UndiesDrawer is pleased to kick-off our Exclusive Behind-the-Underwear Interview Series. The purpose of the series is to provide an opportunity to get to know the people in the underwear community, to learn their story and to provide more insight about their company, brand, blog, etc. All of the interviews were conducted by UndiesDrawer Correspondent Ron, a.k.a. KyUnderwear. We hope you enjoy the series.
Lee Nino, 31, is an electrical engineer and CEO of Apollowear. Together with his supporting partner, Wen Crenshaw, they have built the Raleigh, North Carolina business. UndiesDrawer sat down (at the keyboard) with Lee and had the following conversation:
UD: What brand, style and color underwear do you have on right now?
LN: Calvin Klein striped briefs, black and gray. They fit great and are soooo comfortable.
UD: What's your favorite pair you own?
LN: I like the Calvin Klein boy shorts for their comfort, fashion and fit. Whether I have on the black, white or gray I always feel special and sexy in them.
UD: Tell me how Apollowear got started?
LN: Well this is a great question! It is not so ordinary that an electrical engineer starts an online men’s underwear business. Apollowear started because the company I work for and have for the last six years announced it was going to spin off the business unit I work for. It caused a lot of panic around the offices, myself included.
I have always had a great appreciation for men’s underwear and always “collected” new underwear from trips throughout Europe and Asia. Whenever I walk into a department store, or any clothing store for that matter, I will always browse their underwear section to see what they have to offer. New styles, colors, brands, label – they all interest me. Being fortunate enough to travel with my work has afforded me the opportunity to see styles and fits
from other places.
The potential turmoil at my job was just the motivation I needed to start a business involving what I have always been interested in. So with a little counsel from some friends, I set about building Apollowear.
The name and logo were inspired by a tattoo of a sun I have on my arm which is a symbol of strength and power. My partner later suggested "Apollowear" -- tying in the Greek god of the sun with underwear.
From a press release I wrote in the beginning, I said, "Apollowear, derived from the two words Apollo and underwear, is understood to celebrate the spirit, strength and sex appeal of today’s young men. Apollo, the Greek god of the sun, known for his youthful appearance, is representative of what this store is about – fresh, sexy, stylish, athletic men’s underwear for today’s man."
We have continued to grow and expand in our offerings and will be launching a fresh new line of men’s swimwear.
UD: How long have you been in business?
LN: We started in January 2006. We will celebrate our anniversary January 18, 2007, with a HUGE customer appreciation sale offering 40-60% off many items in our store to customers who have previously purchased from Apollowear.
UD: What do you like most about selling underwear?
LN: I like the underwear and the sexiness that they express. You can be sitting in the boardroom as serious as life and know that you are wearing a sexy little number under your suit expressing yourself. Giving this satisfaction to all the world is a thrill in its own. I also enjoy the photography and the photo shoots we do. We have been fortunate to have super models pose for us.
UD: What brands do you carry?
LN: Apollowear carries Calvin Klein, Koi Boy, Male Power, Magic Silk, Apollowear, Excite and we plan to add many others…
UD: What trends do you see in men's underwear today?
LN: Men’s underwear has evolved leaps and bounds since the 1990s and the advertising revolution of Calvin Klein. Who can’t remember the building-high billboards of hunky Mark Wahlberg in his Calvins?
Men’s underwear had never really been considered to be a fashion apparel item up until that point. Historically, the men’s underwear industry saw little potential for self-expression. However, men’s underwear is now going through a transformation. Men’s underwear producers now see the
importance of offering variety in design and also providing a more satisfactory fit. Rather than just wearing what your father wore, men are seeking fashionably expressive, comfortable, and well fitting underwear. In this age of metro-sexuality and high fashion, men want to look good -- both in and out of their clothes -- right down to the comfort pouch mesh briefs they are wearing.
Today’s trends are progressing to satisfy everyone’s desires in comfort, fit and style. Overall, I have found that European styles are blazing the trail of menswear. Currently I am in Portugal and the common shopping mall has three stores dedicated to underwear. Yes, they carry more women’s lingerie styles, but the men’s selections still have a significant presence in the shops. European men are less inhibited in their choices and styles. This extends all the way to their underwear. Similar style and fashion sense can be seen in Germany, Malaysia and Japan.
UD: What's the oddest question/request you've received about underwear?
LN: Well we have not had too many odd requests, but I did get asked if the underwear used during our photo shoots were for sale. [The pic is one of Lee photographing his model, Richard.]
UD: What's next for Apollowear?
LN: Apollowear will continue to grow and expand. We are increasing the items we offer and plan to branch out into stylized jewelry and watches for men in the new year. We have some designs we will launch from our online store. We have also contacted some nightclubs in the Southeast to sponsor underwear nights with Apollowear fashion shows. Local models will strut their stuff in Apollowear items. One will be happening this spring in Columbia, S.C. From there we will take it on the road and hit clubs around the country both having fun and promoting Apollowear.