Industry Executive Returns to Underwear Game
A well-known Canadian action sports and fashion executive is getting back into the underwear game and is the new CEO of BN3TH.
Darren Hawrish, a current shareholder and director of Native Shoes, also served as CEO of Native, along with previously being an owner of Saxx underwear, and distributed a wide range of industry brands in Canada including Reef, Spy, Sanuk and Obey.
At Vancouver-based BN3TH, formerly known as MyPakage, Darren will work with Dez Price, the Chief Creative Officer and Co-Founder.
Darren answered a few questions for us about his new role, the opportunity in the underwear market, and what’s next for BN3TH.
You were an owner of the Saxx underwear brand. Why are you jumping back into the space?
Darren Hawrish: The space we are entering is not just men’s underwear, it is specifically engineered men’s underwear designed to improve comfort.
Men’s underwear is a significant market that has lacked innovation and design improvements, and this engineered category is now the fastest growing segment of all men’s underwear.
However, it’s still in its infancy. Only a very small percentage of men are even aware there is a much more comfortable opportunity available to them.
In short, I’m back in because I love the business, the product is amazing and the opportunity to lead this category is huge.
What is the differentiator with BN3TH?
Darren Hawrish: Everyone in this market will tell you they have the best design and the best product.
But MyPakage was the first patented pouch design in the market. It has a full 3D separation and support system. Saxx is just side panels rather than a pouch with support and Stance is pretty much a copy of the MyPakage pouch with a few tweaks. I’ve tested many, many different brands and designs and I can confidently say BN3TH is the most comfortable to me. I would not have joined the business otherwise.
I also performed my own due diligence. I ran testing with trusted friends and testing with strangers and then ran focus groups. BN3TH was considered the most comfortable at minimum 80% in every trial. I’m not a designer nor creator of innovations, but I can certainly build a brand and business around a fantastic product and bring it to market successfully.
Can you remind us why the name changed from MyPakage?
Darren Hawrish: The reason for the name change is about being able to tell the story more effectively.
As the patented MyPakage Pouch Technology was developed, MyPakage just started getting used as the brand name. But MyPakage is a product description more than a brand name and doesn’t allow the full brand story to resonate.
We want to be much more than just a product story. This includes considering sustainability and the environment in every one of our decisions, from what we make to how we operate.
We understand men’s underwear is the most washed garment in a man’s closet and we all know underwear doesn’t get passed down. It goes into the landfills. Through some fantastic innovation partners, we only use bio-based fibers certified as compostable and biodegradable for the majority of our collections. Specifically for the Entourage collection, we developed a recycled poly using post-consumer water bottles.
Saxx has gotten pretty big, and now Stance is in the underwear game. Does BN3TH have the resources to compete with those brands?
Darren Hawrish: While we will all be competing with each other, there’s a much bigger picture. Together, we are creating a whole new category in a huge market with immense potential that is ready for change.
Don’t get me wrong, we have the finances and we will compete fiercely for market share. The competition will actually have two beneficial effects for the market. It will drive continuous innovations and improvements to bring consumers better products. And, it will drive awareness and will grow the category. Competition will make the pie bigger and we will be competing for the lead position to take the biggest slice.
Tell us about your involvement with Native shoes and how you helped that brand grow.
Darren Hawrish: My role at Native was very similar to my role now at BN3TH. It was building up people and a business infrastructure around fantastic product design and brand to make it a successful business on a global scale.
Native was insolvent when the co-founder Scott Hawthorn and I refinanced the business and I joined as president to lead a turnaround back in 2013.
I spent just over three years in that position with a fantastic team of people. With a lot of sweat, smarts and creativity, we established an amazing global brand with a working infrastructure in place to take the business to the next level.
In 2016 we hired Kyle Houseman to take over as president and lead the business into the future.
Turning to Canada, can you tell us how the action sports and youth fashion markets are holding up these days?
Darren Hawrish: It’s certainly very tough – maybe not quite as tough as in the USA but not far behind. Headwinds include everything from consolidation of retailers to retailers closing doors, the influence of fast fashion and lower consumer brand loyalty.
Opportunities for new brands to launch and small brands to grow are very limited outside of the online world.
That begs the question – what is BN3TH’s distribution like?
Darren Hawrish: The brand’s roots are in the West Coast lifestyle, action sports and outdoor. As the brand grows, it will mature into casual fashion and sporting goods channels. We are working on a couple of game-changing innovations that are sport-specific to improve men’s comfort and performance in those activities.
The DTC business has become an absolute necessity for brands and setting up that experience well is becoming more important all the time. Our focus will be on using DTC as a means to market and inform consumers about the brand and to take the whole shopping experience to a new level.
We are looking at some of the latest technology and machine learning applications that work with retailers in partnership to create an omni-channel experience that shares regional data and information collected online to help guide a retailer’s assortment and inventory forecasting.