Erika Pant. It's just super-flattering; it's double-layered, super-thin pima cotton. This is how we're different than a lot of other brands, too: the inside is sewn the same as the outside. If you're running around the house and you have full hands, you want your cell phone with you, which is why this has pockets.
The Robe is definitely one of our best-sellers; it's super-soft and it's got a neckline that you can close so it can be modest when the UPS guy comes or when you take your dog for a walk. We sewed [the tie] on because everyone told me they would lose them. We did a more narrow sleeve so when you wash your face, your giant sleeves aren't getting wet. The back [is designed] so when your hair is dripping [after a shower], it'll help your hair dry.
What's behind your decision to use natural fibers and your production process?
Our philosophy as it relates to manufacturing is really trying to be best in class wherever we go. We pick different fabrics based on what we're looking for; [for example,] we've got stuff in bamboo that's more antimicrobial, very soft, holds up quite well too.
We just did a new pima [cotton] collection that's out of Peru. You can do pima here but it wouldn't make sense; they're the best at it, they know how to even sew it better than we do here. Pima's amazing, [but] modal is more common here. You buy it at the store and it feels lovely, but you wash it a few times and they pill a lot. And Portugal does really compacted fabrics [that are] beautiful, but have a different purpose.
I really want to create a product [...] that when you get home at the end of the day, you can't wait to put it on, you can wear it every day, and you'll wash it a lot and it'll still look really great. That's a real ambitious goal with natural fibers. It's one thing to say that for your Lululemons; they'e made of polyester that's been rewoven. I would like to get as close to that as I can with natural fibers.
Do you think Lunya will ever expand to other sleep-related categories, like bedding?
I can't predict the future; I need to have a lot of success in sleepwear and then I'll worry about where to go. I think the sky's the limit on where we could go, that's for sure. People come to me all the time [asking] can you make kids sleepwear? Can you make husband sleepwear? For now, I just want to do one thing really well.