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Joel Jeffery (left) and Molly Goddard, founders of Desmond & Dempsey

How the coronavirus pandemic made pyjamas the new suit. A millennial brand talks about a wild year and a 400 per cent sales spike

  • Working from home and social distancing have caused a bumper year for sales of pyjamas
  • Luxury pyjama brand Desmond & Dempsey also credits the trend towards comfort wear for their success

There are two types of people in the world: those who wear old T-shirts to bed, and those who don’t.

Joel Jeffery, 33, and Molly Goddard, 29, the millennial duo behind the London-based luxury brand Desmond & Dempsey, don’t mind if you’re part of the former. 

Eventually, Jeffery said, people come around. Some of the investors they first pitched claimed to not wear two-piece pyjamas, forcing the duo to revise their presentation, calling pyjamas “something you wear to the breakfast table.” 

Goddard’s old boss also wasn’t a believer. Then, they gave him a pair. “Now he’s on our VIP customer list,” she said.

A set of women’s pyjamas from Desmond & Dempsey.

Desmond & Dempsey, which sells pyjama sets for about US$150, saw sales skyrocket during the pandemic. It sits in a privileged position at the intersection of two multibillion-dollar industries: the US$10 billion self-care industry and high-end sleepwear, or as journalist Brandi Neal wrote for online magazine Bustle, the “fancy pyjamas you usually only see in movies.” This category also encompasses nightgowns, robes, and slippers, and market researcher Technavio expects the market to grow by US$19.5 billion between 2020 and 2024.

 And Jeffrey doesn’t expect the momentum to stop any time soon. 

Staying stylish in the days of social isolation

It’s hard to pinpoint how many people actually sleep in pyjamas. A 2017 survey in the UK found about 40 per cent of people sleep in pyjamas, while another one found 90 per cent of people wear them to lounge around the house. 

In the US, a 2018 report stated nearly 69 per cent of people sleep partially clothed, while 31 per cent sleep fully clothed. Then there are those, of course, who sleep naked. What is known, however, is that luxury sleep and loungewear are associated with comfort. And the idea of comfort (including meditation apps, organic diets, and face masks) is especially popular among millennials.

It’s this comfort, Jeffrey says, that people sought during the pandemic. Last year, The Washington Post, citing the Adobe Digital Economy Index, reported sales increased over 140 per cent in April 2020, compared to the previous month.

Luxury pyjama sets from Desmond & Dempsey.

Last March and April, Desmond & Dempsey saw a 400 per cent increase in sales. Two-piece pyjama sets were the bestselling items. The company was able to deal with an increase in consumer demand because it decided to still place the orders that wholesalers cancelled, restocking its top items and then selling direct to consumers.

Launched in 2014, the brand was named after Jeffery’s and Goddard’s grandparents, respectively. In its early days, Goddard used to personally email each customer asking for feedback, then send a code that would give them free monogramming if they told their friends about the company. 

That referral programme helped generate interest in the company, and a similar strategy helped it get through the pandemic. It started an initiative that allowed people to nominate a friend to receive a pair of Desmond & Dempsey pyjamas. All the person had to do was explain why their friend deserved it. 

A pyjama set for men from Desmond & Dempsey.

“People needed comfort and that’s what those pyjamas provided,” Goddard said. “People were vulnerable and really suffering, and it gave them something to make them feel a little more creative.” 

The pandemic, in a sense, has helped accelerate the normalisation of self-care and comfort.

Andreas Lenzhofer, co-founder of the Zurich-based sleepwear company Dagsmejan, says he expects interest in the category to rise, and the focus on personal health, wellness, and comfort is here to stay.

Desmond & Dempsey are benefiting from the move to comfort wear.

Adobe Analytics found that November pyjama sales were up 200 per cent on the previous year. NPD Group said last year’s sales for pyjamas costing US$50 or more increased three times faster than averagely-priced pyjamas, accounting for 17 per cent of the pyjama market. 

Social media is helping these niche brands build an audience. Desmond & Dempsey has over 80,000 followers on Instagram alone. Other luxury sleepwear brands such as Lunya (whose sleep set goes for US$232) and Olivia Von Halle (whose pyjamas can cost nearly US$600) have over 233,000 and 102,000 followers on the platform, respectively.

Lenzhofer said Dagsmejan ended 2020 with massive sales growth, seeing over three-times what it saw in 2019. “People realised there was life to have,” he said. “[They] readjusted their spending patterns, and focused on where they could make a positive impact on their personal well-being.” 

Slippers and matching pyjamas from Desmond & Dempsey.

With an influx of customers, Desmond & Dempsey’s next mission is figuring out how to make the consumer demand stay, Goddard said.

But that might not be too hard. As the remote work trend continues, office life will never be the same. Designer Misha Nonoo previously said she was preparing to make comfort dressing the new power dressing, as Zoom meetings slowly become part of every day life. 

Already, Desmond & Dempsey has collaborated with H&M and has expanded into slippers, nightgowns, robes, eye masks, and even diapers. To date, it has partnered with over 30 wholesale retailers, including Bergdorf Goodman, Selfridges, and online retailer Farfetch, and in October it will officially launch a children’s collection. Jeffrey and Goddard want to open a store one day, and further expand their presence in the US. The market might be crowded but if anything, but they are ready.