Photo by Stephanie Colgan
A career entrepreneur, Monica Nassif founded Caldrea in 1999 and Mrs. Meyer’s shortly thereafter—Minneapolis-based brands that opened the door to a new category of luxury household cleaners. She left the top post two years ago with nothing but visions of lounging in a glamorous caftan.
Then she went shopping. “I couldn’t find anything elegant, refined,” Nassif says. “I started thinking: The sleepwear category is everywhere, and nowhere.”
And so it began. Again. This month, Nassif will launch her new collection of luxury sleepwear, Sophia Graydon—names she plucked from her family tree. She’s targeting affluent women who have moved beyond frilly without resigning themselves to flannel. It’s pretty but not overtly sexy. Appropriate on an intimate weekend getaway or for a family brunch. The look is tailored, and craftsmanship is key. Pieces range from a $375 men’s-inspired box-pleated cotton nightshirt to a Scottish cashmere robe with French silk lining that retails for $3,950.
“If you make a superior product, consumers will buy,” Nassif says. “I didn’t want to take any shortcuts.”
She did want to keep production in Minneapolis, which proved a challenge. Because there are so few manufacturing jobs left in town, skilled sewers have moved away or found other work. A professor from the University of Minnesota’s College of Design connected Nassif with patternmaker Ida Matthys, who had worked with New York fashion brands including The Row and Chado Ralph Rucci but was eager to return home to the Twin Cities. Matthys, director of atelier for Sophia Graydon, runs a Northeast Minneapolis workroom of five sewers.
“The craftsmanship and artistry reminds me of growing up,” says Nassif, who learned about petite French seams practically before she could tie her shoes. “I like the idea of straddling Old World/New World,” Nassif says. The old: high-quality products made by artisans. The new: Sophia Graydon will be sold online exclusively.
Nassif says online gives her greater control of her brand. Eventually, she’d like to open Sophia Graydon boutiques. The focus now is on connecting with upscale consumers and putting the finishing touches on the spring 2013 collection. It looks like it will be a while before Nassif devotes an afternoon to lounging. At least, when the day comes, she knows she’ll be outfitted in style.