What to buy at local label Maisonzhou's pop-up store in Takashimaya
Sleep on it
Maisonzhou has come a long way. It hasn't been a year since the sleepwear label appeared on the shelves of The Beauty Candy Apothecary in Mandarin Gallery and KEEPERS at the National Design Centre last year, but lawyer-turned-designer Sophie Corlett already has big plans for her baby: World domination. But first on her agenda is a pop-up at Takashimaya, happening now. She tells us all about it.
Takashimaya x Maisonzhou — that's exciting.
Yes! They saw the line, then they invited us to come in for a pop-up event. Sleepwear is a new cateogory for Takashimaya — the Lingerie Salon mainly carries international lingerie brands at the moment — so we're thrilled to have been asked and can't wait to introduce their customers to the brand.
What's the one thing customers should buy?
The pajama sets are so popular. I can't keep the Midnight Blue colour in stock!
Why do you think it's a best seller?
The stretch-silk we use is incredible — it feels like you are sleeping with nothing on. Silk is a marvel in that it is temperature-regulating and keeps you warm when it's cold and cool when it's warm. We added a little stretch to give a super-flattering fit and ease of movement in the seams when you sleep.
What are the other core pieces from your collection?
The label just launched in October last year but I would say that we already have an iconic collection of pieces which I know will stay with the brand for many seasons to come: Our long sleeved Emma pajama jacket and Manon pajama trousers for instance. The short-sleeved Eloise pajama jacket, Fang shorts and the Xi Chemise are extremely popular too.
What's new at Maisonzhou?
We just released the pajama sets in new colours inspired by light. There's a gorgeous cream which matches with all the other pieces in the collection, and a stunning silver. We've also recently launched a monogramming service so that customers can personalise their pajamas with their initials. The one thing I underestimated was how many people would buy the pieces to wear during the day. As a result, we'll be adding more day-to-night pieces later in the year, which can be worn anywhere, not just to bed.
Maisonzhou is proudly designed for Asian and international figures. Tell us about that.
We're an Asian brand and it's important to me that we cater for a petite Asian frame. Our smallest size is a petite length, designed for women under 165cm. We also design pieces which are cut long but can be hemmed (e.g. the Qiang Robe and the Bette Wrap Dress) or we cut on the bias so that the dress adjusts to the body shape. My mother is 160cm and I'm 175cm so I always keep in mind that we should both be able to wear the same pieces.
What is your brand DNA? What do you stand for?
Quality and integrity. Our pieces are made to last and the workmanship is excellent. We want to move away from fast fashion and create favourites that will still look good for years to come.
"We're an Asian brand and it's important to me that we cater for a petite Asian frame. Our smallest size is a petite length, designed for women under 165cm."
How did the name Maisonzhou come about?
I wanted the name to reflect my background — I'm British by birth but I spent years living in Hong Kong and now in Singapore — as well as my Asian influences. Traditionally, a French fashion house is called a maison so that seemed the starting point as a vintage-inspired brand. I took interest in a Chinese opera singer, Xiaoyan Zhou, who was born in Shanghai and was sent as a young woman to study and sing in France, where she led an extraordinary life. Like a Chinese Josephine Baker! I love her story and the enormous sense of adventure it conjures. In many ways, she inspired the brand's muse — Madame Zhou. There is also a lovely saying in French — les petits zouzous — which is a term of endearment for children and sounds very similar. So it all just fit together!
You were a lawyer before all this, yes?
I practised law for 12 years in London, Hong Kong and Singapore. I had a fabulous job as a lawyer and a great employer but the urge to create something of my own and to try something different was overwhelming. I also have two children and I found conventional work hours and practises very restrictive. I juggle my work around my home life now and we're all better off for it, although I don't get much me time.
Where did you get the idea to start your label?
I grew up with a family of retailers and my first Saturday job was as a sales assistant in a local lingerie store. I also worked in many fashion magazines (including British Vogue and The Sunday Times Style Magazine) and fashion suppliers before deciding to follow law as a career. I moved to Hong Kong as a lawyer in 2004 and fell totally in love with the city, its energy and spirit... its melting pot of local and international fashion, luxury and high street. It was massivley inspiring, so the idea for the label definitely came from there.
"I had a fabulous job as a lawyer and a great employer but the urge to create something of my own and to try something different was overwhelming."
And then you moved to Singapore...
9 years later! I realised couldn't find any local brands producing sleepwear suitable for the climate. It was very clear to me that I wanted to do a collection that could be mixed and matched together. I always team the trousers with other tops so I'm sure I'm not the only person who has a drawer full of unworn pajama jackets. My aesthetic is predominantly European, although of course the pajama suit was originally an Asian invention before Chanel popularised it in the '30s.
It's so great to see local businesses like yours flourishing.
I've had so much support when I launched the brand, almost all from other local businesses so I try to use small local companies for my branding and design, PR, stylists and photographers. Without a support network, it's almost impossible to get going. Hence, as a consumer I try to do the same too — buy local, drink chai lattes in independent coffee shops (hello, Monument Lifestyle!).
How do you see the brand growing in the next few years?
I would love to see us stocked across Asia. We currently sell in Hong Kong and Singapore and shortly, we are going into our first retailer in China, which is extremely exciting. We’re keen to extend our relationships with luxury hotels too (we're available in Four Seasons Hotel and the W Hotel) and we’re looking for partnerships in the Middle East and Russia. I also hope to find a good online home so that we can extend the reach of the brand globally.
Maisonzhou is available online and at the pop-up store in Takashimaya from now until 16 May.