Interview: Renee Claire of BedHead Pajamas

We had the pleasure of meeting the brains behind BedHead Pajamas, Renee Claire, not too long ago at a party for their new New York store, nestled in the uber-chic, intimates-friendly block of Elizabeth between Houston and Prince. Long before pajamas became the “it” item, Los Angeles-based BedHead revitalized the sleepwear market with their classic fits, sublime cotton fabrics and vibrant yet sophisticated prints. These aren’t your average kitschy conversational pajamas; a great deal of art and thought goes into each design – call it “the intellectual pajama.” Not only do we love wearing them, but BedHead is also our go-to place for fail-proof gifts, whether you are shopping for dad or your baby niece.

In between sips of margaritas, impromptu sing-alongs to The Beach Boys and a surprise celebrity sighting (hint: major style icon/muse to a certain fan-wielding designer), Renee enlightened us on her design process, the current collection and where she finds inspiration. While our memory of the evening is a bit spotty, Renee was kind enough reproduce her insightful answers via email. Thanks, Renee!

How long has the business been around, and how did you get started?

Happy to report that BedHead Pajamas just hit its 15th year in business. Prior to BedHead, I had a dress line called Renee Claire, which I was producing and designing for five years. The dress market started to fizzle in 1999; and when I was delivering what I thought was to be my last round of dresses, I saw a pair of pajamas in a retailer’s window and decided that I would love to explore how creative I could be making pajamas. And just like that, Bedhead was born.

Where do you find most of your design inspiration?

My inspiration comes from everything I see, hear, feel and touch. My eyes are always open. I could see a great graphic and think, what a lovely color combination, and that could tip off a direction for fall. I read A LOT of art books, see museum shows, shop the markets, walk the streets and travel a great deal. I love dance and movement and sometimes dancer costumes will strike a chord. I am a big fan of vintage clothing and sometimes scour the great vintage shops in our city – The Way We Wore and American Rag are some of my favorites.

Many of your prints have a subtle ethnic influence. Do you do a lot of traveling? Any favorite places to visit?

Funny you should ask, I just got back from a fabulously enriching trip to Florence, Siena and the Tuscan countryside. I fell in love with the Uffizi – and the ceiling, especially – and am working on my own twist of that pattern for Spring 2013. I do often include an ethnic influence. It might be a combination of ideas I have seen while traveling in Morocco (another favorite) and Egypt. Next up is India, and I can’t wait to experience that bustling, frenetic part of the world.

You have collaborated with a few artists on prints. Can you list these artists and briefly describe how you got involved with them? Any other collaborations on the horizon, or is there anyone you would love to work with?

Most of the artists we have collaborated with are from the Los Angeles area. They all exhibit at the Rosamund Felsen Gallery. We first started with a sculptor Patrick Nickell (you can see his sculpture gracing the LA store window). He created a very cool geometric repeat pattern that I helped color,and then make into a limited edition style. This is typical of the process and collaboration. The artist is paid a fee to create a fabulous window. Then a print is created to coincide with the display. We share the profits on a print run of the cloth. We have also worked with Jean Lowe and John Gauld, and upcoming, we have a new window going up with Kim MacConnel. We had a lovely collaboration with LACMA this past year celebrating Modernism by using an archival print by Paul Laszlo from the show and reproducing it on knit and cotton sateen to sell in our stores and at the LACMA gift shop. Currently there is an Mbuti drawing exhibit up at the Fowler Museum at UCLA. I selected an exquisite drawing from the show and designed and produced a limited run of Mbuti pajamas.

You have perfected a few, very classic pajama silhouettes in the sleepwear line. How did you arrive at these particular fits/silhouettes, do they ever alter from season to season, and are there any new styles you plan to add to the collection?

After many fittings and reworkings, the classic PJ is the number one seller. It is graded for all body types and we even offer plus sizes. The initial silhouette was inspired by the typical men’s pajama in the 40s. Then we added certain details. I have always loved piping and drawstring. It really adds to the overall longevity and grace of the garment. BedHead doesn’t change the classic pajamas from season to season; we figure, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Name an item in your wardrobe that best describes your style and/or your design aesthetic.

I have an my Orla Kiely dress that I absolutely adore. She’s a designer I truly admire and love to see what she dreams up. And her collections are pattern-driven like mine. The dress is girly, with a light silver background with an occasional bow printed in cream, placed here and there on the cloth. It is well-tailored and suits my taste and shape.


For more, make sure to visit bedheadpjs.com.

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