Behind the Brand: Desmond & Dempsey
Luxury pajama company Desmond & Dempsey is the first London-based brand to appear at Neighborhood Goods, and was founded in 2016 by husband-and-wife team Molly and Joel Jeffery. The company has its roots at the very start of their romantic relationship, when the Australian met the Englishman in the US. “We both met while we were doing ski season at Whistler, bumming around,” Joel says. “You were bumming around,” Molly interjects. “Ok, I was bumming around,” Joel admits. “Molly was taking it seriously. But then she went back to Australia and I went back to London — to get real jobs, so to speak. We used to Skype on Sundays to stay in touch, and because of the time difference, we often both ended up in pajamas.” Two years later, Molly was in Europe, living and studying in Madrid, with Joel also visiting the very same city for work. It wasn’t long before Molly — tired of conducting a relationship in airports and over Skype — made the move to London.
And then it was a wardrobe-related issue that really kicked things off: “When I moved in with Joel and his flatmates, I had these pretty little nighties,” Molly recalls, “and Joel was like, ‘you can’t wear them in front of my friends!’ So I ended up wearing his shirts to bed the whole time. But Joel spent a lot of money on these shirts and said, ‘you’re ruining my shirts. Stop wearing them to bed.’” It was at that point that Molly went shopping for pajamas, only to find there wasn’t much of a market in the UK. “You think of trench coats, it’s Burberry; you think of jeans, it’s Levi’s,” she says. “But there was no-one who really owned that pajama category.” The couple was convinced that the time was right for a luxury pajama brand, fitting neatly alongside the rise of coffee culture, online mattresses, living well, working from home, and the general art of slowing down. “Sleep had to be part of that conversation,” Molly says, “so we kicked it off, thinking ‘how hard can it be?’ A year later, we launched,” she laughs. Joel was 24 at the time; Molly, just 21.
Desmond & Dempsey started life with the help of Joel’s brother Christian, who painted the brand’s original designs during a summer between jobs. (All prints are now created by full-time print designer Alice.) With the brothers having grown up in Australia, the studio was plastered with photos from the trio’s collective childhood memories of home to offer inspiration. During this time, Molly recalls visits to potential factories: “we’d go to them and ask about minimum requirements. They looked at us like we were idiots.” Their first run of pajamas was 100 — a far cry from the success they now enjoy, with demand from such prestigious stockists as Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason, and Liberty in London, and Neiman Marcus in the US.
But in spite of their youthful naïvety, Molly and Joel always had a very clear idea about the feel of D&D. “From the beginning, the brand has always been about Sundays,” Molly explains. “We’ve always tried to tell the story around the universal affect that Sunday has. Whenever we travelled, we’d ask people about what they do on Sundays.” This questioning sowed the seed for the brand’s newspaper, aptly called The Sunday Paper. Yes, newspaper. “What we think is special about it is that it’s not online.” Molly says. “It’s about the tactile nature of it — the smell of a huge broadsheet newspaper.” With barely a mention of their product in the paper’s pages, it’s more a statement of the lifestyle they’re trying to promote; the pajamas slip comfortably into that casual ethos.
For Molly and Joel, their brand’s mission is to get you horizontal. “Get home, take your jeans off, put your keys down, have a shower, and put on a pair of D&Ds,” Molly semi-commands with a laugh. “Pajamas make home time feel special; it elevates those ordinary moments around your house.”
With all this talk of lazy Sundays and pajamas, it’d be remiss of us to not ask Molly and Joel about their thoughts on the so-called work-life balance. Controversially, perhaps, Joel says that they find the phrase to be redundant. “For us, at least, it’s just ‘life’,” he says. “Sometimes it’s work and sometimes it’s not work. It blends so much.” Molly explains that when they tried to have work and life as separate things, they ended up fighting. “Now, we’re more focussed on knowing when the other one needs a break, or doesn’t want to talk about it.” She explains that the couple’s holidays often turn into work trips, and their work trips often turn into holidays. “If you had a partner who wasn’t deeply involved, they’d be bored out of their brains with you talking about it all the time,” she says. “And despite things like holidays not being quite the same now,” Joel adds, “we’ve had so many experiences because we’ve been working together.” We’ve got to admit, it sounds like a pretty comfortable setup to us.