HE’S been to bed with Salma Hayek; softly caressed Nicole Richie as she drifted to sleep … and kept Lady Gaga warm on the coldest of nights. For almost three decades Peter Alexander has been sending us all off to sleep with comfort, style and a smile and has been the name that men and women alike have been proud to say they’ve taken to bed.
His multi-million dollar label has been sold and worn the world over … from the tiniest of sleepy-heads to the most famous. Now, Stylehunter is excited to share with you an honest and somehwat hilarious insight into the man beneath the pyjamas.
Speaking at a breakfast event held yesterday morning in Melbourne (and hosted by the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry), Alexander redefined pillow talk as he walked us through his journey to date … every high, low and nightmare along the way – all in the hope of motivating others to reach their dreams.
From his early days, designing man-style pyjamas for women in his Mother’s dining room – to the major sale of his label to the Just Group, the man behind the self-titled label showed exactly why people fall in love with not only his brand, but his open and warm personality and ability to make everyone smile.
Needless to say he had the packed room in stitches for most of the morning as he unapologetically shared his mistakes, misfortunes and misdemeanours. But, above all, Alexander took the audience on a journey of passion and determination which has seen his simple idea transform into a globally-known, celebrity-endorsed label.
“There is … the media story, I suppose, and the real story around why (I design) pyjamas, because that’s probably the question I get asked most is ‘why pyjamas?’,” he said.
“The media story – or rather the story I like to say – is that I slept around a lot and realised … everyone is wearing … crappy pyjamas.”
Alexander took but a few seconds to laugh and take in the atmosphere of the room which had quickly filled with the sound of laughter before sharing the real reason why a young boy from Australia, who was diagnosed with dyslexia in school, turned a dream into a multi-million dollar empire.
He explained it all started during a trip to Hong Kong where he came across a pair of expensive pyjamas which caught his eye.
“Why were they attractive to me?,” he said he asked himself.
“And then I realised they had reminded me of my childhood.
“There was something about this traditional pyjama that made me smile.”
Staying true to his Alexander wit, he followed this interesting insight with a somewhat upfront and humorous confession.
“I realised if that emotional connection can sucker me into spending $80 then perhaps I can sucker all of you into spending $80,” he laughed.
The Just Group bought the Peter Alexander brand in 2000 for an undisclosed amount. But, while some may assume a business usually sells due to poor performance or outlook, Alexander shared his story was quite the opposite.
“The perception was that Peter Alexander was a lot bigger than it actually was but we were just working from my mother’s dining room table,” he said.
“When people used to call to order pyjamas they used to get very surprised if Peter Alexander actually answered the phone … so I made up a few (names) so I was Nat the customer service person and then I would say ‘I’ll just pass you through to the stock room’.
“We really fluffed our way through the business,” he laughed.
He explained that the small two-person business (Alexander and his Mother) would send out its mail order catalogues a few days apart to each State. He said it took one bad catalogue run – where New South Wales customers received their catalogue first and bought them out of stock before their Victorian customers (who had received theirs just a few days later) even had a chance to order – to make him realise his business had become too big to handle on his own.
“My business was getting bigger and bigger and customers were demanding more and more of the company,” he said.
“I though oh … I’m damaging my own brand … I can’t keep up with the demand.
“I realised it’s time to perhaps get a partner who can help me handle what I’m not good at.”
His brother had spotted an article about the Just Group wanting to purchase a brand and so Alexander sent in a hand-written note to to the company expressing his interest and before-long the deal was done. The move saw the brand explode and Alexander said he has never looked back.
Between Australian stars Kylie Minogue and Toni Collette and Hollywood celebrities Salma Hayek, Nicole Richie, the Hilton sisters and Lady Gaga, Alexander has really been getting around. His close affiliation with the RSPCA and constant additions to his delightful collections, has helped the king of sleepwear not only sneak his way into our bedrooms, but sleep his way into our hearts.
His highlight so far?
“It’s always nice when Britney Spears pops into your store,” he said.
“But it’s not one of those defining moments for me…”
“The time I realised I had made it as a brand that most Australians know was when 60 Minutes did a story on my Mum and I and just hearing ‘Peter Alexander’ and then ‘tick tick tick tick tick’ ….”
Okay Peter. You’re not only incredibly successful, make me fall in love with every piece in your store every time I set foot in there and dress the stars … but you’re also hilarious. Brilliant.
And brilliant his brand is. Alexander made it very clear to the room that his number one focus was always his brand – which he said was something the Just Group had been very respectful of. The business guru telling young dreamers that without a brand, a product was worth nothing.
Which, coming from a designer who creates 22 collections a year, is a significant piece of advice.
So, as you lay down to sleep tonight Stylehunters … sleep tight, dream big dreams and remember – even the smallest idea from the bedroom can turn into the largest of empires.
Sweet dreams x
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