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Airweave makes much more than a viral ‘anti-sex’ Olympic bed

Airweave makes much more than a viral ‘anti-sex’ Olympic bed

During the summer 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, bedding manufacturer Airweave made headlines across the globe for the “anti-sex” cardboard beds it provided to athletes. However, there’s much more behind this story than a viral rumor.

Brett Thornton, previously vice president of retail and VX at Avocado Green Brands, stepped into the role of chief operating officer for Japanese mattress manufacturer Airweave about nine weeks ago. He oversees all of North America and is helping the company bring its products to wholesale. 

He’s heavily pushing the message that these beds are not gimmicks, but rather a game-changer in sleep — even recently going on the Today Show to speak about the value of the products. 

Airweave previously produced futons, but when it came to bringing mattresses to the U.S. market, it needed some guidance, which is exactly what Thornton has been doing. Now, the company is preparing to launch its first set of wholesale partners at the end of this year and open its first flagship retail store in Q1 of 2025. 

“I’m excited about this product because there’s nothing like it in the States — it’s so unique,” he tells Bedding News Now. “It’s kind of like starting with a blank slate. We’re going to redesign our website and redo our cover so they’re more appealing to American consumers. And we’re starting from scratch, but everything should come together over the next three months.” 

In the meantime, Airweave is the official bed of the 2024 Paris Olympics and will outfit 16,000 athletes with their mattresses, as well 3,000 media partners in the Olympic Village. It also has beds in high-end luxury hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton and the Grand Hyatt Hawaii.

“It’s the first time there’s ever been a customizable bed in the Olympics in the history of the game, which is very cool,” Thornton says. “Every athlete comes in, they go through our body scan app, which figures out their body type and offers ways to arrange their bed. When they get to their room, they find instructions on how to arrange the bed to fit their body.

What it’s made of

The mattress is constructed of a unique material called air fiber, which Thornton describes as similar to fishing line, which was its exact inspiration. Airweave founder Motokuni Takaoka went to Stanford to get his graduate degree in engineering and turned around his uncle’s fishing line business.

However, he was convinced that there had to be a better use of this incredibly durable material.

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Takaoka innovated the poly-resin material by melting it and then dripping it into water to cool it down and set it into form. He discovered he could manipulate how the material came into the water, forming different shapes and then intricately intertwining them to mimic the lightness of woven air. Thus, Airweave’s patented material, Air Fiber, was created. 

The challenge, Thornton explains, is reeducating the consumer on what this material is, which is part of what the Today Show segment aimed to do.

Part of the anti-sex bed rumor was that the beds were cardboard — which they were not, but the frames of them were. The Airweave beds, though made of 90% air, can hold up to 600 pounds, as Terry Crews and both Today Show hosts exemplified by jumping on the bed together. 

Further, the company has done extensive research to find that users of Airweave get 13-14 minutes more sleep per night, which adds up when you consider the importance and short length of deep sleep. 

“It’s an exciting time and I feel like the industry is craving something new,” Thornton says. “Innovation is so few and far between in our industry, and we have a message that is opposite of what the industry has been saying for 20 years — don’t sink in to relieve pressure points, use firm support. This is wildly different than anything I’ve ever done, and the responses I’m getting have been amazing.”

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