Lounge wizards

PEOPLE IN STYLE; Throw away those tracksuit pants - Toast has a much better idea for your wardrobe, says Sally Williams
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
When are pyjamas not pyjamas? When they're made by Toast, the stylish mail order company based in rural South Wales. You can imagine the sort of thing: floaty, elegant, made of soft Indian cotton and finest Irish linen. Perfect for drifting around your minimalist Manhattan loft. Chic enough to even wear to the local deli to collect some organic cranberry juice. But for sleeping in? What a waste. Vogue loves them; so does Elle. Toast now has 30,000 on the mailing list and 5,000 buyers and Jamie and Jessica Seaton only started the company barely a year ago.

"We were looking for a slouching alternative to the ghastly shell suit and track suit," explains Jamie Seaton, not in pyjamas, but mole skins and an ageing grey v-neck from Joseph. Forty three, slim and tallish, he looks stylishly dishevelled with short, thick, fair hair and stubble. Jessica, "a bit younger", is as slim and tall as her husband, but smarter: business-like dark short hair; smart grey Joseph trousers and a no-nonsense good value, M&S v-neck top. "I do wear Toast pyjamas, though," says Jessica. But one of her favourite Toast items is a pair of denim gardening trousers, an alternative to jeans ("terribly practical, but very boring").

Lots of people must agree because Toast clothes are being despatched from the converted tractor-shed faster than they can be made. The range has now expanded to include velvet draw-string trousers, mole skins, linen sheets, soap, cashmere espadrilles, even marmalade. "We had to have marmalade if we're called Toast," points out Jessica. So, how do they do it? One answer, of course, is timing. Toast embodies an unstructured simplicity, a zipless minimalism, a floppy, fluid purity that's very now. The very antithesis of the stiff, tailored, buttoned-up power-dressing of the Eighties. It's spiritual, very Eastern, very desirable.

"It's been one of those lovely catch-the-moment things," says Jamie. "You can't contrive it." They never even thought that people would wear their pyjamas as suits and go out in them. "We were at a supper party in London last year," recalls Jamie, "and a friend walked in proudly wearing his linen ones. We sniggered in disbelief."

Jamie and Jessica's main motivation in setting up Toast was not to milk a mood, but to get out of jumpers. For 20 years J&J Seaton was an internationally successful jumper designers. The jumpers, designed by Jamie, decorated with diamonds and flowers and called names like Northlands, and Twotrees were, at the time, fantastically cool. J&J Seaton fine knitwear was sold in Milan, Florence, Paris, London, New York. "But what was fun and commercially successful for a couple of seasons became what was required of us and it was just deadly in the end," remembers Jamie. He didn't even like the jumpers. "Pattern is fine for a carpet, but wearing it?"

Originally from North England, and graduates in archaeology and ancient history, the couple only took up knitting because they wanted to stay in Wales. They moved to Camarthenshire to work on an Iron Age dig after leaving university. The job ended; so did their ambition to become archaeologists ("too mundane") but they did like Wales. "We were terribly romantic about the country," says Jessica, whose passion for all things natural was cured by a three-day labour with her first child, Rachel, now 18.

She goes on: "The only way to stay down here was to be self-employed and do something crafty." But South Wales is full of hippies knitting jumpers for a living. How did J&J Seaton make enough money to stay in Wales (for 20 years now), have two children (Nicholas is 14) and turn a run-down farmhouse into an Elle Deco centre-fold: solid maple flooring, duck-egg blue mineral pigments on untreated plaster walls, vast SoHo loft-style bedroom, artfully placed starfish and acres of airy clutter- free space? "We were introduced to an American agent and within six months we had windows full of our stuff in Berdorf Goodman in New York," explains Jamie. "It was a fluke."

Which is, of course, tommy-rot. The main reason the couple repeatedly "hit the right moment" is that both, but especially Jamie, has an acute aesthetic sense. Anything naff or half-cock really upsets him. He is passionate about design, about getting it right. The sort of person who scrutinises every stitch of what you are wearing, flicking from hemline to neck to collar. A real nitpicker then.

Take his own jumper: "The rib is far too baggy, it's too tight on the shoulder and neck is too deep," he moans when it looks just fine to me. And the first thing he remembered about meeting Jessica (first year party at university) was her skirt. "It was horrible," he recalls. "It was a maxi skirt my mum had run up from some bargain wool," explains Jessica, laughing good humourdly. Talk of his own clothes, however, is deeply embarrassing. "It's just vanity, really," he mutters uneasily, when I ask what he was wearing ("black polo, leather jacket, tight jeans," chips in Jessica).

But then clothes are not big in his family. They are academic physicians and have been for generations. She is from a family of shopkeepers. They are very different. He went to private school; she a comprehensive. She is practical; he "mercurial". She tempers his creative excesses; fills in the details; picks fluff off his sweater; is pragmatic. He stops her from getting bogged down in detail. The perfect team, then.

Future plans include a possible shop in and maybe even a move to London. "We've done it back to front," he laughs. "We left university and retired to the country. Now we're going to live up our middle age in town."

Toast mail order: 01558 668800

Comments