The True Story Behind How Brands Like Brooklinen and Casper Became Internet Darlings

published May 18, 2019
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At Apartment Therapy, we’re dedicated to showing you the latest and greatest in home decor. We try our very best not to play favorites, but can’t help but notice that the Internet has its preferences. With convenient direct-to-consumer business models, click-worthy social media profiles, and aesthetically pleasing products, a handful of today’s companies have a cult-like following, transforming them from just another brand into the very best the Internet has to offer.

But while you may know every style, fabric, and colorway these brands have to offer, you probably have no idea what it took for them to make it big. We talked to five game-changing brands about their humble beginnings, Internet-breaking products, and a fun fact or two about the business you didn’t know before. With any luck, you’ll feel completely in-the-know the next time you add one of these covetable brands to your e-cart.

Credit: Casper

The Internet’s Favorite Mattress: Casper

Nowadays, you can’t look—or scroll—anywhere without seeing an ad for a new boxed mattress. (It’s one of the reasons it’s on our millennial apartment bingo board!) But when the direct-to-consumer business model was just starting to kick off, Casper swooped in and gave people what they really wanted: A comfortable, dream-worthy mattress without the sticker shock.

“The idea for Casper was born when my co-founders and I realized that everyone in our co-working space was downing green juice and wearing fitness trackers—but still falling asleep at their desks,” says Neil Parikh, co-founder & chief strategy officer at Casper. “So, we set out to elevate sleep as a pillar of wellness, and improve how people are getting their shuteye.”

While Casper has recently expanded into bedding and accessories, its Casper Mattress is a consistent crowd-pleaser. Loved by critics and customers alike, the OG style boats four layers of premium foam, a breathable, open-cell layer, and zoned support that works with your body, not against it.

“When designing the mattress, we considered a number of factors like ergonomic support, temperature regulation, pressure relief, motion isolation, and durability,” he explains. “We then constructed a unique combination of high-quality, breathable foams that provide superior performance across all of these factors.“

Since its launch in 2014, Casper has grown to become a household name. But did you ever stop and wonder where Casper got its name in the first place? The backstory might surprise you.

“The company is actually named after one of our roommates, who didn’t quite fit on the mattress he had in his room,” Parikh shares. “We always joked about how ridiculous it was. When my co-founders and I came together to launch a sleep company, it was only right that we dedicate the name to someone who could never get the quality sleep he deserved.”

The Internet’s Favorite Candle: Otherland

The mystery is solved! Otherland is that candle brand you’ve been seeing on everywhere—and we mean everywhere. On your bestie’s nightstand, yourfavorite decor blogs (ahem), and, yes, all over your Instagram.

Before it became the candle brand du jour, Otherland‘s founder Abigail Cooke Stone saw her company as an opportunity to bridge the gap between cheap flames and super pricey picks.

“As a lifelong candle lover, I felt like there was a gap in the market for candles with fresh, sophisticated scents that weren’t so expensive I was afraid to burn them,” she explains. “Candles are truly an everyday product that straddles home decor, self-care, and beauty, so I figured there must be a market of consumers wanting the same type of product I was looking for.”

Otherland works with a top global fragrance house to create unique scents that capture a point of time. Matchpoint from last year’s summer collection, for example, boasted notes of tennis ball, cut grass, and cucumber. Um, yes please. Once the scent is selected, all the candles are hand-poured in New England—staying true to the founder’s roots.

But, as Cooke Stone puts it, creating beautiful scents is just one part of her mission.

“Art is a big part of everything at Otherland, even down to the loop-de-loop script of our logo, which was inspired by photographs of Picasso’s light drawings,” she says. “Our limited-edition artist collaboration candle with illustrator Amber Vittoria was also recently awarded the Gold Medal in Surface Illustration from The Society of Illustrators which was an exciting achievement.”

Cooke Stone admits that once she chooses a vibe for a collection, she does a deep dive on Instagram to find an artist who fits the bill.

The Internet’s Favorite Cookware: Great Jones

Like many brands, cookware label Great Jones was born out of frustration. Maddy Moelis and Sierra Tishgart have been friends since they were kids, and though they pursued different career paths—Tishgart in media and Moelis in the startup world—they were both frustrated by the cookware buying process.

Do you really need a 14-piece set for your tiny studio apartment? Why do you have to spend so much money on a nice set? Why does all cookware have to be so unsightly?

“We saw an opportunity to modernize the process of outfitting your kitchen from start to finish—offering personalized education around materials and use cases, designing a collection that you’d be proud to display, and working with chefs to ensure we achieved the highest quality without having to charge the inflated prices of antiquated luxury brands,” Tishgart says.

The result? A selection of cookware that’s scratch-resistant, dishwasher and oven safe, and has laser-etched measurements, so you’ll never need to convert units again. Shoppers can purchase a multi-piece “Family Style” set or stock up on the items they really need. And with ergonomic handles, mixed metals, and a cast-iron Dutch oven in five stunning colors, Great Jones marries form and function.

And while the founders have ties to New York City (Tishgart was a food editor at New York Magazine before launching the company), they didn’t name their business after Manhattan’s Great Jones Street.

“Our name is a nod to Judith Jones, a legendary cookbook author and editor,” she shares. “She championed and published the work of Julia Child, Edna Lewis, James Beard, and many food writers, and she wrote some amazing books herself.”

The Internet’s Favorite Bedding: Brooklinen

Before companies like Brooklinen hit the market, shopping for bed sheets was deprioritized and, if we’re being honest, kind of a bummer. If you were in the market for quality bedding, there was a good chance you’d have to pay top dollar for it. Otherwise, you’d be left with affordable yet stiff bedding.

“Back in 2012, Rich and I were on vacation and fell in love with the luxurious sheets we slept in at the hotel we were staying at,” Brooklinen co-founder Vicki Fulop says. “Because we loved the sheets so much, we went to the hotel shop to buy them, only to find out they cost $800.”

That fateful trip planted the seed for the Internet’s favorite bedding brand.

“Rich was in business school at the time and turned our dilemma into his school project, researching supply chain and how to create the best set of sheets without the high price tag,” she explains.

While Brooklinen offers plenty of sizes, colors, and fabrics, its Luxe Core Sheet Bundle is a clear favorite. With over 38,000 positive reviews on its site, the set boasts a glossy, sateen sheen and buttery-smooth texture. The team went through many rounds of research and development to create luxurious sheets at an affordable price point—almost like the bedding they fell in love with years ago.

“We only use long-staple cotton because it produces the strongest and finest cotton fibers in the world. Shorter fibers can poke out of the weave, leading to a coarser, weaker fabric,” Fulop explains. “All of our sheets are also OEKO-TEX certified, which means we use zero chemicals in the manufacturing process.”

Credit: Year & Day
Big Plates, $52 for four

The Internet’s Favorite Dinnerware: Year & Day

Some say it’s important to look for a silver lining when something doesn’t go your way. And when Kathryn Duryea Wyndowe’s dinnerware shattered during her move to San Francisco, the brightside would inevitably become launching her own brand, Year & Day.

“When I went shopping for new dinnerware, I was disappointed and overwhelmed by the options in the market: I couldn’t find a stylish option that was also affordable,” she says. “So I started learning more about the industry, and all the qualities of excellent tableware. While researching, I saw an opportunity for a new brand tailored for the way we live today that combined great design and quality.”

The result? A curated collection of cool and affordable plates, cups, and silverware you actually want to show off.

“My ambition for Year & Day is to design beautiful, timeless products that feel fresh and modern on today’s tables. For our dinnerware assortment that means classic shapes in colors that look elegant on any surface. Our ceramics have distinctive semi-matte glazes and are offered in a palette inspired by the colors of the coastline in my California home.”

Not only are the four colorways—blush, ivory, grey, and navy—more elevated than your standard white plate, but the semi-matte finish offers a glare-free look at your dinnerware.

“[It’s] a soothing counterpoint to all the screen time we have today and photographs beautifully,” Duryea Wyndowe says.

We’ll double tap on that!