Tani Underwear’s creative director Yardon Gagnon has been in the underwear industry for more than 20 years, with senior positions at many major brands. Perhaps most notably, Gagnon’s tenure at Calvin Klein Underwear resulted in some of the most successful product launches in the category ever, and chances are the underwear you are wearing right now was influenced by him in some way…there’s a thought!
We sat down with him to discuss branding in the category for the underwear piece in MR Magazine’s April issue. The full interview is below.
Tani Underwear has an understated quality about it. Do you think understated is increasingly equated with luxury?
The logo on the waistband has been around since the early 80s, and Calvin Klein certainly gets credit for that. In 2007 I launched an underwear program called Calvin Klein Steel which from a waistband perspective and a logo perspective was a technical breakthrough. It was a wide waist band that I developed. Instead of a waistband machine I developed it on a woven label machine. The result was a really thin and flexible waistband which had never been done before. Because of the label weaving we were able to do this very fine logo. It was the 25th anniversary at the time and it was a celebration. That really changed the world of logos and waistbands after that.
Well, every major brand had their version of that waistband, which was very flattering; every brand did their version, but that silver waistband changed the way people looked at waistbands and branding.
How have times changed?
Back in the 90s and early 2000s it was the peak time of excess in terms of brands and logos, and everyone was benefiting from that, but it created a competitiveness; everything had to be bigger, better, more colorful. People added logos with stripes, then neon, then glow in the dark, then embellishments. Then the economy crashed and all of a sudden it wasn’t so cool to be walking around with this statement around you waist, or on your shoulder, people were embarrassed to be walking around with an Hermes bag; it didn’t make sense to have all this crazy emblazoning.
So where are we now?
Right, that brings us to today. If you look at who’s successful today in the marketplace, fast fashion is doing very well, H&M, Zara, and even though we all buy them, and they’re very successful, no one is particularly proud of wearing a Uniqlo sweater. Logos for this generation are becoming less and less important; they don’t want to advertise what it is. They’d rather have it be anonymous. This has produced a very sophisticated customer, that can do that, than can mix expensive with more moderate.
How does that affect the luxury market?
In luxury in general, you’re talking to a more sophisticated customer, and now everyone’s toning it down, luxury is even more so. For us, yes, we’re Tani Underwear, and we’re proud of that, and we will put our brand on the product, but in a very subtle way, in a way that our customer will appreciate. Not what I call a screamer; it’s not a screamer, it’s a whisper of a logo, so that when he’s in his underwear drawer, he’ll know which one to pull out , his favorite underwear will always be Tani Underwear, so he want some sort of identifier.