From Finance to Fibres
Guests for Change with Andreas Lenzhofer
“I often wonder how I ended up in the textile industry – to be honest! I was in finance, working as a strategy consultant for about 20 years. So everything I did involved strategizing and resolving strategic problems. This has been my training. So when I decided with my partner that we wanted to start a business, we basically took a strategic, analytical approach,” shares Andreas Lenzhofer, cofounder of Dagsmejan. “We went into a macro assessment, asking what are the macro trends that will shape the world for the next 20 years. There we found the topic of wellness, wellbeing, and personal growth. We identified that personal optimization is one of the key trends, and within that broader trend, we could identify a paradigm shift how sleep was perceived - from something that “you could do after you die” to something that helps you to keep healthy, happy and sharp for longer. The second trend was the functionalization of textiles which has changed the activewear sector for good and brought purpose-optimized garments for any kind of sports you can think of. However, those garments are in most cases only used for a few hours in a year, while little to no attention is paid to the garments that we spend the most time in – our sleepwear.
"I often wonder how I ended up in the textile industry – to be honest!"
As a change agent, executive, entrepreneur and investor, Andreas outlines himself as responsible for defining, developing and launching multiple businesses and products in financial services, consumer health and technology. Going from finance into fashion was a change for him – but within it, he took a very strategic approach. “My partner and I both have no experience at all in the textile industry, so we knew that we needed to work with some strong partners on that side. We started doing some research projects with academic bodies based in Switzerland. So while we didn’t have a background in textiles or design, we approached it more from a management and strategy perspective, and we sourced the textile capabilities on the way. And obviously, it helps sometimes to have a bit of naivety to a new industry – it helps you to look at it differently and really challenge some established thinking in the process. And early on, we focused on having a leading-edge digital value proposition.”
Image via Dagsmejan
"It helps sometimes to have a bit of naivety to a new industry – it helps you to look at it differently and really challenge some established thinking in the process."
“Obviously, we’re not the first ones to think about sleepwear and developing it,” he shares. “Sleepwear is a saturated market – in many markets it is actually an oligopolistic market, so you only have two or three dominant players that are normally quite traditional players that have been around for many many years. But we needed to have a very different approach, with different products in the design. Also in distribution, we needed to do things differently to the classic approaches. In those approaches, if you have a new idea and a cool product, you need to scale quickly. If you're going to put in place the traditional wholesale channels, it takes you a a lot of time – you end up needing two or three years until you can get recognized by the classic buyers, if ever. Shelf space is scarce. It's very difficult to scale up or scale very quickly. In light of this approach and the increasing focus on sleep, we developed our brand, Dagsmejan. We aim to create not only the most comfortable pyjamas in the world but offer functionality to our most important biological function – sleep. The challenge here was how do we rapidly scale this product globally?”
This was where Andreas saw the opportunity to take advantage of digitalisation within the apparel industry. “You have the beauty of digital assets that are available nowadays. You really can start a digital business very, very quickly – for us it took basically two weeks to set up a webshop with global distribution capabilities. This is something that you’d never have had only a few years ago. There are all these new opportunities, and we were really able to leverage them. For us, it was important that we build global capabilities very early on. So we focused on the large global sleepwear markets, not just Switzerland. We created a global model – in which we deliver globally, and the marketing approach is global. It also implies that if you want to be serious in e-commerce, you have to have free delivery and free returns for all the strategic markets, which was obviously quite a challenge to establish, particularly as a young player, but again, early on, we focused on having a leading-edge digital value proposition.”
"You have the beauty of digital assets that are available nowadays. You really can start a digital business very, very quickly – for us it took basically two weeks to set up a webshop with global distribution capabilities. This is something that you’d never have had only a few years ago."
Looking ahead, Andreas is clear on the future for Dagsmejan: “Fundamentally we want to bring better sleep to the world – bluntly spoken, this is our vision. We develop products that help to support this vision. Of course, there are many things you can do to sleep better, but our focus is really functional textiles. Our aim is to have functionality in textiles when it matters, for better sleep. The next developments we are going to work on are a second layer, and it’s an obvious one. It’s bed linen, pillowcases, duvets and sheets – with more products along that line. The other aspect is that we want to become more global. We are currently global, but we are not really. We are focusing on four or five key markets, but there are others that we are not targeting at all – so this is an interesting development process, to really make this a global brand and go into the markets we have not really been in so far. With that will come some expansion in our customer segments. At the moment, we are very much focused on the adult sector of 30- to 50-year-olds. We have started to do more for babies, for kids and there is so much more we can do for elderly people. They have more functional problem areas that you can define and really develop new products for.”
Image via Dagsmejan
This business model incorporates research and testing within it, and this is where the advantage lies, shares Andreas. “In a scientific way, this is what we are really focused on – determining the problem, defining the functional requirements to solve this problem, developing some topics, some ideas, testing them, and once they perform against the requirements, we bring them to the market.” With this approach, the scientific aspect compliments Dagsmejan's focus on sleepwear and sustainability. In our next article, we explore how the marriage of these three focus areas answers a big question: How important is sleep and what are the fabrics that sustain it?