Who's in your family?
My husband Costa and I have got two little boys, Ilias, five, and Troy, three.
What inspired you to create Sleepyhead?
Sleepyhead came about when Ilias was born in 2006. I wanted to create a safe bed-sharing solution. I think it’s a basic instinct of any mother to want to sleep next to her baby – to be close, to hear the baby’s breathing, to feel his movements. And vice versa. Experts claim that the child benefits from the calming effect of hearing a parent’s breathing and heartbeat. I believe them. Proximity to the parents in general, and to the mother in particular, is the most soothing of environments for any infant.
I had an idea of what shape the pod should have. So with the assistance of my sister, who’s a seamstress, I went ahead and created a prototype. This first prototype was thoroughly tested out by little Ilias. It proved so useful, and versatile – we were using it day and night (!) – I thought I must turn it into a business idea and allow other new parents to benefit from it, too.
What’s your background? What other design projects have you worked on?
This is the first consumer product I have ever created from scratch. However, I’m an entrepreneur at heart – I’ve never had regular employment. At university, I studied art history and photography and went on to the School of Architecture at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Alongside my interest in design and graphics, I have always loved languages and have studied English, French, Italian and Latin. To support my studies, I worked as a freelance subtitler for several years. In the mid-Nineties, when I was 24, I got the opportunity to head up a subtitling business which over the course of a decade grew into Europe’s largest subtitling company, with offices in ten or so countries. In this position, and combined with my great interest in graphics and design, I was the one creating the graphic profile for the company and designing the offices. So, amongst the regular tasks of sales, production, administration, training, heading up the teams, I always had an outlet for my design interest.
In 2006, I decided to leave and set up a company with my husband Costa – Hippeis Media International, which supplies post-production and language services globally. And then, along came Ilias and Sleepyhead! The Sleepyhead and all upcoming products – there are a few of those – fall under my second company called Enfant Terrible Design of Sweden.
Which designers do you admire and why?
There are many designers and artists that I like from mostly an emotional point of view. Without being very analytical (read: too pretentious), I like their designs for their beauty, for being fun or clever or whatever. Under the Chanel brand, Karl Lagerfeld makes beautiful clothes (regrettably not within my regular price range!), Gustav Klimt was an extraordinary painter, Ansel Adams was an amazing photographer. They’re all inspiring in their own way.
For their business approach, there are a few brands that I find particularly inspiring. I think that Cath Kidston is doing it right, having created a very complete homeware brand. Equally, I like the Cowshed concept, combining products and services. Nicole Farhi is a true example of a great lifestyle brand. Their Nibs in Notting Hill is another great brand and store.
I am dreaming of and aspiring to grow Enfant Terrible Design and Sleepyhead, too, into something bigger than a one-product brand. That’s a process that’s already started. 2012 will be an exciting year….
Where do you live? What’s the vibe?
We live in a small seaside town called Norrtälje, 70km north of Stockholm. It’s a picturesque and rather quiet place, at least in wintertime. There are lots of summerhouses in this region, so during summertime the town is invaded by visitors. But that adds to the atmosphere. We’ve got lots of space, and woods and the sea on our doorstep. The proximity to Stockholm makes it possible for us to take part of everything that the capital has to offer. It’s perfect for us.
Up until last year, we lived part-time here and part-time in London. I met my husband in London, so we always kept a place there, too. Last year, though, we decided to give it up.
We do miss London, but thankfully we get to go there often due to work.
What are your favourite things to do as a family?
We love to be together – inside or outside – whether it’s playing, taking part in sports, chilling, cooking or reading. And we love to travel. We’ve got very eclectic backgrounds, with Costa being half-Greek, born in South Africa, and a UK resident for about 15 years before moving to Sweden. We’ve got family in different parts of the world. After London, our favourite destination is Greece. Costa is obviously fluent in Greek, so our dream is to get our own place in Greece eventually. Three months ago we had our very own big fat Greek wedding down there, in the Peloponnese, where Costa’s family is from. The boys were baptised at the same time. It was a truly magical experience.
Please share with us your favourite places to dine out as a family
When in London, we love going to places like Petersham Nurseries for lunch. It combines the eating experience with something extra – good food in a beautiful venue, as well as plants and flowers to look at, and space enough for the boys to run around a bit.
Given our past North London location, and Costa’s origin, we often go to Lemonia in Primrose Hill for a good Greek meal.
And where are your favourite places to shop?
There are pockets I like a lot – parts of the King’s Road, parts of Notting Hill and Hampstead High. And the very convenient department stores of John Lewis (the UK stockist of Sleepyhead!) and Selfridges, of course.
Where did you grow up?
Strangely, not far from where we live now. Having travelled quite a bit, it’s odd that I never decided to move far away. But when you have children, you definitely prioritise the quality of living – having lots of space, nature, sea – to the hustle and bustle of a big city.
What were your favourite things to do as a child, and how do you think this has influenced what you do now?
I loved reading. And my friends and I also loved making games up, imagining and creating new worlds. We went to the woods and built treehouses, pretending to be on a desert island. We were almost always outdoors. Cycling and swimming in the summer. Skating and skiing in the winter.
Please share with us some your funniest childhood memories…
My nextdoor neighbour Karin and I established an Animals Club. The headquarters were in the playhouse of her garden, where we put up lots of posters of animals. We found some birds’ eggs, which we tried to save and hatch. Needless to say, it didn’t work. The quirky thing was that the two of us, albeit being the only members of the club, came up with the idea of an initiation rite for the club. And that was to run barefoot through a huge ants’ nest in the woods. And so we both did.
What’s your hidden talent?
I would have to say that a talent of mine is staying optimistic and keep going even when times are tough.
Six years ago, both Costa and I resigned from great executive positions and steady and secure paychecks. At the time, I was nine months pregnant. Costa left London for Sweden. We registered our new business Hippeis Media, but we did not have one single client on the books. So, there we were: new business, new country, new baby, but no salaries, no clients.
Some people say, "Prove to me it’s possible, and I’ll do it. Or it’s not worth trying.”
I believe that everything is possible. Only when I have tried and failed, would I say it’s impossible.
The Sleepyhead was shortlisted in the category of Most Innovative Product in the Junior Design Awards 2011. Find out about the other entrants