Honna Founder Barbara McMillan Talks Style, Sleepwear & Life In Hampshire

After outgrowing her London town house, HONNA founder Barbara McMillan, 35, moved to leafy Hampshire. She now lives in a beautiful Georgian project with her husband, Tom, and two kids – Lila, four, and George, one.

It’s in this bespoke countryside pocket, surrounded by pony-filled fields and with wild-swimming on her doorstep, that Barbara juggles kids and a house renovation while continuing to develop her long-harboured love of soft, cotton sleepwear.

Here we catch up with the ex-stylist and journalist to talk about leaving the city and finding joy in life’s simple pleasures, like perfect pyjamas.

When/ Why did you move to Hampshire?

I’d initially just been late night scrolling on Right Move with no real intention of moving, not for another couple of years at least. I’d be searching ‘Surrey’, ‘Sussex’ and ‘Hampshire’ and then I saw what we’d always said would be our dream home, a run down Georgian detached house, within reach of London. And that was it, we sold our London house before we’d exchanged on the new house, which looking back, was not our best move, but luckily it worked out.

What was your vision for life in the country?

I never really had a vision, I think I’d actually imagined I’d be in London most days, then enjoy country life on the weekend. It’s actually worked out that I’m very rarely in London and spending far more time here.

Has it lived up to expectations?

Yes it has because I suppose I didn’t have any real expectations and that’s probably a bonus. I realise that I love nature far more than I had thought and that where before I wouldn’t describe myself as an outdoorsy person, I absolutely am. I’ve really slowed down since moving here. I’m still working all the time, like we all can be, but in between I’m more likely to put my phone down. I find such peace from the sounds in the garden and the calm of an early evening walk. I’m also just about to start wild swimming which is something I’d never have even considered about until I moved here.

Can you tell us a little about your property search and how you knew you’d found The One?

Nothing was meant to be with our house. The timing was terrible – I’d not long come off maternity leave which was the mortgage companies worst nightmare and my husband’s London businesses demanded so much of his time that an hour extra commute each was almost unthinkable. When I saw the house and planned a viewing I went with my one year old and got stuck in three hours of traffic and missed the viewing. Then we found out it was off the market and as expected, we’d likely not get the mortgage anyway. So we forgot about it, only sometimes planning ‘imagine if we had it, what we could have done’. Then, four months later the owner got back in touch to see if we were still interested. We went for it and sold our house. There we so many complications in-between, and we still laugh that this was not in any way smooth or the right timing, but we did fight for this house and can’t image ever finding anything we’d have both agreed otherwise. We made a lot of compromises and it doesn’t have a lot of the things we might have looked for, but we really do love it here.

Do you have a favourite corner in your home?

There’s a really old original fireplace in what is currently our living room. It has an uninterrupted view across the horse field and any time of year its a very calm spot to have a cup of coffee.

You launch HONNA shortly after you moved – how did it fit in?

I launched HONNA one year after we moved in. I’d been working on it for a couple of years before that but I’d also been working full-time freelancing as a stylist and writer. When we moved here I ended up working remotely as a freelancer, meaning I had a bit more time without the commute. I was also pregnant with my second child and thought it really is now or never so it just all came together quite naturally.

How is your life and style reflected in the brand?

Style-wise, I am a real minimalist. I also don’t wear a lot of colour, which surprises most people as we have quite a few colours in our sleepwear collection. But generally I like colour but not too much, so I feel like our stripes is just the right balance. I also like to be incredibly comfortable when I sleep and found for a long time that I just wasn’t that comfortable in most of my pyjamas; a tapered leg doesn’t flatter my shape and I’m not a fan of a tight sleeve as I find it restrictive and I’m such a fidget at night. I’ve also always overheated at night so I wanted the lightest, softest cotton.  So I hope HONNA sleepwear is comfortable to sleep in but still feels like you’d want to pad about it them downstairs. And I think the brand aesthetic has become quite inspired by the country and the garden quite organically, but as we are still so new, I’m sure it will change still. I think as a start-up with no investment, you have to do everything yourself and there’s no branding company or marketing company involved, instead it (hopefully) all feels authentic.

What have you learnt along the way?

I’ve learnt so much, mostly through mistakes. I’ve learnt you can’t do everything at once and instead to just focus on one thing at a time. Also to trust your gut but also to know what your weaknesses are and when to ask for help (always finances and accounting for me). I’m also a perfectionist which is good when it comes to sampling and fit but it’s mostly a very stressful quality but I’m slowly learning to accept when things don’t go the way I’d hoped. Another big thing I’ve learnt is to be confident in what you’re doing, but this really is the hardest one. You can’t please everybody and the only way to improve is to take on criticism.

"We took our time finding a family-run factory, who we retain a strong relationship with, which is also close to where we source our raw fabric. Last year we also took plastic out of our production and switched to a carbon neutral international delivery service. We're excited to continue to strive to make the brand more eco-friendly, with new improvements and changes in the future."


"Our sleepwear also comes in individual cotton bags, utilising our offcuts"


Do you have any daily/ weekly rituals in your local area?

I will always find one hour in the day – preferably early morning or just as it’s going dark, or even completely dark – to walk the dog without my phone. Its the smallest pleasure but its the only time I’m by myself and I can really reset. It means everything to me, even more so during a lockdown with small children and working from home. The chaos is constant.

What do you love the most about life in Hampshire?

Outdoor space, being able to go for a drink or dinner without booking in advance and less traffic. Not that exciting but having space outdoors and being able to drive without sitting in traffic constantly are two of the things that will always make me smile.

Favourite place for coffee? 

The Counter. Such a lovely new coffee shop, the bread and cakes are amazing, and the coffee. Plus the staff are so friendly and all the local shop workers seem to pop in and pick up their pre-ordered lunch.  It has such a lovely village feel to it.


Favourite shop?

Hill & Co in Grayshott. It’s tiny but has really lovely homewares and antiques. I bought my daughters desk and chair from there and I always dive in for gifts and lovely smelling candles and diffusers. The staff are also so kind and gave my daughter a unicorn Christmas decoration for being so well behaved. 


What was the last thing you bought from an Independent brand?

The Boxy Unisex tee from Conscious Citizen.

If you could go anywhere right now, where would it be?

Hôtel Villa Marie in Saint Tropez (pictured below). Close to the centre of Saint Tropez, it overlooks the Bay of Pampelonne, but it’s also tucked away in a pine forest, so secluded. It’s just so charming and idyllic.

Plans for the rest of the year? 

We are speaking with a few new independent stockists which is exciting but we are mainly focusing on our direct-to-consumer sales where we can really get an understanding of our customer and what they want. We do have a couple of new styles coming soon which I’m really excited about, hopefully we can receive delivery end of summer, ready for Christmas.

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