When the world went into lockdown last year, loungewear sales went up and according to reports from Statista, global sales of the category are estimated to reach US$37.7 billion this year. But while restrictions in some parts of the world have lifted, customers continue to enjoy the flexibility and comfort of loungewear, taking them from Zoom meetings to the couch to at-home workouts. Here are three startups that have tapped into the trend. Nost Founders: Felicia Toh and Tessa Weiher
sa Weiher Location: Singapore Launch date: 2019 Here’s what you need to know: Felicia Toh said when she and her business partner Tessa Weiher launched Nost in the later part of 2019 and introduced their loungewear collection, they had no idea that most people would be spending so much time at home in 2020. “It turned out rather incidentally to be the right product for the season,” Toh told Inside Retail. Nost, a startup that sells cosy, breezy loungewear made of handmade heritage textiles, was coined from the word ‘nostalgia’, which originally means a longing for home, she added. “My co-founder Tessa and I are architects by training,” she said. “We were inspired when we visited artisans across Asia and had tea with them in their homes, observing how they create beautiful heritage textiles by hand. Our tagline is, ‘handcrafted by artisans, from their homes to yours’.” “It’s something we wish to preserve — amazing heritage craftsmanship which is dying out, threatened today by commercial mass production. To build trust with their customers and introduce their products at the height of the pandemic had been challenging, but Toh said the business has been able to build a community through sharing the business’ story via their social media platforms. “We go behind the scenes and we are transparent about how and where our products are made. We show our artisans masterfully working the loom, and creating the motifs by hand using heritage textile methods,” she said. “We’ve launched online polls inviting our customers to share ideas about what new products they would like to see, many of whom shared fabulous ideas. Reducing waste is [also needed] in fashion, especially in an uncertain climate, so we road-tested pre-orders instead of bulk producing some of our new collections. These little steps have helped us to have genuine conversations with our customers and conserve resources on our end.” Instead of sourcing fabrics from mills, Nost produces their materials from scratch, allowing them better quality control. Toh said they use raw fabrics made of natural fibres such as cotton, linen and silk. “These fabrics are then dyed using block-printing or batik-printing heritage textile methods, using natural plant-based or eco-friendly dyes,” she said. “We also package our products in rust-hued cotton pouches instead of plastic, to try to reduce plastic waste where possible.” “We hope that the many generations to come will be able to enjoy craft heritage as a relevant, living artform, and that these precious, fading crafts won’t be a relic only found in museums,” Toh added. Tala founder Grace Beverly Tala Founder: Grace Beverly Location: UK Launch date: 2019 Here’s what you need to know: Social media influencer Grace Beverly said she was inspired to start her athleisure wear and loungewear business Tala because she was looking for a brand with ethical production practices that was comfortable, inclusive and affordable. “It made sense to me to start something myself,” Beverly said. “I’ve also always been a lover of activewear and definitely knew what made a good pair of leggings, so I was very excited to bring all that knowledge together with our selling points of ethics and sustainability.” With recycled packaging and tags made from plantable paper, Tala is on a mission to create 100 per cent up-cycled products. “People want to support sustainable brands, they want brands to pay their workers and to care about the environment and be inclusive, we just have to give people the options so ubiquitously that it’s the norm,” the Oxford University graduate said. Beverly said since its launch, the business has sold more than 80,000 products and saved over three million litres of water. “For me, there just isn’t any space or reason for people to be starting unsustainable businesses anymore — it wouldn’t make any sense at all,” she said. In an Instagram post, Beverly said they have seen positive growth with the business last year: “From a pipe dream of disrupting the ridiculously saturated activewear market by matching prices of the non-sustainable giants of the industry with our recycled clothing, to £1m months, the sickest people wearing our pieces, daily press, tens of thousands donated to charity and actually proving that there’s room for sustainability so good that you wanna buy it whether you care or not… we’ve come so far and we have even further to go, but damn, every sleepless night and restless day has paid off 100 times over.” NeceSera co-founder Riddhi Jain NeceSera Founders: Riddhi Jain and Sudiksha Jain Location: India Launch date: 2017 Here’s what you need to know: Several years ago, loungewear was an untapped market in India, which prompted Riddhi and Sudiksha Jain to launch their own brand, NeceSera. “There are fashion brands and there are nightwear brands, but there aren’t too many loungewear brands,” Riddhi said. “We chose to enter this market because there’s a major void of comfortable clothing that looks and feels good.” Riddhi worked with designers in Europe to put together luxuriously comfortable fabrics and prints, which were then used to create a wide range of pajama sets, yoga wear and work-from-home lounge sets. “Finding the right fabrics is one of the most important steps for us, so to ensure quality and comfort of the fabrics, we enforce a regulation system with multiple quality checks,” Riddhi explained. “For other raw materials, we work with multiple suppliers across India. All production is done in-house.” Last year, NeceSara launched pieces that can easily transition throughout the day, from sleeping to travel and working out. “Loungewear is the most versatile clothing category,” Riddhi said. “It can be styled for work-from-home meetings by adding a scarf over a tee-shirt, they can also be paired with blazers for immediate Zoom meetings. It helps you look stylish while you are still in your pajamas.” NeceSera’s distribution is done mainly through its online store but Riddhi said they are increasing their offline presence through pop-up shops because they want their customers to see their products up close. “When customers touch and feel our products, that’s when they understand the quality and fall in love with it,” she said.