Five things you learn from setting up a new sleepwear brand

Sleepwear has never been so popular, with new brands re-imagining and redesigning the traditional cotton pyjamas with cool, quirky and standout prints. One brand, which is making waves is Desmond and Dempsey, set up by a couple Molly Goddard and Joel  Jeffery (the brand name is influenced by both their grandfather’s names).

Despite only being in business for one full year, they are stocked in Fortnum and Mason in London and Bergdorf Goodman in NYC, as well as being a social media hit. Here Molly Goddard reveals what she learned in the first  year of business to make the brand a success.

1. Find a gap in the market

Our brand started from us trying to solve a problem. I had just moved in with my boyfriend and kept borrowing his shirts. I am terribly clumsy and after one too many of his shirts got jam stains down the front of them, we went shopping to try and find some pyjamas to call my own. There were some lovely top end brands making silk products, which were too expensive and dry clean only, and then the pyjamas at the other end of the scale, were cheap, bland and made of polyester. We decided to make me my own. Generally, if you have a specific need, so will other people.


2. Get the product as close to perfect as possible and then make sure it sells.

It took a year and about 30 samples to get our first pair of pyjamas perfect. We didn’t care, we wanted a pair of D&D’s to be the most comfortable pair of pyjamas for everyone who slipped them on. We had everyone from sisters, to room mates, to best friends and mothers try them on. Once we had our product as close to perfect as possible, we had the confidence to go out and sell them proudly.

We made 100 sets of PJ’s and set a deadline for ourselves. We said if we can’t sell these over Christmas, then sadly the business wasn’t going to work. We didn’t set up complicated supply chains or put too much emphasis on the margins. We just made sure people liked and were willing to buy our product.

3. Learn from other designers and ask for help!

We went into this business a bit naive, looking back I wish we had researched a bit more as to just how much goes into developing, marketing and selling a product. Truthfully, when we first started we had no idea. We started by watching YouTube clips. Paul Smith has been a great inspiration to us, and one of his clips he says to “never assume” to “ always have a plan B”, and it has been our motto ever since. I actually wrote him a letter thanking him, and we were lucky enough to be invited to have a coffee with him. Despite movies like The Devil Wears Prada, the fashion industry is willing to help.


4. Everything will go wrong and you will learn as you go.

 And I mean, everything. Like Paul says – always have a plan B. In our very first round of production, the small factory that had promised make our pyjamas closed down after their head machinist left. We already had our fabric on the way, but no one to turn it into pyjamas. We pretty much asked everyone we knew if they knew anyone that could help, and in the final hour we found someone who we have worked with since. As above– ask the experts for advice. People are so willing to help and introduce you to suppliers they have worked with in the past. Getting the introduction means that suppliers are less likely to take advantage of you.

5. Hustle hard

You don’t need endless marketing and PR budgets to make it work. To begin, we just sat down with a bunch of magazines and just started emailing every editor. We made sure we had researched their work, and related our product back to something they had recently written or a trend they seemed to like.

It worked, Vogue emailed back and asking for our cut out’s, which of course they needed yesterday. We didn’t even know what they were at the time, but said we yes. I spent the whole day running around London knocking on doors begging someone to do them then and there. We got amazing press in that first year, and as a result are we now we are in Fortnum & Mason.

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