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How Desmond & Dempsey make Sundays special

Molly Goddard and Joel Jeffery founded Desmond & Dempsey to create the sleepwear they wanted to wear, and “make the best of Sundays”

Luxury pyjama brand Desmond & Dempsey launched in September 2014 with the mission of helping customers find the joy in Sundays. Its first pop-up store, on Mercer Walk in London’s Covent Garden, ran until 11 June. Drapers talked to founders Molly Goddard and Joel Jeffery about expansion, the inspiration behind the brand and the lessons they have learnt over the past four years.

What inspired the brand?

Molly Goddard: In a word: Sundays. After Joel and I met, and I was in Australia and he was in the UK, we would Skype on Sundays. And then when I moved to the UK we would spend Sundays together. When we first started dating I would wear Joel’s shirts and when I went shopping I found that there was H&M and Olivia von Halle, but nothing really in between. So step one was to create clothing that allows people to make the best of Sundays.

A year later we launched the brand. We have also just launched the second phase of our mission by creating a newspaper and instituting a Sunday supper club.

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Molly Goddard and Joel Jeffery

How many collections have you released since you launched the brand?

Joel Jeffery: Two a year since 2014. It started as an online-only brand, so we didn’t need to follow the customary seasonal launches. But when we were approached by Bergdorf Goodman and Fortnum & Mason in London, they were both fantastic and they educated us about line drops and so we adapted our collection launches. 

What are your retail price points?

JJ: We sell eye masks and accessories for around £15, but mostly our products are from £45 to £130. Special items, such as the robes, can be up to £350. Our average basket size is about £140. Current wholesale prices range from £18 for the cami tops and shorts to £52 for the long shirt and trouser pyjama sets.

How much of your business is online versus in stores via your stockists?

MG: We are 80% online and the other 20% is via our stockists, which include Selfridges, Fenwick and Liberty London. We have also launched with Mr Porter, Net-a-Porter and The Keep Boutique.

We only made 104 of each product for our latest capsule collection

Joel Jeffery

We are available at 22 locations. We have pretty much stopped taking stockists for this season’s collection because we do not have the stock, but we have every intention of opening the spring 19 collection up to more stockists. Our focus is really on ecommerce and direct customer experience.

Would you like to open your own store?

MG: That is the dream. This is our testing year – we are using this year to try lots of things. Pop-ups are a great way to test the market. It is a great opportunity to see what our customers are after and see where we want to go next.

What are some of the key pieces you have sold?

MG: The tiger print has been a hugely popular design for us. Our “his for her” shirts are probably what we are famous for.

Who is your target customer?

JJ: Our target customer is probably aged between 27 and 40 and, because of the price points, they have disposable income. But we also have a second group of customers that buy the pyjamas for their daughters, who then start to buy for themselves.

Every order comes in a pillow case with a handwritten note

Molly Goddard

We originally launched with just womenswear, but in October 2016 we launched menswear. Menswear was a little slower to start but does well now. Womenswear is around 80% of the business, but menswear is still growing.

What have the biggest challenges of creating your own brand been?

MG: Our biggest issue at the moment is being out of stock. We actually outgrew the factory at Christmas, which was not ideal. We are still getting to grips with demand for menswear, in particular, and how much we need to order.

What can Desmond & Dempsey bring to customers that they cannot find elsewhere in the market?

MG: Our prints are really a big aspect for us. I also personally think that our cotton is the best in the market. It is a voile, which means that it is more difficult to print, but it is really a lovely cotton and is a USP for us.

Our customer service is also a unique part of our business. Every order comes in a pillow case with a handwritten note. We also do a few customer initiatives such as movie nights, brunches and other events for our VIPs.

How has the market changed since you launched the brand?

JJ: Generally there have been quite a few changes since we launched the brand. For one, the day after the Brexit vote we received invoices that had jumped up in price by 30%. But generally, there is also the increasing move towards sustainable and ethical fashion and transparency. Honestly at the moment do not use organic cotton but we do visit the factories a least four times a year to ensure that they are run ethically and fairly. We know where we want to get to. We would be disappointed if in five years we were not working with at least a majority of organic cotton.

Where do you currently ship?

JJ: We ship internationally, but our biggest markets are currently the UK which is around 60% of our business. The US is our second largest market, followed by Germany, France and the Nordic countries.

What is the inspiration behind your spring 19 collection?

MG: For spring 19 we have collaborated with some artists for a Picasso-inspired artist collection. 

Where would you like the brand to go in 10 years?

MG: My ultimate goal is to open hotels that encompass the whole experience of Sundays. We want people to visit and wake up in a proper D&D experience. In five years, it would be great to be well-known enough that when someone thinks that they need pyjamas, they think of us. 

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