Welcome to another Place Presents, today we are talking to Lina Sahl and Fatos Veseli of the SLEEP-OVER brand based in Berlin. But that isn’t their whole story, somehow it connects the dots between multiple parts of Europe including Kosovo. It turns out that both the people, the brand, the skate team, and their fits are all equally diverse. So, get to know all the different facets that make up the brand by getting yourself ready to have a nice watch and an even better read.
Hello and welcome to you both, to start this whole thing maybe you could introduce yourselves?
Fatos Veseli: I am Fatos Veseli I grew up in Bonn, but I worked in Cologne as a store manager in a skate shop. It was there that I saw a lot of different types of clothes and designs that I wanted to learn and understand better. The idea for SLEEP-OVER actually started at 14 for me, my mother was working as a tailor and I remember coming up to her and saying:
“When I grow up and become an adult I want to have my own fashion label.”Fatos Veseli
I actually don’t remember why, but I had the name and I remember being adamant about including the hyphen in Sleep-Over. We actually had a lot of discussions about that hyphen when we decided to change directions a bit later on.
So, the first question I would have had about the name is if you had a lot of sleepovers as a child?
F: No, never, I wanted to sleep at home and I didn’t even want people to sleep over at my parents’ house (laughs). Funnily enough, I had another name and logo in my head that I dreamt up around the same time called “Forever” with a pegasus-style logo…
Lina Sahl: I am so happy you went with SLEEP-OVER (laughs).
F: At some point though, a few years ago, I felt like it was time to do the brand. I didn’t have any money to start anything, so, I started working in a bar to earn some extra cash, and pulled a favor from a friend, who ended up designing the original logo for me.
We started with t-shirts, hoodies, and half-zips and luckily the shop I was working in wanted to sell some pieces. That was what I would call Sleep-Over 1.0 and with that came a full-length video. We used that money to reinvest because our goal was to choose our own fabrics, further our own designs, and have our own fit. Another thing for me was that we produced in Europe. All those things cost money, so we decided to call factories to see what was possible for us to make the next step. A lot of the problems were around minimum orders, which means you have to order 50 to 100 pieces minimum of something to even get something made, and in the beginning, we didn’t have that kind of capital.
Lina, when did you come into the picture?
Lina Sahl: I met Fatos in 2018. back then I was finishing up my bachelor’s in Integrated Design in Cologne. Back then Fatos was doing a lot of stuff himself, but as I had experience in things like screenprinting I started helping out with that. Then in 2019, I decided on doing a master’s in costume design in Hamburg – without ever moving to Hamburg – We both moved to Berlin right before corona happened. Berlin opened up a lot of opportunities for me, I started doing set designs for fashion shoots, and freelance graphic design, I worked on multiple theater shows and did costume design on those. Basically, I did as little studying as I could to do other things.
I officially became a partner at SLEEP-OVER in 2020, I took along my brother who is a graphic designer. Together we decided to move away from doing things like screenprinting with our own hands and move more towards simply designing the clothes and having them made “cut and sew” for us.
Fatos, you mentioned earlier that it took a lot of phone calls to find a place where you could produce, so which one of you is better at talking people into things?
L: Fatos for sure! (laughs), he has no shame and will do whatever it takes!
I am wondering because you started on a small budget, what are some of the things you learned along the way?
L: We had to do everything ourselves, calling shops and factories, getting models, making samples, checking if those are to our specifications, etc… But to be honest, the number one thing I learned was that you have to be firm. Even if it feels unkind you have to stand your ground.
F: We are still doing everything ourselves but we have elevated from where we came from.
Lina you talked about this a bit a minute ago, you both made the move from Cologne to Berlin, did that in any way impact the brand?
F: I wanted to go to Berlin because I felt like if we could make it work here we would have a better chance to make it as a whole. At the same time, on the streets of Berlin, you see so many different people with their own styles and that really opened me up more to what we could make.
L: I just feel like people are braver here. It is a bit less practical and a bit more on the being-seen side of things. On the business side, you have bigger companies here and there is a Berlin fashion week. All in all, it is just bigger and more diverse.
Berlin is kinda known internationally for its love for black, still that is not what I see on your rack.
F: That is a bit of a cliche, Berlin is actually way more colorful than people give it credit for. Actually one could say that after we moved to Berlin we felt we needed to change the brand. So we took a break to do research. essentially we decided to go from our 1.0 version of the brand to our current 2.0 state.
What were some of the thoughts behind that decision?
F: We needed to ask ourselves some hard questions. Do we want to make clothes that sell but don’t necessarily spark our own interest… or do we want to make what we want to make for real and reinvent ourselves? I think we both felt like we needed to show what we are capable of.
Important things for us are that our clothes are wearable for all kinds of people regardless of gender. Not in an “ok one size fits all way”, but we take a lot of pride in the way our fit falls on different body types.
That led us to make our first two-piece suit which, historically is one of the tailors’ masterpieces. It was intended as a statement piece, made for male or female body types. The thing is, in our scene (skate scene) who is going to buy a two-piece? Not many, but we felt it was important to make and it drew people in, they noticed the change and were excited. People asked themselves “Is this still a skate brand?”
Did that statement piece bring you closer to what you felt the brand should be?
L: Yes, 100%! Before as a “non-skater” the brand direction was far from my life. As someone interested in fashion you look at the skate scene to see what people are wearing but I wasn’t at home in skating like Fatos is.
“We are still doing everything ourselves but we have elevated from where we came from.”Lina Sahl
But that “not knowing” can also be a big advantage.
L: Yes, and I believe it is, because I don’t know “the rules” I can be freer. I think my way of seeing things has impacted SLEEP-OVER in both product and visual output.
That 2.0 version of SLEEP-OVER was also the start of the pop-ups.
F: That is true, at that time we were both still working at other places more or less full-time, so doing the brand was an “early morning – late at night” type of activity. So after the success of the first pop-up, we reinvested all the money and made those silk tennis scarves. Another important thing to note is that we take pride in the fact that every new drop can be combined well with the drops that went before it. Those silk scarves were made with the idea in mind that people could/would wear them together with the two-piece for instance.
L: That is one of those important 2.0 features.
You kind of mentioned it before, but the current version of the brand is a bit further away from skating compared to the first. How does skating fit in the brand currently?
F: As I mentioned, this version is the version I dreamt of starting, we just didn’t have the means to do it that way from the start. In the beginning, we got a lot of support from the people around us, and we still do. But because we pay everything out of our own pockets it isn’t like we can have a seeding program comparable to most other brands. Still, that crew stayed with us, and we included new people as well.
That leads to this skate video, right? Why is this video so relevant to the heritage of SLEEP-OVER?
F: I was born in Kosovo, and raised in Germany. That matters to me. At the same time, because we are always on the lookout for new factories, why not in Kosovo? I contacted a couple and in March of this year, we went out there on a business trip. At the end, of that trip, we ended up in Pristina and the city shocked us.
It is such a young city, the average age feels like it is 25 years old, with 25% even being under 25. The city is bubbling with talent and general energy. We wanted our skaters to experience what we did and decided to do a tour out there. Obviously, that wasn’t the only goal, another was that we felt it was important to bring everyone together to strengthen us all as a unit.
As a young sponsored skater for me, that feeling of unity was so important, you really back something if you feel like you are a part of it.
Was it important, as it is with the clothes to have men & women on the team?
L: FOR SURE 100%! As an outsider looking in I have noticed a change in skating when it comes to women and men skating together more. Before, to me, it felt like quite the “man’s world” but like Danny (Sommerfeld) said on tour, the women were more hardcore than the men. Going out all night and still skating during the day.
Seems to me like those gender roles are fading a bit. Fatos because you are from Kosovo and you speak Albanian how do the locals experience SLEEP-OVER?
F: They support it, we contacted a skate crew out there to help us navigate the city. The original idea was to include them in the video, but obviously, they had to work and didn’t have the time to make all of it work. The weather was also a big factor, it rained for 3 of the 4 days and most of us got sick with stomach flu.
Word got out in the city and in the end, we even got interviewed by one of the local TV channels. I tried to answer all their questions in my best Albanian (laughs).
It was safe to say they really received us well.
Does this mean that they will be able to buy Sleepover in Pristina?
L: They can online, and we are talking to stores out there, but we might start by doing our own pop-up in Pristina.
Nice! I want to take a little step back to something you said before. Fatos, you mentioned your mother worked as a tailor. How did that impact your brand?
F: It influenced me a lot! I learned how to change clothes, and work on a sewing machine and I also got a basic understanding at a young age of how fabric works on a body. My parents both really cared about dressing well, so that is something that also shaped me and made me aware of the things I was wearing. By the way, we are both skilled with a sewing machine.
Who is better?
L: I am better but Fatos is faster (laughs). Those skills really help us understand the quality of the product we make. If the stitching is off only by a little bit, we will be on the phone. At the same time, we can also make our own samples for the more basic pieces which helps tremendously.
F: We are very aware of what we are selling because of the things we grew up learning.
Alright, Lina, Fatos, thank you for your time, I think we should let this video and the images tell the rest of this story for now.