Float Away - a love letter to our team

Float Away - a Parisian love letter to teamwork

By Alice Whiteley

Float Away - a love letter to our team

Hello. Thanks for stopping by.

Are you feeling nostalgic and reflective? I am. The world has hit a really challenging time. 

Yawn is now six years old. I left a secure career as a management consultant in my mid thirties to build an independent brand focused on helping other women to relax and feel good. I could never have known how challenging the journey would be. Or how much joy building a team would give me. Enjoying the ride is more than half the point.

​So – this is a love letter to the team and an introduction to one of our best selling prints -  ‘Float Away’. It was inspired by the beauty of Paris and drawn by designer Peter. He’s hidden an Eiffel Tower, surely one of the most beautiful buildings on earth.

But the real story behind this print is a story from Yawn in its earliest days.

It starts in a panic at 3am in Ealing, West London one cold January morning in 2015. Me and my mum are packing up the car and travelling by ferry to Paris. We're about to launch Yawn at the international nightwear trade show Salon De La Lingerie. We had taken the only stand we could afford - a small one. My co-founders (Phil and Roly) have figured out a way to make our brand look beautiful. I now need to assemble all the "props", shove them in the boot and get on the road. My seven year old daughter has helped me with the lavender bag stuffing. To say I am intimidated is understating it.

I got a call on my mobile on the ferry over. I remember rough seas. A French lady asked whether Yawn would have a meeting with Galeries Lafayette - the world famous French department store - at 10am tomorrow?  After a terrible night's sleep in our small b&b we meet their eight-strong team at our stand. They oohed and aahed - we were original, different, they loved the pjs and the quirky British stories behind our prints. Incredibly, the head buyer wanted to sell Yawn from their iconic flagship Paris store. This doesn't happen. They were offering us a whole concession. Alongside iconic brands Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Triumph, Hanro, Love Stories.
We went back to Paris, visiting an airless office on the Rue La Fayette to negotiate the deal. They asked us for an exclusive print, WAY before we knew how to do such a thing. Our prints take time to make and time to print. We didn't know if our factory could do it. We agreed anyway then then drank Kir Royales in a little roadside bar to celebrate.

​We pushed ourselves and Float Away was born - celebrating our new Parisian relationship. I had sleepless nights with the financial worry. Other brands could afford to send logistics teams to stock up their concessions, we did it ourselves in the middle of the night. It was sheer madness and completely exhausting and also the best fun. 

​Incredibly tragically the Paris attacks happened. Understandably, our launch didn't go the way we had expected and trading was near impossible. The store itself was being guarded by armed police. We couldn't sustain the concession. At our final meeting in Paris to wrap things up and commiserate I was feeling blue. One of the lovely retail assistants on the shop floor made me smile saying "you'll be back, one day".  I smiled again when I saw that fellow Brit Stella McCartney was going to be taking our space. 

​Around this time we had hired our brilliant first employee. We started growing our presence. Focused PR efforts resulted in the FT featuring us - and they chose Float Away as the print to feature. Yawn started discovering customers across the world and we have grown organically ever since. In the end we moved away from wholesale and we never did go back to Galeries Lafayette. But I will never regret the decision to make that initial leap. Float Away remains one of our best selling prints, five years on - and we are finding it hard to keep in stock (sorry). 

So overnight success isn't real and neither is the simple Paris story behind this print. As much as anything, Float Away is about passion, perseverance and the romance of building something from nothing. For me, it represents hope and taking chances. Having the courage to grab opportunities (the balloon!) when they come, even when they scare you. You never know where they might lead.

This little story is also my love letter to the kind and talented people who took a leap along the way with Yawn. Without whom Float Away wouldn't have been possible. It comes with huge thanks to all of you – my co-founders Phil and Roly and their hugely talented design agency, my mum Sue who worked with us from the beginning. Current and old team members at Yawn - Charlotte, Tamara, Imogen, Hina, Marina, Holly, Sofia and Cloudia. Our agency, factory and logistics partners. Mentors. Friends and family. My brilliant husband and ever-supportive kids who have grown up alongside this fourth child. You have made the journey so far possible.

The world faces a really challenging time right now but I'm convinced that the future holds joy. Together we can make great things happen.

​With love and thanks,
​Alice x

​MD/Founder Yawn