How to Have a Magic Hour
The CEO of Lunya brings a fresh perspective to balancing priorities.
Furthermore and Lunya have partnered to present The Magic Hour: a look at how to achieve the perfect balance between wellness, motherhood, and self-nourishment.
Founder of Lunya
The way you feel all day long when you have your favorite pair of jeans on is the sentiment that Ashley Merrill, the Los Angeles-based founder of Lunya, wants to channel with her sleepwear. “You should create an experience where you look forward to getting into bed every day and a huge part of that is finding clothing that is both flattering and functional,” says Merrill. When she’s not at work, the CEO enjoys being at home and relaxing with her husband and two kids (ages four and one). “Wearing something comfortable and chic enhances that quality time,” she says. Here, the analyst-turned-entrepreneur shares the vision behind the brand, her wellness routine, and how she spends the magic hour in between work and putting her kids to sleep.
What was the inspiration for starting Lunya?
I caught my reflection in my bedroom mirror when I was wearing my husband’s old frat shirt and boxer briefs, and I thought ‘this is ridiculous.’ I found that my choices were between impractical sexy lingerie or outdated PJ sets. There wasn’t a good option for comfortable sleepwear that made me feel as great as I did in my favorite outfit and I wanted to change that.
Do you have a favorite piece from the collection?
This changes all the time. I’m wearing the romper a lot right now, probably because it’s getting sunnier out and it’s such an easy, comfortable piece.
You used to be an analyst. Did you experience any challenges coming from a non-fashion background?
My lack of experience in fashion actually turned out to be a great benefit since it allowed me to look at the industry in a new way. I purposefully hire a lot of people who come from different backgrounds because there’s no baggage about how you should do things and it’s liberating. We have experts in the field when it comes to construction and fabric innovation but on the design side we try to push ourselves to think outside of the box.
Can you give me an example?
We use fabrics that are personalized to meet a variety of goals. For example, many people love to sleep in silk because it’s thermo-regulating (meaning if your body is hot it cools you and vice versa) but we didn’t like that it’s typically dry-clean only. We spent time figuring out how to keep the incredibly soft texture but also make sure it could work in a cold-water wash at home. For colder weather, we chose alpaca, which tends to pill less than cashmere and in many cases it’s even softer. For cotton, we chose a long-staple fiber, which means it can be knitted in a way that it’s light, durable, and doesn’t pill.
Tell us about your wellness routine; how has it changed since becoming a mom?
As I get older, I look at wellness as a crucial part of my daily life. Exercise is preventative from an aging standpoint and it helps me feel my best inside and out. I like to work out six days a week and find that lunch time is what suits me best. I enjoy going to a wide range of classes (like pilates, running, and barre) because I find that changing it up keeps both my body and my brain fresh.
Ultimately, I view sleep as the foundation of the wellness pyramid. It’s really the base because if you don’t get quality sleep (and I know because as a mom I’ve experienced sleep deprivation) you’re not going to eat well and you’re not going to have energy to work out, which becomes a negative cycle for health.
How do you spend the magic hour between putting your children to bed and going to sleep yourself?
I love being home and I relish that time. The first thing I do is change my clothes. Lunya pieces are designed to be comfortable, post-work pieces that you can layer. Putting on something chic helps me physically and metaphorically strip off my work day. After having dinner with my kids and doing bath time, I use that magic hour to have a date night with my husband. We’ll unwind by ordering in healthy food (we love sushi from Sugarfish) and watching a comedy on Netflix.
On days when you’re not feeling it, how do you motivate yourself?
As a leader, one of your jobs is to be inspiring, motivational, and high-energy, which can be a challenge. I find that listening to upbeat songs on the way to the office really helps; I love Avicii, ’90s hip-hop, and Imagine Dragons.
We also do 15-minute meditations in the office at 2:30 p.m. to prevent energy slumps. We’ve started burning some sage—it’s very LA.
So what’s the secret for finding balance with family, work, and self-nourishment?
I think looking at life in the macro is important. If you’re busy at work you might have less time to socialize or travel, but if you take a step back you can see what needs to be done now and what can wait. I also find when things are really stressful, pot and CBD oil, since they’re legal here, really help me be present and light-hearted in the moment.
What are your top three tips for getting quality sleep?
Most everyone would tell you watching TV before bed is bad, but I find it can transport your brain and help you relax. I’d say that whatever can help remove you from stress and get your brain separated from the work day is a plus. It’s also important to be comfortable, whether that’s in the clothing you’re wearing or the right amount of support from a mattress and pillows. I sleep with pillows in between my knees and all around me like a cocoon; I can’t get enough. Finally, a cold room is helpful. I turn on the AC every night even in winter, just in case.
Is there anything you can’t live without by your bedside?
What’s your mantra?
Be the change you want to see in the world. I look at what I’m doing every day and ask myself how it fits into the greater picture.