Back in 2012, Rich Fulop and his wife experienced an amazing night's sleep in a luxury Vegas hotel. The sheets were so soft, so crisp and breezy that they decided they had to have a set. When he called down to inquire about purchasing, he discovered the sheets would set him back a whopping $800. He passed, but it sparked an interest in figuring out what made luxury bed sheets so expensive. After all, bedding can be a hard thing to buy. It seems that there's the high-end designer linens that will easily run you $300 a set, or your big box brand of scratchy sheets that most guys settle for. "It just doesn't make sense, particularly for a product you spend so much time in," says Fulop, who spent a year visiting factories with his business partner David Fortune and learning the bedding business. They've since launched Brooklinen, a direct-to-consumer brand offering quality sheets from the same manufacturers as its costly competition, but for a much more reasonable price. We caught up Fulop to talk about building a brand, affordability and what to look for when buying sheets.
So why does quality bedding
cost so much?
There are a wide variety of factors that go in to the cost of a set of sheets, but I'd lump them into two general buckets: production costs and marketing costs. Materials play a huge role in the price—as you'd expect, the higher the quality of the cotton used, the more expensive the sheets will be. Longer staple cotton, for example, increases in the fineness, strength and breathability of the fabric but they cost more. At Brooklinen, we use long-staple Egyptian cotton and have built partnerships with leading factories to make great sheets. To be honest, on the production front, our costs are effectively the same, if not higher, than the designer labels. Where we really do things differently is on the marketing front.
That's how you're able to produce such high quality product and keep the price down?
Exactly. Because sheets are typically sold in brick-and-mortar retail, designer bedding inherently has a long supply chain involving significant costs. These costs include wholesaling, distribution, slotting fees and licensing fees. And they add significantly to the price the consumers pays without delivering any real value in terms of higher quality or convenience. By cutting out the middlemen and selling direct-to-consumer, we eliminate those costs. We also keep our margins low and pass the savings on to our customers.
The sheets come in a reusable linen tote bag and recycled paper packaging.
Perhaps you can explain
to the average guy: what's the deal with thread count?
The term "thread count" is a barrier we're working to overcome. We've heard, 'I can get 1500 count sheets for $29.99, why should I buy yours?' But first things first: what is thread count? It's the number of threads woven together in a square inch. You count both warp and weft threads. So 100 lengthwise threads woven with 100 widthwise threads produces a thread count of 200. The idea is, higher thread counts require finer threads and the finer the threads you use, the softer the fabric should be. But many brands use "creative math" to inflate thread counts, so you think you're getting a luxury product when you're not. There's a finite amount of thread you can weave into a square inch so to achieve those high numbers, certain manufacturers use sub-par materials like polyester or count not just each thread, but each ply spun together to make the thread.
What should a guy look for when buying bedding?
When shopping for sheets, you should look for ones made from the right materials (cotton offers maximum breathability), and choose a set that feels great to the touch. Ultimately, you're the one who has to sleep on it and it should feel good to you—that's way more important than any advertised number of the package.