Roxane Horton describes herself as a ‘fake designer’. Her luxury sleepwear label was borne out of a desire to create a noble social initiative rather than being purely motivated by fashion. Despite being inspired by the 1950s and 60s, Alexandria Main sleepwear is timeless. The pairings imitate the classic shirt-boxer shorts combination worn by men, though rendered in striped silk and silk/cotton. “It’s luxurious because of the quality of the work; the buttons are all fabric covered, the seams are French seamed. It takes six days to hand weave enough silk for one pair of pyjamas,” Roxane explains.
Available in pastel stripes, bright block colours and bold prints, the label was born after she spotted a luminous bundle of pink and white fabric folded on a shelf between a pile of live crabs and pink eggs at Phnom Penh markets in Cambodia. “I immediately knew I wanted to use the fabric. It wouldn’t lend itself well to swimwear cover-ups, and ball gowns were out of the question. In that moment, Alexandria Main became a silk sleepwear brand.”
Equipped with a degree in Foreign Policy and Human Rights, Roxane has a long-term appreciation for issues facing women in developing countries. “We know that when women earn income they are far more likely than men to spend it on the health and education of their children and that has a ripple effect that increases living standards across the entire country,” she states. “I decided to set up a small business with a focus on ethical production that could contribute to providing women with sustainable paid work.” After visiting Cambodia in 2007, describing the country as “crazy compelling; the sort of place that makes you feel alive in a way you don’t feel anywhere else”, Roxane decided it made sense to set up her ethically sourced business in a place where the need for economic empowerment was greatest. “It’s improved over recent years, but the stats on Cambodia are still not great. It’s one of the poorest countries in Asia – 2.66 million people live on less than one dollar twenty a day.
Thirty-seven per cent of Cambodian children suffer from chronic malnutrition,” she reveals. “I use a studio called Fair Sew in Phnom Penh to make all my garments. The sector is sadly riddled with examples of labour practices that harm, rather than help, their workers. At Fair Sew, all the seamstresses are paid more than a living wage. They have a good work/life balance and they are offered free English lessons.”While the silk garments are handwoven, the silk/cotton pyjamas also boast environmental benefits, made from ‘remnant stock’ fabric that would have otherwise gone to landfill. “I use the fabric because it is gorgeous, but the social value is equally important.”
One day, Roxane dreams of seeing Alexandria Main sleepwear stocked in every major luxury hotel boutique. For now, she simply urges everybody to consume consciously. “We all have the power to make a positive difference in the lives of other people and it would be a shame to waste it.”