Emily Campbell, creative director of If Only If

Emily Campbell hails from a family obsessed with nighties. Unable to find one she liked on the market, Issy Falkner launched If Only If over ten years’ ago, before passing it down to her daughter, Emily last year. Despite taking the reins during Covid, the business is thriving with new designs and a growing, multi-generational fan base.

What changes have you made since taking over the business?

Mum designed the nighties in our core collection like the Arabella, the Anna and the Julia. I have since added three designs of my own – the Pandora, the Clover and the Eliza. These harness the original ethos that I still hold dear; creating timeless, elegant styles using natural and sustainable materials.  I invested in a new website, campaign shoot and re-brand whilst retaining the name. The response has been incredible and so rewarding. It turns out there’s a lot of people who love nighties as much as us!

Where did the name come from?

IF are my Mums initials, and I really wanted to hold onto that as it owes so much to her vision. But it’s also wistful and romantic; a notion mirrored strongly in our designs.

What’s it been like keeping your small business running over the past year?

I think this year has really changed the way people are shopping and how they perceive a ‘luxury’. Putting on a beautiful nightdress after a day of zoom calls has helped bring some much needed joy. Customers are also really behind the notion of ‘buy fewer, buy better’, and this really fits with our ethos. As a result, we have had an incredible year. When I think back to last February, Mum and I were still fulfilling all the orders because we didn’t know if it would be worth investing in a professional warehouse. However, it came to a point the Saturday before Christmas when we were getting an order every few minutes!

What’s behind the design of your nighties? 

We aim for timeless, elegant and romantic designs for every generation. Nightdresses should make women feel exceptionally feminine and comfortable.

Who are your style influences at If Only If?

My grandmother had the most exquisite collection of nighties and silk negligee that I have kept and are a constant source of inspiration in their muted colour tones, whisper thin cotton voile and sumptuous silks. The Emily nightdress, a full length 100% pure silk bestseller of ours was inspired by an old Vogue cutting pattern my mum found when clearing out my grandmother’s attic.

Artemisia Gentileschi’s ‘Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy’, about 1620–5

I am also endlessly inspired of the delicate drapery of the clothing captured in Renaissance Art and sculpture. The Clover nightdress (below) is the result of an obsession with Artemisia Gentileschi’s ‘Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy’. And let’s not forget – Carrie Bradshaw had an incredible collection of nighties!

Why do you think nighties are having such a moment?

There’s a much greater focus being paid to the clothes we wear in the comfort of our home. Our nighties are exceptionally pretty and romantic, but the semi sheer quality of cotton voile means they are proper ‘night wear’. The ritual of changing out of our work clothes and into something beautiful after a long day is a small pleasure. Oh and side note; Bridgerton certainly helped too…

Where are your nightdresses made?

They are ethically sourced and made in Delhi – I work incredibly closely with my small team there where the production line is small with seamstresses, pattern cutters and office team all onsite. It has been one of my greatest sadnesses that I have yet to make it out there in person since I took over last year due to Covid. As soon as it is safe for all to do so, it is one of the first places I will be heading.

Which style is your bestseller?

The Pandora! I had this nightie design in my head for years; the ruffles, the scallop edging, the acres of cotton voile. It’s incredibly flattering on every body-shape and has been a runaway success. I have sold it to Gen Z customers, breastfeeding mothers and women in their 90’s. I am also so excited to be bringing out a summer version later this year.

What’s your bedtime ritual?

It will come as no surprise that I am a sleep obsessive and need my 7-8 hours to feel human (tricky with two young children at times…). I rotate a new nightie every two days which seems excessive, but all our nightdresses wash so well, and to me there is nothing better than clean sheets and a fresh nightie! I’m pretty good at not looking at my phone and emails when in bed, so after a long bath with oils (my current favourites are Ila and Bamford) I cleanse, moisturise and try to read at least a couple pages of my book. I swear by This Works Deep Sleep pillow spray and a lavender eye mask. I’m usually in bed by 9:30pm because I’m up at 5:30-6am to get to my emails before the school run.

What have been your favourite books/magazines/papers to read in bed lately?

Before children I used to spend an hour or two in bed every Sunday reading all the colour supplements and papers. Now it takes me the full week to get through them, if not more. I always have a book on the go for bedtime. Current favourites have been Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, Educated by Tara Westover and How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right? by Pandora Sykes – who is one of my oldest friends and who the Pandora nightie is named after.

What’s your perfect Saturday?

It would involve morning newspapers, a long walk, some pastries, an excellent take away coffee, some delicious rose, friends and family, a BBQ and not going anywhere near a drizzly playground for love nor money.

Do you think lockdown has had an impact on the way we sleep?

I think it certainly did during Lockdown 1 when we were all spending so much more time on our screens and less time outdoors. However, I know I have become much more disciplined in the way I approach sleep and am hoping these will be habits for life now.

What do you dream of doing once lockdown is lifted? 

Travelling again, doing a pop-up with some other female led small brands and hugging my friends.

— Daisy Allsup
17th March 2021