I recently had the opportunity to partner up with Pajama Sutra and I wore these super cute pj’s on my recent trip to Asheville, North Carolina. What can be more perfect – hot chocolate, pj’s and the cabin life.
When did you first start Pajama Sutra?
PajamaSutra first existed in my head in the Summer of 2007, and it took almost a year to develop the first collection. That’s also when I found out my husband and I were expecting our first baby…so I was pregnant and very motivated to build the foundation for the business before she was born. It was definitely a challenge, but so worth it! I was so, so glad I had already developed my patterns, sourced fabrics, made samples, and begun working with a production team before I became a mom, because it would have been almost impossible to do with a newborn!
How did Pajama Sutra come to be?
I have a background in design from both UCLA and Stanford, and had fallen in love with textiles and garment construction while working on my MFA. I always knew I would start a clothing line of my own, and had started with a small collection of Indian formalwear. I quickly learned after selling the last piece that it was not an easily scalable business for me, and while I had a lot of fun doing it, I wasn’t really bringing anything new or unique to that industry. It was a learning experience that meant a lot to me, and I treasure it to this day.
Fast forward to 2007. It was a challenging time for my extended family, and I was giving a lot of myself to help others. PajamaSutra started as a creative outlet for me – a much needed project just for myself. Looking back, I think I chose to design loungewear because of the stressful environment I was in at the time, and had felt the need to design something comforting…and what’s more comforting than PJs?
Also, no one else was designing Indian-inspired loungewear, and it seemed like the perfect fit for me as a designer with family roots in India. I made my first lounge pant pattern and sewed my first sample, then booked a flight to India to search for fabrics. I was so inspired in India…and also got very sick! I remember finding myself in the garment district in Mumbai in a below-ground indoor marketplace labyrinth, going from stall to stall and searching until I finally found it! And despite being totally ill I was just so happy to be there, in that moment, with the fabrics that were exactly what I was looking for.
Back in LA I started working on the first collection. I asked a friend of mine to model for me, and took the first photos myself. I was so lucky to find an LA-based production team that I loved working with, because it was important to me to be close by and involved at every step of production.
Today our production is both in India and California, and we work with models and professional photographers for our shoots, so we’re a long way from where it started!
Why the name Pajama Sutra?
I was born in California, and my parents immigrated from India, so I grew up with two cultures, really. The word “Pajama” is actually a word adopted into English from Hindi, so that part just seemed perfect!
“Sutra” means “thread” or “to sew.” PajamaSutra also sounds a bit like “kama sutra” which is one of those things I don’t really think I thought too much about at the time…but in a way it worked out well because the business name was really memorable. At trade shows and exhibitions I would get a lot of smiles and “Oh, that’s so cute, I love the name!” It’s so hard to pick a business name that will stand the test of time, and so far I’m pretty happy with it!
Another funny, personal bit is that I changed my name when I was in elementary school (long story). I was born with the initials “PJ” and now my initials are “SU” after marriage. So, PJSU = PajamaSutra!
What is your favorite design or project you have done thus far?
My personal favorite has been our Mommy and Me robe collection! It’s been so much fun to work on, and it truly is magical when we receive photos from moms and daughters in our loungewear, enjoying special moments together. Its about making memories together at a time in our culture when we are always so busy, and we rarely just sit and focus entirely on one another. It’s been my personal goal as a mom to be less distracted when I’m around my kids (so hard to do while owning a business) but its so important. Our kids watch everything we do, and the Mommy and Me line is about investing time with and being a positive role model for our little ones.
Another incredible project has been working with Miss Universe this year, and we hope to continue that sponsorship!
What is something interesting that you would like to share with everyone?
When I first started PajamaSutra, I never thought about designing loungewear for brides! I was squarely focused on the wholesale business and working with retailers. A few years into it, my engaged sister-in-law asked me to make robes for her bridesmaids and for herself, and of course I said yes. After that, several friends asked the same question, and it was obvious to me that this was the next step for PajamaSutra! I guess you could say I was pulled into the wedding industry, but I’m so glad I was!
The bridal loungewear market is heavily, heavily saturated, but there was – and is – no other loungewear company focusing on the South Asian bridal market. I feel like South Asian brides need more options other than pastel florals or lace, and that’s where we come in! A blend of both modern and traditional, for brides who want something that is feminine and pretty with a touch of Indian heritage. A true blend of both cultures.
Tell us about yourself!
I’m a mom of three young kids, married to a neurosurgeon, and we live in Southern California. I love interior design and would probably be doing something in that field if I weren’t in this business. I grew up in the SF bay area, have one sister, and no pets…though we used to have bunnies. I studied and used to teach dance. I’m a perfectionist, love to bake, am a loyal friend, and would rather do a relaxing girls’ trip to Napa than go wild in Vegas!
What is in the works and what can we look forward to for Pajama Sutra in 2018?
Oh I have so much planned for 2018! More styles for sure, including a few lingerie pieces that are very much inspired by the sexiness of a saree blouse. This month we’re working on a fun collaboration involving bridesmaid gift boxes, as well as a photo shoot celebrating fellow South Asian women entrepreneurs. Its so important to support each other! On the business side of things, I’d love to do some hiring very soon, especially in production as well as marketing/social media. We are expanding our wholesale catalogue and look forward to working with new retailers soon!
Anything I missed that you would like to add
Yes! If there is anyone out there who is interested in starting their own business, whether it is loungewear, or anything else, I would love to offer help and support – just reach out!
I think its so important to care about each other, and I personally feel secure enough as a designer and as a person that I consider “competitors” to be more like colleagues – and hopefully, friends. Get out there and chase your dreams!
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