Joggers replacing jeans:
About Lunya, a thriving brand due to the rising demand for loungewear

The world is working, exercising and socialising at home because of the coronavirus outbreak and demand for loungewear is increasing. Lockdown blurred the lines and made loungewear all-day-wear. Will this cater to consumers’ new normal? I talked to Ashley Merrill, founder of luxury loungewear brand Lunya about this consumer shift and her thriving business.

Comfortable clothes are booming as people stay home. More and more brands are shifting their production to this demand for work-from-home clothes and to maintain cash flow. Lunya is a modern sleep and loungewear brand, worn by American model Emily Didonato, American actress Yara Shadi and former first lady Michelle Obama. “The products are intentionally designed to inspire comfort and confidence. We develop our own fabrics that are luxuriously soft and made from predominantly natural fibers.”

I think it’s time to replace my vintage, oversized, men’s Nike t-shirt I’ve been lounging around in for the past three days. Did I already mention that Michelle Obama wears Lunya? I’m excited to learn more about Ashley Merrill and her inspiring business.  “I started lunya in 2012 because I felt like there was no one who was solving the problem of what to wear to bed and around the home for that matter. I felt like there was an opportunity to make something that you could feel comfortable and confident in and potentially even elevate the quality of sleep. With Lunya I want to reinvent sleepwear for the modern woman,” Merrill says.

“We were already spending more and more time at home and Covid-19 just accelerated this.”

Cozy cotton silk bike short, Lunya

Loungewear and athleisure are among the only apparel categories seeing a rise in demand amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Lunya is one of those thriving loungewear brands. “Lunya grew a lot, but it was candidly already growing. My thesis is that we were already spending more and more time at home and Covid-19 just accelerated this,” she says. “Entrepreneurship involves rolling with the punches. This year has thrown a lot, but I’m lucky because I’m in a digital business and in a category that is still very relevant.”
Although these businesses are currently growing more than ever, athleisure and the cozier sister-category loungewear trends aren’t new. Consumers want stylisch, cross-functional athleisure styles that fit their multidimensional lifestyle: work, home, the gym and on the go for the past decade. Covid-19 shifted this trend to the next level.

“Actually my jeans are now gathering dust on a top shelf

I personally have been wearing hoodies and sweatpants for so long that I think I’ve forgotten how to operate buttons. Okay, that’s not exactly true, but I noticed that I prefer entering a zoom meeting in comfy clothes instead of tight skirts. Today I put on a Ganni jacket to dress it up, but my heart truly lies in staying comfortable so the bottoms are Nike joggers. I wonder if Merrill dressed up for zoom meetings the past months. “I 100% did not dress up for zoom meetings these past months. What you see is what you get. I’m a casual person, perhaps as you would expect,” she answers. “Actually my jeans are now gathering dust on a top shelf somewhere.” I can agree with her, after all who doesn’t like the idea of being able to stay comfortable all day long?

With everything going on right now people seek comfort and security. “As a brand we always need to meet people where they’re at.” Merrill says.  “We did have to go through copy and remove things that felt in poor taste in the face of Covid-19. Luckily Lunya was in high demand so there was lots of interest in variation and newness so we released a new collection during ockdown to introduce more options to serve a wider group of people. On the socials we showed some behind the scenes of the people working at lunya. Content about how they were spending their time at home to get a connection with our followers. We were all in this together, while also very much apart in this shared experience.” Regarding her own fashion purchases she says: “I love fashion as an art form, but frankly haven’t purchased one piece since Covid-19 because it feels a little frivolous. My appreciation for it is still there, but it’s just far less relevant in my life. Besides that, I don’t leave my house much. It’s a major change, but candidly i’m a homebody so in many ways i prefer it.”

I’m feeling much better about the fact that i’m basically living in loungewear these days, but doesn’t dressing up make you more productive? What about the phrase “dress for success”? There have been past studies on how clothing affects performance. Dressing in formal wear is proven to increase analytical thinking and the reason why I put on a Ganni blazer today is to look somehow professional. Contrariwise, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook swears by wearing the same casual clothes to work every day because it allows him to focus on more important decisions. This is what Merrill has to say about it: “Before i started Lunya I was wearing my husband’s old frat t-shirt and rolled up boxer briefs. In the pursuit of comfort, I had let the wheels fall off. This realization sent me on a journey to find comfortable, flattering sleep and loungewear, but the options available didn’t match the modern woman I was or wanted to be. That’s why i started Lunya.” Lunya shows that loungewear doesn’t have to be slompy, boring and make you feel lazy and unproductive. It’s not about what you wear, but about how it makes you feel.

Ashley Merrill working from home

“I think this work from home trend is only just beginning.”

While discussing if this trend will shape the fashion industry in the post-pandemic life Merrill says: “100% this trend is here to stay. My theory has always been that the world is moving into more comfortable clothes,” she says. “I think the popularity of people wearing loungewear might shift the conversation from what we look like on the outside to who we are on the inside. I actually think it might shift society in a positive direction, centered around substance. Comfort will reign supreme and I think dress up items will become more few and far between. I also think and hope there will be a reduction in consumption demand for novelty light wear pieces. That could be wonderful for the environment.”
But what if the stay-at-home restrictions eventually begin to ease?
“I think more businesses will continue to lean into work from home. It reduces Headquarters costs, allows you to hire talent all over the world and my team generally prefers it. Even if people leave the home to go out again I think this work from home trend is only just beginning.”

More from Rosa-Milly Mugabe

Brands and Innovation         Amsterdam Fashion Institute