In conversation with

Molly & Joel Jeffery

Founders of Desmond & Dempsey

Introduction

Introduction

Brands are always trying to create intimacy with their customers. Few achieve it with the playfulness and sincerity of Desmond & Dempsey, pyjama purveyors to the likes of Phoebe Waller Bridge (surely you’ve seen that Instagram video with Donald Glover?). 

The brand began with the story of Molly & Joel – couple and co-founders of D&D. “The reason we launched D&D was because of an intimate story,” they tell us. “So our vision, and how we translate that, has a sense of closeness too.” 

Now we see this come through in campaigns (watch out for Molly’s grandparents in their PJs), in their designs and especially in The Sunday Paper, their printed publication that’s been running longer than their first collection. 

We (virtually) hopped into bed with Molly & Joel to talk about words guiding their designs, how they stay true to their brand and why a newspaper has always been part of their business.

Question and Answer

Desmond & Dempsey is all about ‘a celebration of life at home’. What does that mean to you, and did you have to reinterpret this message when the pandemic hit?

What it means to celebrate life at home has certainly changed. Once upon a time in our busy world it was a place to retreat to. A place to cosy up in with those closest to you. Now it’s become our ‘safe place’.

But our ‘vision’ has always been to celebrate life at home. It drives everything. Internally and externally. We do this in two ways.

First: intimacy is a huge part of D&D. Being in people’s home is intimate enough. Being in their beds is even more so. On top of that, the reason we launched D&D was because of an intimate story. It was our story. So our vision, and how we translate that, is always really intimate. As we’ve grown up, so has our vision, and our business. Moments in our lives feed the business and the business feeds our lives. We’re really honest (and, wait for it) intimate about that. It’s so cheesy, but someone once told us, do the things that you can’t scale while you can because you won’t be able to do that for ever. So for now, we’re focused on doing little things that make our team’s ordinary, extraordinary.

The second is about doing the right thing. Or as Joel phrases it: ‘don’t be a dick’ (but I am not sure we’re allowed to say that). Again it sounds so simple. But I think being kind and being good doesn’t get enough credit when it comes to business.

How would Desmond & Dempsey invite us to a sleepover/pyjama party?

With a handwritten note sent through the mail.

Where does the storytelling for new prints and collections begin – with words or visuals?

Words. And a lot of research. They always tell a story. And our design team are really really interested in the details. The collection we’re launching next week was inspired by the Lowland Forest. One of the prints is so specific that the animals eating the fauna are drawn with the same specifications you would find in a science book. It’s crazy and very inspiring and kind of hilarious that they are for pyjamas!

“Make a product you are really bloody proud of. Focus ALL of your energy on the product before you worry too much about ‘the brand’. If your product is good, that will come.”

Last year you did a collaboration with H&M. How did you find working with such a big, global company and how did you make sure you maintained D&D’s personality and tone?

We had a really awesome (and surprising) experience. The team and ‘the culture’ of H&M is often misrepresented I think. It was very intimate. The team we worked with had worked at H&M for years, and Monica who was the stylist on our shoot had worked with H&M for 40 years. I think that says a lot about the company and the way they are

Their team took the time to get to know what was important to us, and how we wanted to be represented. We painted the prints in our studio, and met in hotel lobbies to go through the details and look at fabric swatches and colours. The marketing team read The Sunday Paper and looked at all of our journals and worked with us to continue that intimacy through the campaign. You can see that we drew all over the campaign pictures like we do our own. It was really an amazing experience all round. Joel actually wrote a little something about it here.

If Desmond & Dempsey’s tone of voice was a type of person or character, who would they be and why?

We actually answered this question when it was a S&T writing prompt in The Word! We’ve put it in our brand book, too.

In One Word:
Charming

Imagine the most charming human you know.
They are good looking and well-read.
They are witty and bright and do not take themselves too seriously.

They are a little flirtatious, warm, open and generous.
They care that you’re comfortable and they like to amuse.

That’s the personality of D&D. Our way of speaking.

They greet their best friends and waiters with matching ease.
They express themselves well and celebrate life for all its wonder, and its peculiarities.

They don’t use marketing terminology or indulge in excess adjectives.
Their vocabulary is varied and perceptive.

They appreciate words like they appreciate good ingredients, classic pieces and well-made music.

You had The Sunday Paper before you even had any pyjamas to sell. Why did you want D&D to have an editorial platform? What are you hoping your readers will get from it?

We wanted our customers to understand what the brand was about. We wanted them to smell it, to feel in, to touch it. Just in opening the broadsheet you have to stop, find a table and open it up. Then you read about the pursuits of pleasure and leisure. It says so much more than Thanks for your order, we’re a brand about celebrating life at home.

What marketing advice would you give to people starting a clothing business right now?

Firstly, make a product you are really bloody proud of. Focus ALL of your energy on the product before you worry too much about ‘the brand’. If your product is good, that will come. Then, I think, pour your energy into old school word of mouth. Call or personally email a customer after they have bought from you. Ask them what they think and if they like it, could they tell their friends. Ask friends to tell their friends, or have an old school little show and tell. Be excited about what you are doing, then share that excitement.

Molly & Joel's Storylist

Novels

  1. Any Human Heart by William Boyd
  2. Papua by Peter Watt

Coffee Table Books

  1. Andy Warhol Polaroids
  2. Slim Aarons: Women
  3. A Wandering Eye by Miguel Flores-Vianna
  4. Ardmore: We are Because of Others: The Story of Fee Halsted and Ardmore Ceramic Art by Fee Halsted

Magazines

  1. Holiday Magazine
  2. The Happy Reader
  3. Luncheon
  4. Cloakroom
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