Thursday 22 March 2018

The politics of pyjamas - Robin Wright launches her collection

'House of Cards' First Lady, Robin Wright, has just launched her luxury pyjama collection with an altruistic heart. Victoria Moss meets the woman behind the 21 century's power wardrobe

Robin Wright and Karen Fowler launch their latest Pour Les Femmes sleepwear collection Photo: Matt Writtle/selfridges.
Robin Wright and Karen Fowler launch their latest Pour Les Femmes sleepwear collection Photo: Matt Writtle/selfridges.
Robin's 'House of Cards' character Carrie Underwood lounges in silk Christian Dior pyjamas, with screen husband Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood.
Butterfly cotton pyjama shorts €117.
Butterfly cotton pyjama top €182.
Classic cotton pyjama set €230.
Embroidered cotton night dress, €230.

Victoria Moss

The character of Claire Underwood in the cult Netflix series House of Cards has been much lauded as the new measure of style for the powerful female executive: the signature figure contouring shift dresses, the forceful stiletto court shoes, the sharp one-sided blonde-bob. All no doubt spotted at an office or high-powered garden party near you.

But another of the fictional First Lady's wardrobe trophies has gained almost as much traction and is equally embedded with her character traits: those luxuriant classic-cut silk pyjamas which create the perfect ensemble for late night political scheming.

Unsurprisingly the Underwood aesthetic is no accident; it is planned with astute clarity by the actress. "It's so funny to talk about," says Robin Wright in that soft, yet precise voice with gentle Texan undertones. "I brought on a stylist [Kemal Harris] that just does Claire's wardrobe. Cotton is so not Claire. So the silk thing is a no-brainer. They're made by Christian Dior."

Neatly, for those who can't quite stretch to Dior prices, Wright has launched her own sleepwear line, Pour Les Femmes - a joint partnership with her friend Karen Fowler.

"We met 26 years ago. Karen was a sort of substitute assistant who then ended up hanging on and we've been friends since that time," explains Wright. Fowler then became a fashion designer with her own label.

"We've always said we want to build our perfect idea of a pyjama because we could never find it. And we love being in bed," Wright continues.

The pair have tapped into a burgeoning fashion category. In what is perhaps testament to our spoilt times, pyjamas (for the woman who has bought everything else) have risen up to be a beacon of luxury, rather than a wardrobe basic. At Selfridges, where Pour Les Femmes is stocked in the UK, there are over 156 pyjama offerings, the store having increased its seasonal buy by 30pc after seeing the nightwear category grow 500pc from 2009 to 2015.

But while PLF's pyjamas are certainly stylish enough to be worn on the school run, for Fowler and Wright there's a more serious side, too. Since they launched the line a year ago, 50pc of PLF's profits have gone to help Congalese women - a cause Wright has supported for 11 years.

"A Congalese woman is raped every 48 minutes," says Wright emphatically. "They've been so brutally raped that girls crawl on their hands and knees for three days to get to a hospital."

The clothing line helps fund two local charities, Action Kivu and Synergie Les Femmes. "We want to give these women a feeling of comfort and security. That's what you get when you pull on a pair of pyjamas and get into bed. We feel safe at night and they don't."

The PLF collection began with their classic pyjama in super soft Indian cotton, white with a pretty faint antique floral print. "They're cut a little more femininely than most cotton pyjamas, but it's the fabric that makes them so sexy. They're so lightweight," says Fowler. There are also pretty lace trimmed and embroidered camisoles and night dresses - the idea being that these are items you can wear in bed, to the beach or as a top.

One nightdress is an almost exact replica of one owned by Fowler's grandmother, others riff off pieces Wright picked up at Portobello market.

Fowler explains: "We try to find something that's unique but vintage-inspired."

The duo confess to having different tastes when it comes to fashion - "I'm more girly," Fowler explains, before saying to Wright, "but lately you've been more girly..." "Yeah I think it's time," Wright laughs. "Levi's and T-shirts my whole life. I was tired of being called a boy. They're like, 'What does he want to drink?' The short hair..." Wright says pointing to her head.

Today in a polka-dot Peter Pan-collared dress, Wright is a softer counterpart to her Underwood alter ego. Of the interest in her House of Cards wardrobe, Wright says that "it's been fascinating to watch it grow. The amount of emails we receive [asking] 'Where can we get that?' and we have to write back and say 'Well, we designed it.'"

The keen point is to "feel lithe and strong" says Wright. And good foundations. "[Joseph] Altuzarra really knows how to make a woman's dress. Then when you put on a pair of Spanx, nothing is moving, there's no jiggle. I'm not kidding, there's a whole body of Spanx under those dresses. You've got to tuck in," she says.

Commitment to the Underwood aesthetic is a full-time job. "On vacation, Robin's like 'I can't eat that, I've got to get back in those dresses'," Fowler laughs. "That and a pair of Louboutins or Jimmy Choos... It's exhausting," laments Wright. "I will tell you, that's the hardest part of the job. The heels and standing up so straight all the time. I get a massage twice a week when I'm shooting the show." It's no wonder she'd rather be wearing (her own) pyjamas. © Daily Telegraph

Spend a night in  Carrie Underwood’s PJs...

if pour les fem_2.jpg
Embroidered cotton night dress, €230.

Embroidered cotton night dress, €230

if pour les fem_4.jpg
Butterfly cotton pyjama shorts €117.

Butterfly cotton pyjama shorts €117

if pour les fem_3.jpg
Classic cotton pyjama set €230.

Classic cotton pyjama set €230

if pour les femme.jpg
Butterfly cotton pyjama top €182.

Butterfly cotton pyjama top €182

Irish Independent

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