The Story Behind the Iconic Gisele
“Feeling modal for the first time was epiphanic,” says Ali Mejia, co-founder and chief inspiration officer at Eberjey. “I couldn’t believe the level of softness. None of the fabrics I was working with (at the time) had the buttery-soft hand feel of modal. I became obsessed and started playing with it in all sorts of sleepwear silhouettes.”
This was in 2005. Eberjey had been around for nearly a decade, but had primarily been working with cotton blends. A new world opened up once Mejia’s hand felt that fabric. It was everything she needed to make pieces that fully embodied relaxation. It was also what she used to make Eberjey’s perfect pajama set, now widely known as Gisele.
Marrying a classic silhouette inspired by Savile Row — the central London street synonymous with bespoke men’s tailoring — and the euphoric softness of modal, Gisele, first released in 2005, quickly became a rising star. Department stores could barely keep it in stock. The press hits flooded in. In 2018, the PJ's landed on Oprah’s Favorite Things list, sending demand into a new stratosphere. Now, over 16 years later, it’s still an off-duty essential and has been spotted on everyone from Meghan Markle and Kylie Jenner to JLo and Eva Chen.
Of course, an icon isn’t made overnight. Here, Mejia revisits the creative journey that led her and her team to Eberjey’s best-selling pajama set.
In the Mid-90s, Sleepwear Needed A Change
We launched Eberjey in 1996 when a couple key players had virtual control over the sleepwear/lingerie market. They occupied opposite ends of the design spectrum: va-va-voom versus completely minimalist. There was nothing in between. I saw both a void and an opportunity. I wanted sleepwear that was soft, effortless, timeless, and universally flattering — unfussy but thoughtful. What I wanted didn’t exist, so I created it myself.
“What I wanted didn’t exist, so I created it myself.”
Led by Softness
Softness evokes relaxation and supports a better night’s sleep — always central to our mission. It’s not just about the fabrics either. We prioritize softness and comfort in our elastics, bra straps, and labels. Everything has to pass the in-house softness test. Nothing can pull or tug in the wrong places.
“Everything has to pass the in-house softness test.”
The Gisele collection had to embody this, of course. We’d found our fabric, and now we needed the silhouette. I had always loved traditional men’s Savile Row pajamas, and wanted to pair that timeless aesthetic with a soft, stretch jersey.
Finding That Fit
It took several fittings until we perfected the cut. Modal, though spectacularly soft, presents its own design and production challenges. It tends to cling to the body, so Gisele had to have the ideal amount of drape. It’s also tricky to sew, so we worked extensively with our factory on every seam, hem, and finishing touch. A classic PJ is much easier to sew in a non-stretch woven fabric; but making modal work was well worth the effort.
Gisele’s Sustainable Future
Over the years, we’ve subtly evolved the design to match our customers’ modern sensibilities. We lengthened the inseam, lifted the neck drop slightly, and while the low-rider look was the epitome of early aughts fashion, a higher waist is more popular these days, so we adjusted the rise.
We also always look to sustainable fabrics. We’ve since upgraded our Gisele to TENCEL™ Modal, which is still silky-soft but also biodegradable. It comes from raw beech tree pulp (a sustainable resource) and is certified by OEKO-TEX®, one of the best-known textile labels that tests for harmful substances.
An Icon Is Forever
The theme of the collection that launched the Gisele (named after the Austrian ballet, not the supermodel) was called “Prima Ballerina,” and was an exploration of movement, skill, discipline, and grace. The notion translated beautifully to the natural flow and comfortable confidence of wearing Gisele.
Without ever knowing just how big it would become, we’ve loved seeing this classic piece in our collection withstand the test of time, year after year, trend after trend — and even, imitation after imitation. Like Fast Company recently wrote, “I’ve seen a lot of knockoffs of this pajama set in the years since I got mine. I can’t vouch for how well they’ve managed to replicate Eberjey’s deliciously luxurious and remarkably durable PJ's. But I can say that the original would be hard to top.”
Slipping into them feels instantly calming, delightful, and even a little magical — much like when I first felt that fabric. We knew then we had something extra-special on our hands, and we were right.