Q&A with Haut Underwear

Q&A with Haut Underwear

I’ve teamed up with the online underwear and swimwear retailer Haut Underwear and will be bringing you some reviews soon. First I thought it would be nice to do a Q&A with Ken from Haut. I always like to learn more about anything related to underwear and swimwear especially when it is not what we are offered in the mainstream market. Let’s get into the questions.

I think many of us who are into underwear and swimwear would love to do something related to it for a living. Is it your liking of them that got you started on the idea of starting up an underwear and swimwear ecommerce site? Was it something you thought about doing for a while or did you jump right into it?

Since I was young, I have had a passion for underwear, but I never dreamed I would use that appreciation to eventually fuel a business. I have a background in the fashion industry, from working as a buyer at Bergdorf Goodman in NY to co-founding a series of ready-to-wear stores in Denver and Aspen. During the pandemic I began exploring ideas on creating an e-commerce start up. I had experience in the retail business, I just needed to figure out a niche audience and product that had the potential to work in an e-commerce setting. One morning I was on a hike with my dog contemplating different ideas when I came to the realization that I needed to focus on what I love. This gave me a few options, but the underwear market stood out as the most interesting to me personally. From my fascination with different styles as a teenager to my collection of different styles as an adult, there was this common thread of underwear that I felt could form the foundation for the business. I am lucky that so many others share a passion for this small simple garment, and I am grateful to be working in an area that allows this passion to flourish.

Focusing on something you love is the way to go! What’s behind the name Haut Underwear?

When I was considering names and branding for the site, I wanted something that reflected not only the products, but the principles I envisioned the company be built around. The central idea of the site is quality, premium products from what I believe to be some of the best and most style forward international brands, backed by superior customer-focused service. The word haut in French, the masculine form of haute, literally translates to high, or the highest, and is more broadly defined as fashionable or high-class. I felt Haut Underwear, the height of underwear, reflected my idea of a collection of elevated products sold on a site with peak customer service.

One aspect of choosing a French word that I underestimated was pronunciation. I think for many of our customers haut represents a play on the word hot. While unforeseen, having our products viewed as hot is a positive development and I have come to embrace this interpretation of the brand. Whether one pronounces the word as hot or haut (oh), in the end the important thing for me is that the site embodies the height of style, quality and customer service.

You touched on what you look for in a bit brand, but how did you decide on what brands to offer? Are they brands you have enjoyed?

I started with a set of criteria to reflect the ideal store I had mapped out in my head. First, I decided to focus on smaller boutique brands. Very large brands like Calvin Klein seemed over saturated and already available everywhere. Second, I wanted the brands to have a broad international representation. While international companies often ship to the U.S., they typically have long shipping times. Importing and warehousing the merchandise here in the U.S. meant that for customers in North America we could ship faster and more securely. Third, the brands had to reflect my ideals of quality and design. We back up any merchandise we carry in the store. To do this it was necessary to choose brands that I knew and could trust.

The last element is more personal. I like to buy underwear when I am on vacation. Some of my favorite pieces I own, I purchased during a trip. From traveling I became familiar with various brands like Addicted, TOF, Team8 and Garçon. Owning and wearing the product is a huge benefit during the buying process. Sometimes it takes a few times wearing a pair to discover the irritating quirks unnoticeable in the beginning. In this way I try to use my own personal experience when I decide what brands and styles to add to the site’s collection. Hopefully, this knowledge translates into an enhanced buying and owning experience for our customers.

Personally, I think smaller brands offer a better range of styles and fit over mainstream brands. Waiting for a package is definitely hard even when it isn’t an International order. Are there any brands you are looking to add?

In a broad sense I am always looking for new brands and reviewing products to see if they have potential as additions to the site. But at the same time, I feel it is important to maintain a good balance between adding new labels to keep the mix fresh while not overwhelming customers with too many choices.

Currently, I am in conversation with a couple of brands that I think will add some new and interesting elements to the site. They are both based outside the U.S. and have limited presence here. One is a smaller business just moving into the wholesale market and the other is a more established company with a very loyal following in their home country. I don’t want to reveal too many details before we have agreements in place, but I think our customers will be excited to see them added.

If you don’t mind, I would like to turn this question back to you. What brands would you and your readers like to see added? Are there brands that you are fans of that you think would bring a new perspective to the site? While I have my own ideas, I always appreciate feedback from customers. They are the driving engine of the business and I place a lot of weight on their input.

I’d imagine it is hard to decided what to stock with the many styles available from brands. Look forward to seeing what brands are to come. I’m always happy to answer questions or at least try to. For me there are a few brands I’m at least interested in trying though price does hold me back on some of them. One brand I have tried one of their thongs and really liked is the German brand Bruno Banani. I haven’t noticed them available from an US retailer. Couple German brands I want to try are Olaf Benz, which I have heard good things about. The other in Manstore. One other brand that comes to mind is the French brand HOM, which I have some swim bikinis from that I like. I’ve been eyeing their plume g-string, but my opinion it is a thong. What do you feel is the best part about running an underwear and swimwear e-commerce site?

For me, the best thing about running an underwear and swimwear e-commerce site is working with a product I am passionate about. I love exploring new brands and new styles, both on a personal and professional level, and to be able to build a business around something one loves is a dream. Moreover, it is an exciting time to be involved in this industry. Men’s underwear brands are embracing new technology, fabrics, and cuts, to create pieces that are more comfortable, durable and fashionable. Having the opportunity to help men discover and express their individuality during this evolution of men’s underwear keeps me engaged while making my work rewarding. It is impossible to predict the future, but my sense is the underwear market will continue to grow and evolve and working in this industry will continue to be a gratifying and enjoyable experience.

It’s definitely the way to go with something you are passionate about. Makes work seem less like work. What do you want people to know about Haut Underwear?

When I was developing the concept of Haut, I wanted it to be more than just a site where someone could buy a new jockstrap. I envisioned a place that fostered a sense of community around a shared passion for underwear. Many of our customers use our live chat feature to speak directly with us on the site, or they message us on social media. These interactions are important to us for many reasons. They help us to understand and relate to our audience, which allows us to customize and improve the buying experience, and they add a human element to the impersonal nature of on-line retail.

I would like to add that, while our product photos use male models, we are committed to being body positive and inclusive of everyone. I want every customer to feel welcome and to easily find personalized help and service. So, I would encourage anyone visiting to take a moment and say hello. We are happy to listen to your comments, help you with any questions you might have, or just share a moment talking about your underwear collection.

I want to thank you and your readers for including me in this conversation. The Bottom Drawer is an amazing resource, and I am grateful to have had this opportunity to speak about Haut Underwear and to be included in your community.

I’d like to thank Ken for taking the time to answer my questions especially with great detailed answers. It’s been a pleasure communicating back and forth and getting to know Ken and his company better. If you like the brands 2Eros, Addicted, ES Collection, Garçon, Marcuse, Modus Vivendi, Skull & Bones, Teamm8, and/or TOF Paris then check out Haut Underwear and use my affiliate code TBDHAUT for 15% off. Also if there are any International brands that aren’t readily available in the US let us know in the comments.

5 Responses

  1. Dan K says:

    Great news! looking forward

  2. DonS says:

    “Haut” in price also. All I’ve seen on the website is mostly expensive junk. Junk in the sense of poor styling, the manufacturing quality might be superb though.

    Given the variation in sizing between brands, at least there is a size chart for each item.

    It would be interesting to see if he ultimately designs, and perhaps makes, his own brand of underwear or swimwear.

    • The Bottom Drawer says:

      Yes, their underwear selection doesn’t have a lot of skimpier cuts or nonelastic waistbands as of yet. I think their prices are comparable to if you buy those brands from over seas. They are definitely in the splurge category for me. Shipping saving and speed of deliver is the plus for many of the brands for those interested in the offering. I know that wouldn’t help you, since you don’t live in the USA. The swimwear selection has more that I am interested in over the underwear at the moment. They do like to hear suggestions, which they are checking out some of the brands I suggested that interested me.

      You are right about it is nice having a size chart for each brand and even notes that say if sizing runs smaller than normal.

      I’m sure they are open to the idea of creating their own brand of underwear and swimwear.

  3. swimmer78 says:

    Thanks for posting this very interesting interview! It’s cool to see a curated collection of international brands by a boutique retailer be readily available in the US. I was interested in some HOM products a while back, but the shipping times discouraged me from purchasing. Having a collection like this will help guys in the US sample international brands and not wait weeks for delivery. Just from browsing his website I like what I see. Very fashion forward designs. Also, I don’t see his prices being anymore expensive than other specialty men’s underwear and swimwear designer brands. They are in line with what I’ve paid for some others, for example Ergowear. If you want something better/more exciting than the standard, boring men’s underwear like Hanes or FTL then you’re gonna have to pony up a little more.

  4. JR2 says:

    Great interview , I think it is nice to hear from people in the industry to hear their thought and ideas. Its a good idea to carry brands that are outside the U.S. There have been times were I have seen some brands and like there styles only to notice that they are outside the U.S. making it a little more expensive to order or longer shipping time. There are some items I am looking at ordering from Haut . Thanks for the discount code . I have tried Manstore and Olaf Benz those are some great brands . They have some great styles and they fit awesome . Definitely worth a try! The HOM Plume g-string is a great thong , super comfortable . One of the best that I have in my drawer . The one company that I would like to try that is outside the U.S. is DEEJAY . They are a company from Australia . I like to try their Poser style bikinis .

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