It was a completely normal morning. Peter Christodoulou was doing yoga at his house in the United Kingdom when his phone rang at around 6 a.m. Friday. It was the director of his company’s warehouse operations.
“Have you heard what happened!?” the voice on the other end exclaimed. Christodoulou’s mind immediately jumped to worst-case scenarios.
“I froze,” he recalls. “I thought our building had burned down.”
Overnight, a worldwide debate had erupted over the color of a $77 dress designed and sold by Christodoulou’s clothing company, Roman Originals. It started with a singer’s post on microblogging site Tumblr, was fueled by a story on Buzzfeed, and in the end, it had split the Internet into two fiercely divided camps: “White-and-Gold” vs. “Blue-and-Black.” Couples were splitting up, celebrities and congressmen were weighing in, and scientists were searching for answers.
All while the man behind the dress slept.
In an interview, Christodoulou shared the story behind his company, walked us through his wild day and set the record straight once and for all on the color of the dress. What follows is a transcript of our conversation, edited for clarity.
Harrison: Most important question: What color is the infamous dress?
Christodoulou: That particular dress is green. I’m only joking, that dress is blue.
Harrison: But is that what you see in the photo?
Christodoulou: I’ll tell you, to put it into perspective, we had 20 people in our office looking at the photo this morning. Three out of 20 see it as white and gold and 17 see it as blue and black. However, included in those 17 people was the managing director (Peter himself). Consequently, there is no longer any dispute.
Harrison: Can you take me through today? What has it been like?
Christodoulou: After I got that call this morning, I rushed in to the office as soon as possible. Social media was going nuts, we started getting phone calls from every news channel in England, and we’re still doing interviews, particularly our fashion director. It has been absolutely nuts all day. Our site normally has about 10,000 people a day visit, which we’re quite proud of. It looks like we’re going to go in excess of a million today alone.
Harrison: Have you sold out of that dress yet?
Christodoulou: No, we have been replenishing them all day. We have been getting a few back from our stores and putting them online. I believe we are out of a couple sizes right now, but – wait – I’m getting the thumbs up right now that we’ll soon have size 12 back up for sale online. We’re working to keep them all in stock.
Harrison: Can you tell me a little about your company?
Christodoulou: Well, I founded the company with my brother, Rick, and my sister, Angela, in 1978. We had eight people at the time, and we were essentially a small garment manufacturer supplying local chain stores, making around 150 garments a week. That was our story for about two decades. We got up to about 150,000 units a year.
Around 2000, we started thinking, “we’re making it for all of these retailers, why don’t we start making it and selling it ourselves?” So we started our own lines and opened our first store in 2000. By 2007, we had 20 stores and we have ramped up since then. Today, we employ 1,000 people in the United Kingdom and our annual sales for last year were 48 million pounds (about $74 million).
Harrison: What do you hope will be the result of this wild day?
Christodoulou: So far, we have been very low-key, keeping ourselves under the radar and expanding gradually. Before today, I think we were England’s best-kept secret with regards to retail. Obviously, I think that may change now. I’m hoping that what this really gives us is brand awareness and global recognition.
Harrison: The Internet has been buzzing about a possible white-and-gold version. Do you plan to deliver?
Christodoulou: There are plans, because we have received so many requests for a white-and-gold version. It takes about five months to do such a thing, but we’re not going to disappoint our fans. I expect the white-and-gold dress to come out later this year.