#48. MeUndies injects direct-to-consumer fun into a traditional boring category. We talk with founder Jonathan Shokrian about building a subscription company for underwear. The Loose Threads Podcast features in-depth discussions with leaders across the rapidly changing consumer economy.

Check out the full transcript below. 

Richie: [00:00:07] Welcome to the 48th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast, a show about the rapidly changing consumer economy. This episode is brought to you by Loose Threads Membership, which gives you access to forward-thinking research events and our analysts, so you can capitalize on the new consumer economy. Learn more at loosethreads.com/membership. We also have a newsletter called Ripcord that highlights one important development each week and helps you escape the noise. Learn more at loosethreads.com/ripcord.

Joining me today is Jonathan Shokrian, a co-founder of MeUndies, one of the early direct-to-consumer subscription brands that’s injecting some fun into a traditionally boring category of products.

Jonathan: [00:00:44] People are starting to care more about the basics and what they wear on a daily basis, and comfort is now extremely important for men and women.

Richie: [00:00:52] Jonathan founded the brand after a subpar shopping experience, and realized that he needed to reimagine everything, from how the products were made to how they were delivered, in order to build a modern brand. Here’s my talk with Jonathan Shokrian.

[00:01:08] So why don’t we start. Talk a bit about your background and then we can work our way up to MeUndies existing.

Jonathan: [00:01:13] Born and raised in Los Angeles. Grew up in the mean streets of L.A., which was nice, it’s a great place to live and learn and experience art and culture. I think it’s a great environment also for acquiring talent, so I have loved having L.A. as my backyard.

Richie: [00:01:30] And then post-school, were you working on stuff before this company or was this straight out?

Jonathan: [00:01:34] Actually school and post-school were in Dallas. Moved out there for six years, right before I went to school. My family was opening an office out there and I went to go open it up and kind of run it, and simultaneously went to school at SMU and was working basically full time during the day and going to classes at night. So it took me six years to graduate, finally, but when I moved back I was excited to start my own thing and then I started working on MeUndies.

Richie: [00:02:03] So where did it come from? What was the original inception of the idea?

Jonathan: [00:02:08] So that summer I was going on a trip with a couple of buddies, and it was a longer trip, it was about two weeks. And, funny enough, didn’t have enough underwear for the trip. Found myself at the mall in a very uncomfortable interaction with the woman that worked there, asking her where the underwear section was. I don’t know why I felt so uncomfortable, but finally she directed me to the men’s section and thought I was taking home three or four pairs of underwear that I normally wear. I get home, I open up the box and they were workout underwear. So, I felt like I overpaid for a product. I was confused in the whole shopping experience, and when I was thinking about it more I was like, “Well this is really a product that for $30 a pair is extremely expensive,” it’s deemed premium product, and I really didn’t feel like I was getting a quality product for what I was paying for. The first part of that trip I was with one of my best friends, who started Sweetgreen, and was telling him about the whole story of having to go to the mall, and really wanted to create my own brand and product that was direct-to-consumer. So I was able to afford kind of spending a little bit more on it and pass that savings onto the customer.

[00:03:21] So quickly came back home and started working on it. And one of my close childhood friends approached me and loved the idea. And at the time there were a lot of direct-to-consumer brands and subscription brands that were coming out. And so that was also really a motivating factor. And so I started working on it with my best friend, and it took about a year of messing up and trying to figure out how to get a product off the ground with no apparel or manufacturing experience. But we reach out to a lot of people, got a ton of advice, made a lot of mistakes and eventually created what I felt was a best-in-class product at its price.

Richie: [00:04:01] Were there any good lessons or mistakes during that first year?

Jonathan: [00:04:05] Always. I think some of the early lessons really were not to be afraid to reach out to people and seek advice. I know the first couple of months I didn’t do that, I kind of resorted to going online and using Google and Craigslist, and I ended up having to redo things, or even just scrap them and throw them out. So there was a ton of wasted time in those first few months. But then once my partner actually joined and we were starting to work on it together, we actually laid out a strategy on when we want to launch, what we want the product to look like, we started to meet people that had expertise in this field and started to really leverage and bring them on as official advisers, and they were tremendous in helping us get the company off the ground.

Richie: [00:04:52] And so I guess this started with an experience, a distasteful one, at least. What was the strategy or the thinking behind, “Here’s where we want the brand to sit, here’s who we want to go after,” how did the architecting come together in those initial stages?

Jonathan: [00:05:04] So we were the consumer. It was the twenty, thirty something, it was primarily men’s underwear, we didn’t launch with women’s. But there was a need, we felt, for launching a company that really replenished men’s basics. That was the initial idea, was to create kind of a subscription commerce brand that could help fulfill guy’s needs, and really start educating men. In this research we did, we found that guys held onto their underwear for seven years, which is far too long, and gross. And so we thought, “All right, well if there is a service that can help replenish some of these basics, we’d love to see that number come down, obviously.” But then if you can create a brand that really speaks to the modern consumer then I think you can really win and be disruptive. And so that was, early on, what we set out to do.

Richie: [00:05:55] So what were the first steps? You had a general positioning idea, there was obviously a manufacturing piece. What did it take to get up to the launch? And then we could talk about the launch itself.

Jonathan: [00:06:05] It was all about the product early on, just trying to find a manufacturer that we could work with, which was extremely hard. And it could really set you back also if you start working with the wrong group. We were working with factories in China, we were working with factories in Turkey, we were trying to manufacture locally. And so what’s really important in those initial stages, and what we didn’t do, is try and understand what the different values were. Like some of the larger factories, which we were really excited to work with, weren’t giving us the time of day, and we were really kind of a small fish. They were trying to charge for sample making and it was a very tedious process. Versus some of the smaller manufacturers, like the one we ended up going with in Turkey, they were more of a mom and pop shop, but they really helped give us that attention-to-detail to perfect the product and get it off the ground, and really worked with us on the minimums. So it’s really important. They’re your partner. So it’s really important to find that manufacturing partner that can help scale you and work with you early on, and give you the attention to detail.

Richie: [00:07:14] And then talk about the launch. What was the plan, how’d it go?

Jonathan: [00:07:18] From there, once we had the product we obviously had to build the website also. I mean five, six years ago it’s very different than it is right now. It’s crazy how far we’ve come, but in terms of being able to get a website off the ground, it’s much easier today than it was then. We also had never built an e-commerce website or a platform. We wanted it to be subscription-based, there weren’t too many platforms that handled subscriptions at the time, so that was also a challenge, but we ended up meeting a developer who had an outsourcing company in India that helped us build the initial website. There was definitely some good and bad in there. You’re definitely getting value, which is great, because early on you really shouldn’t overspend. It’s great to just get a website up, get it running and test and iterate. But there were a lot of delays and they over-promised and under-delivered, and it was painful at times. But I think everyone needs to figure that out for themselves; what’s important to them, whether they go local or, a lot of people bring on a CTO early on, it all really depends on what’s important for you and what stage of company you’re at.

Richie: [00:08:26] How’d the launch go?

Jonathan: [00:08:27] The launch, at least looking back now, it impressed us and our investors. It went really, really well. I think times have also changed in that way, in that when we launched we got a ton of press in all the major publications, and now, from what I understand, it’s a lot harder to get that same initial launch press. So that definitely went in our favor, and we saw a nice initial boost when we went to market. But that only last so long. And so then you’ve really got to roll up your sleeves, and that’s where the marketing tactics come in, with a very scrappy budget and trying to figure out how to grow the business organically.

Richie: [00:09:06] So where was the product assortment at the launch? It was a subscription model so I assume they were a lot of SKUs happening, but what was the beginning of that?

Jonathan: [00:09:13] The beginning was really just three basic styles for men in three colors. The way the subscription was set up then was you’d sign up, you’d pick your boxer briefs in your size, and we would basically just place a credit in your account every month for you to go and purchase one of three colors that we offered. It’s completely different now, it’s changed tremendously since then. Now you actually subscribe and we will ship you a new design or color automatically, so you don’t have to actually log in. It kind of defeats the whole purpose of saving people time. No one really wants to go back to a website and have to checkout every single month. So I’m really glad we made that change early on.

Richie: [00:09:58] So the launch was 2012?

Jonathan: [00:10:00] Yeah early 2012.

Richie: [00:10:02] So what were the next one, two-ish years like, in terms of what were the focuses, and what was happening on the growth side?

Jonathan: [00:10:09] Early on we didn’t raise a lot of money and so we had to remain scrappy. And I’m glad we did. I think a lot of companies make the mistake of raising large seed rounds. And it forced us to really stretch the dollar. But from there we really focused on PR and press, trying to get on some consumer blogs and websites, for us that was way more important than getting in a print magazine, because that’s where our consumer was. And we were lucky enough to get on a couple of websites that ended up really making a huge impact for us, and then being able to structure deals with those same websites to basically run advertorials going forward. So for a while that was basically our strategy, for about a year or two.

Richie: [00:10:56] In those early years, what was the feedback from the customers about the product, and how did the product itself evolve, if it did?

Jonathan: [00:11:03] The product has been evolving ever since our first purchase order, which I think also has been a huge factor in our success. And with every order we sent out we made that promise. And just working with our manufacturers over the last five and a half, six years, also, we get tons of consumer feedback, and we’ve taken that feedback to really sit down with our factories and figure out ways of how we can incorporate that in the next orders that we place. And so that constant evolution has really led to what I feel is a best-in-class product.

Richie: [00:11:38] You mentioned before how the business model has evolved a bit. You started with this opt-in subscription piece. Talk about that evolution over the years in terms of how it’s changed and where it is today, comparatively.

Jonathan: [00:11:52] So initially when we launched we were basically a sole subscription company. And so the first evolution was basically allowing people to purchase one-offs, and then from there what we changed was we allowed people to purchase, and you would think that we should have done this all from day one, we were really focusing on building a subscription business from day one, and we’re kind of going back to that now. So we opened it up for single purchases and then we opened it up for packs, which was huge for our business. We realized that a lot of men don’t want to purchase on subscription or one-off, they want to buy once a year and be done with that purchase. And then the next iteration, basically an evolution, was introducing new products like socks, T-shirts, loungewear and whatnot. That was a big change for us because we were just selling underwear. From that point we became really more of a full apparel company.

Richie: [00:12:48] I think we’re starting see this now, but I feel like there are a lot of other companies that are starting to play with these ideas of bundles more, kind of packs or kits, there are a lot of different terminologies that people or brands use for them. But it’s interesting, the psychology behind taking what is effectively the same product and repackaging the shopping experience, basically, to better suit the customer. What other sort of experiments did you run, or how did the thinking evolve from subscription, to one-offs, to bundles, and then — you alluded to — back to subscriptions, which, feel free to go into. But how did the front end of the MeUndies experience change?

Jonathan: [00:13:18] Well I think what you’re seeing out there right now with the kits and the bundling and what-not — the consumer is very value driven, and in order to help drive the customer journey, you almost have to tell them exactly what you want them to do. So if you want them to buy underwear and a T-shirt and a pair of socks, it’s going to be very hard to get them to go do that individually on your website, versus bundling it, putting a special offer on it, and creating a story or calling it something. Right? So we do a lot of consumer insights testing in understanding what our customers are looking for, and so that’s helped a lot. Our product for instance doesn’t have a fly, and so that’s something that for years and years our customers have been asking us for, and we’ve been very deliberate on why we haven’t wanted to introduce that product, we haven’t really wanted to over-sort the website too fast and too soon. But then there comes a time in place where it might make more sense to do that. I think timing is also really important.

Richie: [00:14:19] Internally, how did the thought process change from subscription to one-off to bundle? Talk about that evolution.

Jonathan: [00:14:29] There are different types of customers and so when we’re mapping out the different segments of our customers, our subscribers really are our best customers, both in lifetime value and how much they spent on our website, their engagement, how they’re interacting with us on social, and so you end up wanting to drive the customer into that bucket. And so then we think about, “What strategy do we need to do to really incentivize that?” There are multiple ideas that go into that, and so really understanding your different customer segments really helps push you into figuring out what kind of offering you’re going to put in front of them.

Richie: [00:15:06] So fast forward, that was 2012, launched. 2013, 2014 sounds like growth, marketing, getting those things grounded. 2015, 2016, what was the theme of those years, as you work up to present day?

Jonathan: [00:15:19] So those years were really figuring out the brand, cleaning up the brand a little bit. In the early days it was four guys in a warehouse, and the website and the product and the brand reflected that. 2014, 2015 going into 2016, was really preparing for becoming a national brand. And we relaunched our women’s product, at one point it was just basically one style. So we launched the All of Me collection that basically introduced a style for every single style of underwear for women. And then really started working on the branding and messaging, and making sure that it was aligned. It was all over the place for a while, and I think that’s fine. But we were evolving as a brand and maturing, and as such the brand was also.

Richie: [00:16:06] So it started men’s, obviously, was the core focus. Where did the women’s piece come from? How did you consider when that would happen — be the right time to do it? And how has it grown as well.

Jonathan: [00:16:16] So we launched — it was primarily a men’s brand, we did launch with a women’s product. The reason really is that we, as a brand, we wanted to be male/female in our imagery, and really display couples in all of our images. And so I think it just took us a little bit longer to figure that piece out — how we create a product that differentiated from everything else that was on the market. And I think we eventually did crack it once we built out the team. It just took us a little bit longer than expected.

Richie: [00:16:47] So from the beginning there was always the idea that there would be both sexes present at the table?

Jonathan: [00:16:53] Even at the advice of some people who said we should probably just focus on men’s. Some of our early investors were telling us that. We weren’t really selling a lot of women’s underwear, men’s was taking off, and the advice was, “Focus on what’s working and own that.” I’m really glad that we stayed strong and we were patient, because today it’s a very fast growing part of our business, and at some point we’ll catch up, if not exceed the men’s sales.

Richie: [00:17:21] Why do you think that men’s took off faster, and then what was the rationale behind sticking with the women’s even though it was lagging?

Jonathan: [00:17:27] I think there were fewer options for men and fewer brands that were going after the demo we were going after. Now it’s a much more crowded space. It was creating a subscription underwear company, going after a tech consumer was very novel at the time, and I think it appealed to a lot of guys that were working or going to school, and didn’t want to deal with that, versus, I think women find themselves shopping far more often, both online and offline, and really don’t have that problem.

Richie: [00:17:57] I guess to work our way up to the present, what’s been the story over the last year to year and a half?

Jonathan: [00:18:02] This was a big year for us. We reintroduced our new branding and logos and whatnot. And for me it was a very difficult moment, having laid to rest the first version of the brand, and evolving into this new world. And so that was both exciting and kind of bittersweet. Some other big changes this year were, for the first time pretty much since launching, our warehouse is no longer under one roof. Again, very bittersweet. Obviously we’ve been growing really fast, but having that team working alongside of us has been a huge benefit and impact on our brand and culture. So those were two monumental things that happened this year, but will really help us grow into that next stage.

Richie: [00:18:48] When you started the business, how big did you think it would get? What was the initial expectation of size or growth or trajectory?

Jonathan: [00:18:56] So the underwear market is $15 billion a year. And I remember early on with my cofounder talking about, “If we could just capture 1% of the market,” that was kind of our initial goal. I think we’re a couple of years away from doing that. So I’m excited.

Richie: [00:19:13] Interesting. So the business started online obviously. Has there been an offline component to this? How have those things balanced?

Richie: [00:19:22] Offline gets us excited. We’ve done a pop up on Abbot Kinney, that’s kind of the place everyone goes to when they want to do a pop up, and it was great, it was really amazing, in the real world, to interact with our customers and see how new people are interacting with our brand, what they think about it. Long term what you end up seeing in a lot of consumer brands is the multi-channel, omnichannel distribution. I think it’s definitely in our future, it’s just figuring out when the right time is. But, yeah, I think we get excited about the opportunity of what retail could look like for us.

Richie: [00:19:59] So you started as a subscription company, right?

Jonathan: [00:20:01] Yeah.

Richie: [00:20:01] There was what I would say is, I guess, an over-application of the subscription model to a lot of different categories in the market. Some of them make sense because they’re more replenishment-based, others maybe make less sense. One, were you paying attention to what has happening in the market as you built the company? And then two, how were you adjusting internally, as a response to seeing the other paths of those other companies?

Jonathan: [00:20:25] I got excited about the sub-commerce space, and the companies that I saw out there at the time, when I was thinking about how underwear could work within that world, I got even more excited. I thought underwear, especially for guys, is a product that needs to be replenished quite frequently, that guys need more of, that they are not buying enough of, that’s overpriced in retail stores, and so all of the key elements were there to launch a successful company. I think other companies that you look at, I tend to agree, it’s like “What? There’s a subscription company for that?” You kind of get a little confused. But I think there is a subset of customers probably that still gravitate towards those things, because in the world of Amazon, we like setting and forgetting. And so whether it’s a toothbrush or toilet paper or some of these household items that we need to replenish every single month, or every single year, or however often, I think there is a time and place for companies. Now, where I think it kind of gets silly sometimes is in the world of — even though they were the first and most successful, but Shoes for Me never really made sense. But I think most products, at least clothing products, you could put on some kind of frequency, at least in the apparel space.

Richie: [00:21:42] Yeah because even looking at Blue Apron, which is public now and is in a very terrible place, because the economics of these subscription businesses are very challenging. They can be very challenging.

Jonathan: [00:21:52] I mean I don’t know if they’re in a terrible place necessarily because of the sector they’re in, versus maybe how they grew or going public maybe sooner than they should have, or maybe they shouldn’t have gone public. And I think there is definitely a desire with subscription companies — the way they’ve typically raised money puts them really in a place where they have to go after hyper-growth, using a customer acquisition model where they’re spending X amount to acquire a customer that is going to give them a payback in, sometimes it’s one or two years, which is pretty crazy. So I think that’s where they get in trouble, in their growth phase, and modeling that portion out. But I think if you create a healthy business where your payback is shorter or even on the first order, and the margins are there, then you know you can create a meaningful business.

Richie: [00:22:42] And so how did you build the growth trajectory in a way that would not have negative gross margin, and not have crazy churn, and all those things that torpedo these businesses?

Jonathan: [00:22:51] We did it slowly. I mean although we wanted to grow very fast, we never raised that huge round, we never over-hired, we were really meticulous about how we went about growing. We knew we were going to make mistakes, and so we we wanted them to be calculated mistakes, and I think that’s how we got to where we were. And some of the other companies you look at, they’ve raised a $100-plus million, maybe they were doing ten times more revenue than we were at the time, but I think it’s really important to maintain that level of patience and be humble early on and make sure that you’re figuring out the business, and not trying to get ahead of yourselves.

Richie: [00:23:31] As you’ve been building the company, what’s been the cheapest and most expensive lesson you’ve learned?

Jonathan: [00:23:38] Never go too large in a campaign.

Richie: [00:23:40] Break that down.

Jonathan: [00:23:42] So I think we’ve made the mistake of getting really excited, and what ends up happening is, you get really excited about a campaign or something you’re about to launch, and you think that early success is going to be great, and you don’t want to sell out a product, and so you end up placing a much larger order because of this hype. And what ends up happening sometimes is you’re grossly wrong, and now you’re sitting on a ton of inventory that you wish you didn’t have, and a lot of time and effort goes into it, outside of just the product itself. And so I think there’s a beautiful balance of really trying to be a little bit more cautious, and being OK with selling out, I think. I think that’s the lesson.

Richie: [00:24:25] Selling out a product.

Jonathan: [00:24:26] Yeah.

Richie: [00:24:26] And then what about cheapest?

Jonathan: [00:24:28] Don’t be afraid to negotiate. It’s hard. It’s not easy, obviously asking for a discount or a price break. But the worst thing that can happen is someone’s going to say no to you. And I would say the majority of the time people are pretty fair and will work with you and get creative. And so that was also very important early on, was being able to get extremely creative with, whether it was a lease we signed on our office or a manufacturing deal, was getting creative in asking.

Richie: [00:25:02] Was there ever a way to run this business that was less inventory-heavy than having just full inventory, or was this, by definition, you had to stock-up to fund the model?

Jonathan: [00:25:12] I mean the shorter your lead times, the less in inventory you have to obviously hold on hand. And so as we grew larger, actually our lead times grew as well, as we started to onboard different factories in different countries. So it’s really really important to have a solid grasp on inventory, because it’s — I mean I keep hearing this from advisors and other brands — that it could destroy an apparel company. And so it’s something that’s extremely top-of-mind for us.

Richie: [00:25:40] As you look at the larger brand landscape, in terms of where some of these companies are going, so there are a few buyers out there, Wal-Mart’s been very busy recently, Amazon generally is not buying brands as much as platforms — how do you look at scale for the company? Like, what is success? What is the place that you want to be? And then part two is, how do you learn the broader landscape of either success, struggles, consolidation, just kind of that whole ecosystem evolving?

Jonathan: [00:26:08] In terms of success, I feel like we’ve reached success from the day we launched the company. The reason I say that is, the goal really was to create a place that people loved coming to and working at. And I think it’s telling that our first and second employee are still at the company today, and I think we’ve achieved that goal. I loved real estate, but some of the culture that was bred within that world and within the company I was working at wasn’t long-term where I wanted to spend 80% of my time. And so I’m very proud that we’ve created a team that’s family and that enjoys coming to work every single day, and being able to do some of the things that we dreamed of. Like yesterday we were off site in Malibu all day by the beach, and it’s those special moments where you’re able to bond and connect with your team that I think you know are way more impactful than being on a Forbes list or what-not.

Richie: [00:27:03] What is the right type of growth that you want at this point? And then what does it look like to continue to maintain the integrity of the brand, the customers and all that, as it continues to grow into the future?

Jonathan: [00:27:13] I mean we’ve been doubling and tripling since we’ve launched, so I think for us it’s just trying to maintain healthy growth at this point, and make sure that we’re not trying to grow too fast like I was talking about earlier. And so it’s really not trying to actually grow too fast, so we can maintain the manufacturing of the product, we could still give the customer that attention to detail we were putting every order early on. So I think it’s really just trying to focus more on that, “How do we maintain the same experience as we scale?” Versus trying to find ways to grow. Word of mouth and organic growth has been our number two channel, so that’s been great.

Richie: [00:27:52] So two questions on the campaign front. You talked about campaigns from a marketing perspective and also from a product perspective. How did that fit into the sales/subscription model? And then what have been some of your favorite campaigns and/or products you guys have put out?

Jonathan: [00:28:07] So we did — my favorite also, so I’ll answer both at the same time, is we did a collaboration with Eddie Huang where we launched a panda print. He dubs himself the human panda. It went out to subscribers and customers, and so that was one of our most notable campaigns of this last year. We also did something with Cross Colors as well, so whenever these campaigns go live, subscribers have the opportunity of being able to log in and reserve pairs in advance, so that’s the advantage that they have and how it plays into the subscription.

Richie: [00:28:43] And are these collaborations or campaigns a very big — how big a part of the business are they, in terms of taking the audience and the attention that you have and continuing to layer on more?

Jonathan: [00:28:53] I think they’re really big. I mean what we’re looking for are really people that inspire us and share the same values as we do, so we’re not going out there trying to find the biggest celebrity or star, it’s really who aligns with our values. And I think why our consumers appreciate that is, obviously that they share those equal values, but that they’re learning about someone that they didn’t know about in the past, so there’s this level of discovery which I think is also why younger brands like MeUndies do well, part of it’s the discovery of finding a brand, telling your friends about it. So when you’re able to launch a collaboration with Eddie Huang, and I would say a large majority of our customers didn’t know who he was, you’re really educating them and letting them in on a secret. You know it’s like that thing where you didn’t know about something and then all of a sudden you can’t escape it. So I think it’s really nice to be able to get ahead of that curve.

Richie: [00:29:50] And then as you look at the brand landscape out here in terms of “Who’s buying, who’s not, who’s staying independent, who’s going elsewhere?” How do you start to look at that, if at all?

Jonathan: [00:30:02] Obviously we like to stay informed. We’ve got, like I said, great investors, advisors, that also make us aware of what’s going on in the market. How are companies trading, what are investors looking for, both your Wal-Marts and Amazons of the world, and then also your private equity groups and hedge funds. So I think the profiles are very different, the multiples are very different across the board. Some of them are looking for profitability, others are looking for brand and customer segments and data. And so I think right now, again, we’re just really focusing on growing a brand, it’s still so early on that I think focusing on the exit today, although it’s important, you’re putting the cart before the horse, so really really want to focus on the product, the customers, and I think there’ll be a time and a place for really thinking about how we want to sell and who we want to sell to.

Richie: [00:30:54] We haven’t really talked about Amazon yet, which I would be curious to. So I think if you look at a lot of where they’re playing today, generally they tend to do well in the boring, non-fashion interesting kind of categories. I guess, one, do you pay attention to them? Two, if so, how do you look at them? And three, is there a collision-course somewhere or can both parties continue doing their thing into the future?

Jonathan: [00:31:17] So I definitely pay attention to them because we all use Amazon, more or less, and I think we’re very different. I think they’re smart in that they’re trying to rebrand their apparel. They’re approaching a lot of companies now trying to mirror their website on their website, because a lot of companies, like Nike for instance didn’t want to sell on Amazon, now they’re selling on Amazon, and I think a lot of it had to do with the user interface and the experience.

Richie: [00:31:44] Right. The brand-building.

Jonathan: [00:31:45] Right the brand-building, and I think they’re solving for that now in letting brands customize the experience, which I think is extremely smart. But at the end of the day I’m not fearful of Amazon. I think there’s a way of potentially working with them down-the-line. We have a subscriber-base as well which is really important to us. And so, similar to their Prime, we’re also creating our segment of our loyal customer that is signing up and getting savings, and so we’re equally thinking about how can we apply some of the things they’re thinking about into our business. So I’m not telling Amazon to be fearful of us, but I think we’re going to be introducing some really exciting things over the next year that will really create great value for our customers.

Richie: [00:32:28] Given the collaborations, but also the core nature of the products, how do you balance the fashion trend-driven piece, with the fact that these are under garments, in some form. There are some companies that would say, “We want to just be a really boring replenishment underwear company, we’re going to send you the same black pair of underwear all the time.” There are others that would say, “We’re going to put new styles out every week and be a very fast-fashion driven brand and aesthetic.” I guess where did you land at the beginning, and has it changed, and what was the thinking behind how you wanted to fit between those two spectrums?

Jonathan: [00:32:58] We definitely in the beginning were more of a replenishment company, and then we evolved into — I don’t want to say “fast fashion” but definitely we are introducing more prints, just based on what we saw our customers gravitating towards, what was selling out faster, what do they want more? And the fun, exciting prints and colors that we were launching, now we’re launching weekly, really kept the website fresh, the customers wanted those new designs because they were selling out. And so we’re just more or less now catering to the needs of our consumer.

Richie: [00:33:32] Is there a point when colored underwear took off or became somewhat omnipresent?

Jonathan: [00:33:39] I think it’s been the last two years. It’s funny because I always wore bad socks prior to MeUndies. They were always white socks, ankle socks, they were always different socks, I could have one pink pair, one white pair, was what my underwear drawer looked like before MeUndies. And then there was this whole phenomenon that occurred of socks and sock game and Happy Socks, and now there’s a thousand sock brands out there, and everyone cares about their socks now, and price points have come down. And I think that’s kind of where we’re headed towards with underwear. And I’m excited that we’re leading charges there, in terms of having the playful prints and colors and a really quality product. So I think people are starting to care more about the basics and what they wear on a daily basis, and comfort is now extremely important for men and women, being comfortable day-to-day, and not just wearing clothes that make you look necessarily good, like a push-up bra or whatnot. So, yeah it’s a really exciting time.

Richie: [00:34:42] And are there any favorite inspiration or inception stories of products that ended up in the market, for prints or designs?

Jonathan: [00:34:49] Yeah, it’s not necessarily like a funny story, but I was at a party and someone was wearing this very cool shirt that was from the 80s, and I ended up just taking a picture of his shirt and naming a print after my friend that was wearing it. So, inspiration comes from all different places. It could be a slice of pizza you’re eating one night and it’ll end up on a pair of underwear, or, you know, a geometric print on someone’s T-shirt, or a panda. But it’s been a lot of fun.

Richie: [00:35:20] And then as you look to the future what are you most excited about in the one, two, three years, on the horizon?

Jonathan: [00:35:26] In the next three years I think what’s most exciting is the evolution of our products — thinking outside of the underwear, where do we double-down and where do we expand? And then also thinking about, “What will be those next few channels outside of our core website that we start thinking about selling our product? Is it a partnership? Is it retail?” Like really thinking through that, because we do want to be omnichannel, but figuring out where that next phase is and where we start with is going to be key.

Richie: [00:35:58] And then, any sense what the largest order and/or what customer has the most and how many?

Jonathan: [00:36:04] So the largest order came in this last holiday, someone actually bought the 365 pack. We use to get that question a lot, “Has anyone ever bought it?” It’s actually 365 pairs bundled.

Richie: [00:36:16] Shit.

Jonathan: [00:36:18] And it was more or less a marketing trick. I don’t know if you want to call it a trick but we never really expected anyone to buy it, and that was the single largest order I think we ever got.

Richie: [00:36:29] How many people bought that?

Jonathan: [00:36:31] One person bought it.

Richie: [00:36:32] One. Wow. And how much is it?

Jonathan: [00:36:34] It was $4,000.

Richie: [00:36:36] Which is, I guess, a lifetime supply?

Jonathan: [00:36:39] Basically.

Richie: [00:36:40] It’s pretty amazing. Is that both the largest, and I assume that person has the most MeUndies ever?

Jonathan: [00:36:46] You know, there may be customers that have actually spent more money. We may have to follow up with what the dollar amount is, but you’d be surprised. I mean, we have customers spend a thousand dollars on our website a year.

Richie: [00:36:57] And then what’s the story behind the name?

Jonathan: [00:36:59] That name came about on that same trip. I was thinking about what would be fun and cheeky and memorable. And at that time there were a lot of websites that were coming out that were like first and last names, and I have a hard time with names in general. So I really wanted it to be something that’s easy to remember. Although there was definitely a group of people that didn’t like the name, those same people said they had a hard time forgetting the name, so we thought it was a good balance.

Richie: [00:37:29] Was it just in a brainstorm session?

Jonathan: [00:37:30] Just on that same trip, just thinking about potential names, and that was one of the ones that we had, I jot it down and actually bought it on Godaddy right then and there while I was on that trip.

Richie: [00:37:41] How much was it?

Jonathan: [00:37:42] $10.

Richie: [00:37:43] That’s great.

Jonathan: [00:37:44] Thank you.

Richie: [00:37:45] Thanks man.

Jonathan: [00:37:45] I appreciate you having me.

Richie: [00:37:54] Thanks for listening to the Loose Threads Podcast. Sign up for Ripcord at loosethreads.com and feel free to leave review on iTunes. We always appreciate it. Thanks to George Drake Jr. for editing this episode. I really enjoyed talking with Jonathan about the brand’s journey and how the landscape has changed since its founding. It’s also nice to talk to companies that don’t take their work too seriously, and aren’t afraid to have fun designing their products. We have a great roster of upcoming guests including Jodie Fox of Shoes of Prey, Charlie Giannetti of Giannetti Factory and Charlie Ambler of Strike Gently Co. Thanks for listening and talk to you soon