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Softening the transition from sleepwear to workwear

David Schout

Like many office workers, Southban\ntrepreneur Nicola Nemaric has never particularly embraced the morning ritual of slipping out of pyjamas and into corporate-appropriate attire.

And one day, she thought enough was enough.

“It was the middle of winter, and I didn’t want to get out of bed,” she told Southbank News.

“I kept wishing someone would make work clothes that felt more like pyjamas. I looked around and thought ‘surely someone would’ve done that’ but I found that there were ‘either or’ pieces; either they looked great and were uncomfortable to wear, or they were comfortable, but you wouldn’t want to be seen in them and they wouldn’t elevate your look.”

So, she decided to do something about it.

And at the start of 2020, right as news was breaking of an impending global virus that could reach Australia, she launched Ergonaut after years of creating a collection of pyjama-comfortable workwear.

That is, polished pieces — from tailored pants to high-waisted skirts and blazers — that look professional but have an ultra-soft feeling.

“It wasn’t the ideal time to launch,” Nicola said.

“The first collection I did was quite corporate, and people were moving away from offices and trading in their pencil skirts for trackies. But I think on the positive side is that coming out now on the other end, people are adopting a hybrid working style where they’re partially working in the office and also working from home.”

While launching a small business mere months prior to Melbourne being completely shut down, she remains philosophical about the misfortune.

“My challenge was not the greatest hardship anyone experienced in the pandemic by any means, but it was pretty tricky.”

But there was one aspect of the pandemic — one that has now completely shifted the world’s view on work routines — that was beneficial to Nicola and the sort of clothing she hoped people would be interested in.

Without the ability to work in offices, meetings quickly moved online for almost every type of business in Australia and around the world.

And while there might not have been the same workwear expectations for employees, it was clear that boundaries still existed.

An office worker who may have worn a suit just months prior, for instance, couldn’t really address co-workers in a hoodie on the Zoom screen.

This was something that worked in Nicola’s favour.

“During the pandemic there was an increase in sales of was things like shirts with details on the sleeves; basically, stuff that you’re going to be able to see on-screen. People would often do that ‘mullet-style’ dressing — party at the top, that kind of thing. I would do the same, no matter what top I was wearing I would just throw on a blazer before I went into a Zoom meeting.”

She said that while appearances weren’t everything, a professional feel was sometimes needed to create a more work-like feel in the home office.

“It gives you that more professional feel when you’re meeting someone, and that affects both how you behave and how you feel about yourself. It’s also about how others perceive you — if you’re sort of wearing a really slouchy jumper, you may not come across as professional, potentially. Appearances shouldn’t be everything, and they’re not. But they do still play a role in the way people understand each other. Having things that look professional but are deceptive because they’re actually really soft and comfortable, is great.”

Since launching in early 2020, Nicola is on the verge of releasing a second collection with a focus on colour to reflect changed attitudes and a willingness to move away from neutral dressing.

She currently runs Ergonaut while simultaneously working another role but has distinct future goals.

“I’d love to go full-time, that’s something I’m definitely working towards. Ultimately, I’d like to be able focus completely on it — there’d be so many more areas I could delve more deeply into.”

During the next 12 months though, she’ll look to assess feedback on the second collection and how that might inform future collections and hopes to push towards more sustainable materials and packaging.

And she’s more than happy doing so from her Southbank apartment.

“I love Southbank. I love how everything is so close, which really helps with running Ergonaut. I’m able to work and cycle pretty much everywhere which is really convenient, and all the cafes are so close — I love it.” •

 

Caption: Southbanker and young entrepreneur Nicola Nemaric sells comfort-focused professional workwear.

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