February 2019 Maker of the Month: Sólas Sleepwear
This month we're talking to Ruth Mitchell and Ciorstaidh Monk of Glasgow based sleepwear brand Solas.
Each Solas piece is designed and made from start to finish with exceptional attention to and respect for the craft of making. On holding or wearing a piece of Solas this is apparent and the luxuriousness is tangible. Ruth’s delicate floral designs are printed onto 100% silk and expertly sewn into pieces centred around comfort, the word Solas coming from Scottish Gaelic for comfort, light and joy.
The silhouette of each piece is uniquely beautiful and considered, the wide leg pyjama pant is opulently generous in fabric and little details like covered buttons speak of Ciorstaidh’s trained eye and attention to detail. They are such a wholly original brand and we continue to be enthralled and excited about their every output.
We’re so happy to have your sleep masks in the shop for 2019 and to have you both talk to us about Solas this month!
How did you meet and what makes you a complimentary duo?
RM: We met in Cardonald college in 2005 when we were studying textiles and fashion, and we’ve stayed friends ever since. We always admired each other's work and we were looking for an opportunity to work together. We both worked for other people and felt it was time to make something of our own.
CM: We both left Glasgow after that - Ruth went to Melbourne then London, I went to Edinburgh then Reykjavik before coming back to Glasgow. We’d worked on a couple of different projects together, one-offs. It wasn’t until Ruth returned to Glasgow in 2015 that we started talking about doing something more focused.
RM: We came up with the idea of making pyjamas one night over dinner, we were talking about how it would be really nice to have some lovely pyjamas that you could also wear as clothing.
CM: Because of our different skill sets - Ruth has the print element and and I take care of the shapes, it was just really complimentary and made sense that we do something together.
What do you say to people who have only ever worn an old t-shirt and bobbly leggings combo to bed? What is there to be said for sleeping in luxe sleepwear?
RM: I think people - ourselves included - lead such a busy life, doing a lot of things - you can neglect your home life a bit - and not look after yourself. Not eating at regular times, not getting enough sleep, and not thinking about your nest. The ultimate luxury in all of that is to have beautiful things to sleep in and make your bed and your bedroom really lovely and a really nice place to go back to. Silk is so tactile, it feels so luxurious to put silk pyjamas on - it’s like the most amazing feeling; on a par with bubble baths and massages and nice smells and stuff, in terms of a sensory thing.
CM: Lots of the people we know are freelance, or doing multiple things, we’re all over-worked and it’s really nice to stop, slow down, take that time just for you. Put a pause on everything, just be in your house, your own haven. Try not to wear scabby stuff just because no-one's going to see it, get something nice (it doesn’t need to be SOLAS sleepwear!) just something you feel good in.
RM: It’s nice to think about materials. I personally, as time has gone on, am much more aware of what things are made of. I’ve started to think about more tactile fabrics. I found this velvet top in a charity shop that I bought just because it feels nice. Think about fabrics like silk, cotton, velvet, wool - they feel nice against your body, it’s just nice to be a bit more considered about it.
As a luxury or aspirational brand is it important for you to have more affordable pieces like the sleep masks and scrunchies?
CM: When we started making the pyjamas and we wanted to use as much of the fabric as we could to avoid waste, so we decided to make sleepmasks out the pieces left over. They started to sell really well on instagram, our friends and family could buy them and support us without spending too much money. It’s a small item, it has the print and the silk, a little piece of SOLAS. When I started wearing mine it was kind of like the start of doing things like that for myself - really looking after myself more and putting that first.
RM: Not rushing things and taking a bit more time - I’d compare it to nice facecream, or a nice candle, making a point of staying in one evening, doing chilled stuff, putting the time in to make a nice playlist.
CM:Carving out time. Everyone is so strapped for time now, so it’s that stopping, putting the sleepmask on, it’s just you and your Buddhify app...We’ve had lots messages from customers who have got in touch to tell us about their extra long sleeps!
RM: We’re so addicted to our phones so it’s like ripping yourself away from the internet and putting your sleepmask on. And also with the price, we didn’t realise how expensive it would be to make the pyjamas. It’s inescapably expensive for us to make them, never mind the selling price, so it just makes sense to make smaller things to make it more accessible for people.
CM: It was a bit of a reality check - to find out how much things actually cost. Even after working for other brands, when you need to consider all of the costs, we are so used to the high street and fast fashion, we are used to brands being able to order huge quantities and driving their prices down. As an independent brand ordering a small amount of fabric and making to order, cost prices are expensive. So, even though SOLAS is in the luxury market, it is really important to us that we had a range of price points to make it a bit more accessible.
What do you like most about Glasgow as a creative city and base for Solas?
CM: Everyone knows everyone - it’s a pretty tight community. You know of or you’re aware of everyone who is doing cool stuff in the city. Visual arts, music, luxury craft, fashion, there are loads of people doing cool stuff right now. The markets (Hypermarket, Supermarket, Grey Wolf Studio Sale, Tea Green) have been really good too.
RM: The markets have actually been making a community. They are a place for people to socialise, get some nice street food, feel good about supporting small businesses and it’s a good way for us to talk to people about our brand. Before, designers would be working away by themselves, but this is a really good way for people to meet each other. We’ve approached people about things and collaborated, people have been really encouraging and open. Retailers have been really open too. If you’re in a bigger city you can get lost - it’s saturated. Here it feels like there’s more space for everyone. Loads of studio spaces, people want to see new stuff. It’s also closer to our childhood homes and it’s easy to get out into nature from Glasgow, to escape a bit from city life.
What are your top tips for sticking it out and staying inspired and cosy over the course of a Glasgow winter?
CM: The Belle. Banana Moon. Cosy dinners, make friends with Ruth who makes delicious food.
RM: Ciorstaidh’s house for gin and tonics in fancy glasses, with snacks! See as many people as possible. Make your house as cosy and warm as possible, nice lighting. Something to look forward to coming home to.
RM: Go to the Botanics, go for walks. Any opportunity of sun, get outside!
CM: Keep drawing, go to classes - there are loads of classes.
Can you tell us more about the workshops you recently ran in Nigeria?
CM: I work for Fashion Foundry and we recently delivered an international piece in Lagos, Nigeria on behalf of the British Council. We pulled together a team of five people working in the industry including Ruth, Carolyn Edmondson, Robert Newman and Flavia Bon. Alongside the partner organisation Assembly Hub, we delivered creative skills and business support to 50 fashion designers over two weeks. It was so inspirational and amazing!
RM: Travel is a big inspiration for us. It was an opportunity for us to learn about textiles over there and meet new designers.
CM: We are really inspired by home but travel is definitely a huge inspiration. It’s nice to be able to wear our sleepmasks wherever we are - taking a little bit of home with us!
Lastly, we always ask our interviewees to share something they’re coveting in the shop
CM: Soizig Carey’s gold hoop Torc earrings.
RM: Yes Soizig’s pieces and everything Risotto!