The brand also focuses on men's education with popular TikToks like "5 Tips To Avoid Pee Stains."
Holed up in a Mont-Tremblant cabin in June 2020, four life-long best friends from Montreal set out to come up with their big entrepreneurial idea — the idea that would justify leaving cushy jobs in the finance industry to start their own business. Three days and over 100 ideas later, they emerged with the problem they wanted to solve: terrible men's underwear.
"We just kept talking about how we hated our underwear," Anthony Ciavirella told MTL Blog. "How uncomfortable they were, how they would ride up, how they made us chafe [...] and how you'd always find yourself picking your underwear in weird scenarios like in an elevator."
It took 10 months "to reinvent men's boxer briefs from scratch" but, in August 2021, Ciavirella — alongside Philip Santagata, Robert Marzin and Roberto "Berto" Rebelo — launched Manmade, a men's essentials brand that's now sold 7,000 pairs of boxers and amassed 200 five-star Google reviews with glowing comments such as, "Not once did I have to play with my balls to adjust my package."
Courtesy of Manmade
Coming from banking and accounting backgrounds, which Ciavirella chalked up to "the great resignation" trend of millennials leaving big corporations to dodge red tape in pursuit of fulfillment, the guys had a lot of transferrable skills for creating a startup. But Ciavirella said doing R&D for undergarments wasn't one of them.
"We tested and tested and tested and 34 iterations later we put the boxer brief on and were like, 'Boom we got it,'" he said.
Solving the underpants problem
Ciavirella explained that Manmade's secret sauce, so to speak, is a material called modal, a semi-synthetic fabric made from beech tree pulp. Unlike polyester used to make "performance underwear," which is meant specifically for physical activity, or cotton, which may stretch out causing discomfort, Ciavirella said modal is just right.
"It has a four-way stretch so it has the same properties in terms of performance as polyester, but it's derived from a natural fibre," he explained.
The website indicates that Manmade's boxer briefs, which cost CA$24 per pair, are designed for "superior breathability and moisture-wicking" and even come with a "mansack" to separate your "goalies from your legs, reducing any friction between your 'boys' and your thighs."
It isn't the only company using modal fabric for undergarments. If you listen to podcasts, you've undoubtedly heard of modal from MeUndies ads. But scanning the market, Ciavirella said the team noticed high price points in the range of US$30 and took on the goal of doing it "better and cheaper" from a home base in Montreal's garment district.
Though the team struggled to find a Montreal manufacturer that would work with such a small company and such a specialty fabric, they do design and R&D in their local office while partnering with sociably responsible manufacturers that are accredited by WRAP (World Responsible Accredited Production) in Sri Lanka and Taiwan.
Teaching men how to avoid pee stains
But it's not just about making underwear — or socks — which Manmade recently added to its collection. Ciavirella said the brand is on a mission to educate men about wellness. They didn't just pinpoint a lack of solid men's underpants back in that cabin, he said, but a lack of awareness around men's self-care, too.
Through their blog, The Gentlemen's Club, and super active social media pages, he said the team is "making men understand why they're wearing what they're wearing and what it does for them."
"[Growing up] I just bought whatever my dad used to wear [...] or whatever I would find with my regular routines going to Winners or Costco. It's one of those things where unless you're told or shown something different you'll never know. You never really have the time to start Googling your best pair of underwear," Ciavirella said. "We did the research. We got you covered, bro."
Another tenet of the Manmade philosophy is "no body shaming." Most of the models Manmade features aren't what you would typically find with other brands.
"You're not going to see the Calvin Klein model. It's not what we're about [...] If we pick three models, we pick three body types," he said. "Our garments are made for all shapes and sizes."
Courtesy of Manmade
Putting Montreal on the map
Ciavirella told MTL Blog that Manmade will soon start selling T-shirts and move beyond apparel into self-care products. There's also a tech component to the company, as the guys have built a "concierge service" that allows existing customers to seamlessly place orders through text messaging with the founders.
Are you a fan of CBC's Dragons' Den? Keep an eye out for Manmade because they just landed an audition.
"We want to bring this to a level where we're a nationally known brand," Ciavirella said, noting the company's plans to ramp up marketing across Canada before expanding into the U.S. in June.
"We want to put Montreal on the map."
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
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