MO Underwear aims to create a product that is sexy, classic, cool and still manage to give back to the community. Here is our discussion with MO underwear about their concept.
by Sidney Stokes
GAYPV: I’m here with On and I’m here with Dave. Thank y’all for taking the time to meet with me today. How are you?
Dave: We’re great. We’re super good. Hot, but good. Ready for the summer.
GAYPV: Okay. We’re here to talk about MOUNDERWEAR, which is your underwear line. Can you give me a background and tell me how MOUNDERWEAR came to be?
On: I started the company in 2015, I think. To be quick about it, I was modeling for a lot of brands of underwear, and then my dad came to visit with my mom in New York. They wanted me to invest in something. I started my own company and they asked me, “What do you want to do?” I said, “Underwear,” and the rest is history. I wanted to go to basics…I wanted to go to something very Calvin Klein, very basic, classic, raw vibe. Something that I find sexy when men wear. That’s the story of the brand
Dave: We focus on the basic aspects of underwear, which is providing you a pair of underwear that you would need to wear, but making them sexy. We only really design for men right now just because of the simplicity of it. Designing bras and stuff like that, it can be a big burden, which we tried, but realized that in order to perfect something first, we wanted to keep the most basic, simplistic version of it, which has been boxer briefs. But like you said, we market it in a way where it’s a vibe.
GAYPV: Got it. Okay. What is your creative process when you’re creating new products?
On: We like to work together and we’ll just spend the weekend and just get creative with each other. Let’s say the swim collection that we are launching soon. We went to the beach during COVID for all the time, spent every weekend at the gay beach in LA. Then, we just came up with ideas while sitting at the beach, and then we went home, put it on paper, started designing stuff. Honestly, [the process] is day-to-day, we can just drive somewhere and just suddenly, something will come to our head.
Dave: Yeah. Because we live together and we’re partners, it could be a five-minute conversation on a Thursday night at 10 o’clock, or it could be an hour-long conversation on a Saturday. It’s really non-traditional in terms of how we attack it. It’s hard to even report to people in our lives what are we doing at that moment or that day because we’re just constantly always talking. It’s very non-traditional. Things just bubble up, and then we let it flow. But it’s a lot of back and forth. We check in with each other a lot.
On: There’s a lot of stuff that we’re passionate about. We’re passionate about every product that we put out there. It’s what we think that a man will look sexy in, like a guy would look sexy in. We’re always thinking like, okay, what do we think is sexy? What do we think will look sexy on a guy? It can come to you in the middle of a party on a weekend or just when we’re at the gym. It always comes to mind.
Dave: Yeah. It’s really our interpretation of what we think sexy is. We understand that everybody has a different idea of that, but we really try to make it the most palatable version of sexiness where it can be appropriate for the gym or the underwear is appropriate to put on underneath a suit. It always just goes with whatever the vibe is. We try to make it super flexible with the vibe, but keeping it just always neat and tight.
GAYPV: So, how long have y’all have been doing this for?
Dave: [On] has been doing it since 2015 and we’ve been doing this together since 2017 or ’18.
GAYPV: So, being in the business for this long, what is something about the underwear industry and business that people might not know but you think they should know?
Dave: It’s not as easy as you would think. It’s not a niche product. Underwear is something that everyone wears almost. So, you would think that, oh, well, if everyone needs underwear all the time, then you always have a market for it. But you’d be surprised at how much of a diehard people are for a certain brand. That’s their go-to brand. So, to switch them over, to try something new, it can be a little bit more challenging. I think that’s where, when you talk about how you’re marketing and the type of information you’re surrounding your product with, really helps to convey your message and what it is. You’re selling your brand. You’re not just selling the garment itself. There’re so many pairs of underwear. A lot of them are made well. Some are made shitty. But really, it’s about selling them on how they’re going to feel in your underwear.
On: Also, people think it’s so easy. Just a piece of fabric and a waistband. But it’s so difficult. You go back and forth so many times with factories because there are so many fabrics that are not good for underwear and there are so many waistbands that fall apart in the washer. It’s such hard work to create a perfect pair and it takes months and months and months. Everybody will think, “You’re just in the art. It’s boxer brief. It looks the same.” But it’s really not. There’re so many fabrics and it’s a lot of work.
Dave: It’s a lot of trial and error too.
On: You want to make a good one. You don’t want to make a shitty one just to sell.
GAYPV: What was it like when you got to the point where you were happy with it and you’re like, “let’s go!” What was that feeling like, and how did you know you were ready to move to the next step when you did your first pair?
On: Obviously when I started the company, I started really big with a crazy campaign with supermodels. It was for guys and girls back then. I like the product, and then to see it in the campaign on these models, it was just… I said, “Okay, we are ready,” but then now, looking back at it, I feel like right now, we have the perfect pairs, and to get to these perfect pairs, it took me five years. If you’re asking me if my products were perfect when I started, no, but now I feel like they’re perfect. It was a work in progress and a lot of mistakes I did on the way to get to these pairs. But right now, let’s say on the boxer briefs, the new one, it’s honestly my favorite of all time. It’s even my favorite that I’ve ever worn in my life, even more than Calvin Klein. They’re not cheap for us to make and I notice they’re not a good business decision really, but it’s something I’m passionate about and I feel comfortable with it and I know that whoever’s going to wear it is going to like it. That’s very important to me.
GAYPV: You have a swim line coming out. What was the moment you decided to move into swim?
Dave: We actually just moved to LA right before COVID hit, so we really didn’t know a lot of people. We didn’t know a lot about the area because we hadn’t traveled around a lot. We just got situated. Like we said, the beach was our outlet on Sundays just to get out of the house because you couldn’t go anywhere on the weekends really, but the beach was open because it was an outdoor environment. Plus, we lived in Calabasas at the time, so we were super close to the beach, so we spent a lot of time there. But especially just being at the gay beach, being around other members of the community, we saw how seriously they took their swimwear. I’ve always been cautious of my swimwear, but with any clothing, I like a good fit. It doesn’t matter what the brand is. It just has to be a good fit. It has to lay right. It has to feel of quality. But it was just very interesting to just see all the different choices people would make with their swimwear. That was how people were displaying their vibe on the beach. Was their choice something like a Speedo? Was it a colorful one? Was it a pair of board shorts? Were they short? Were they longer? We just got inspired by having a very small area of the city and a small group of people to consistently be inundated by, and then we realized that swim was something that’s super important to LA people because of the access to the beach all year long, but also to the gay community at large. We were like, let’s try it out. We can make pieces better than the ones we were wearing or the ones we were seeing, we felt, just based on our connections with the factory, but also how we worked together. We decided to try it out, and that’s where it came from.
GAYPV: When can people start expecting the swimwear line to roll out?
On: We’re going to launch on May 1st.
GAYPV: By the time people will have read this article, you’ll have launched your pride line. Why do you think is important to have a line dedicated just towards Pride?
On: I feel like pride is an important thing for our community, and we wanted to make something because our brand is very not in your face for gays because it’s not. It’s for everybody. We wanted to do something for our community and to show that, yes, we’re for everybody, but after all, we are the community.
Dave: Yeah. We’re a gay-owned company. To be a gay-owned company and to not come show our pride is a little bit lame. It’s a whole month long of celebrations. People gear up for it. From a marketing perspective, it’s a no-brainer to offer something special and specific and temporary just for that time period to get people hyped.
On: I feel like it’s also coming along with the foundation in what we do because we wanted to do something that would give back to the foundation.
GAYPV: Let’s talk a little bit about the foundation. Your pride line is going to help fund this foundation. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what the foundation is doing?
Dave: Right now, the foundation is still in its infancy. We spent about a whole year aligning all the paperwork to become a non-profit. It’s a lot of work to get there. There’s so much paperwork, it’s back and forth, it’s months of waiting. Our first goal was just to clear that obstacle, and now we’re just working on the infrastructure that we’re setting up. What we’re able to do right now based on where we’re at is just bring awareness to certain issues that the LGBTQ+ community faces as a part of the criminal justice system, which really just means that LGBTQ+ people are treated very unfairly within the system. They’re more inclined to get stiffer and harsher punishments and sentences. Plus, just because of the complicated nature of being a member of the community, they find themselves in situations where they are consumed by the system. It’s really just bringing awareness to that little subgroup of people in the system, and also the fact that once they are imprisoned in the county jail or in custody, then they also endure a lot of unfair treatment and situations that are potentially dangerous. So, it’s really just about bringing awareness to that.
Also, our long-term goal is to offer community support for people that are either leaving the system, like getting out of prison or jail, or who are currently incarcerated and providing them with the support system that a lot of them don’t have, because a lot of times, they winded up there because they don’t have a support system in the outside. The idea is an extension of an LGBTQ+ center, but offering more specific, tailored assistance to people who are going through issues in the system. It’s really about providing them an outlet and teasing out the issues that got them to where they are and trying to pinpoint resources that can help keep them out once they finish whatever it is that they’re stuck in.
GAYPV: That’s really great. How did y’all get involved with this? How did this process start of wanting to create a non-profit?
Dave: It came to be through my experience. I was in and out of prison in my late 20s. After I graduated college, I was selling weed full time, but lots and lots and lots of it on the East Coast, and it’s super illegal there, especially during that time period in the 2010s. It was just my own journey through how I got into that position of doing what I was doing. Also realizing I wasn’t harming anyone, but I was harming myself, and the reasons behind that. So, I checked myself into therapy along the way when I was in and out just because I knew I needed some more self-care and to explore what was going on with my mental health.
Then, I had an experience where I’d been locked up for about eight months and the therapist that I was seeing on the outside… I had been connected to her through a mutual friend who was also a therapist. Somehow, she organized to come visit me free of charge during the visiting hours to give me a free session. I just thought that was such an awesome experience, to have a therapist, because she gave me some an outlet that I couldn’t even get from a loved one just because this was someone I’d done so much work with and who understood my process and where I was. Just having that experience, I was like, wow, how moving it was and how productive it was and how loved I felt in that moment when I felt super alone that I had someone coming out here to talk to me and just shift the focus to a more positive note. It was really about that pivotal moment.
Then, [On and I] met right when I came home from prison. I was about three weeks home and I was on house arrest. I introduced him to this whole crazy world. I was on a super strict parole program, so I was still experiencing the aftermath of what had gone on in my life and he became a part of that, having to make sure I was in the house at a certain time. Not to say that we were suffering, but he definitely experienced it on his end from being a loved one, caring for someone who is so wrapped up in a heavy situation that really dictates your every move. It was just about our struggle with it and how we wanted to help make it easier for others that might not have somebody like him in their corner. That’s how the foundation came about.
GAYPV: That’s a really, really great and beautiful story. Thank you for sharing. After all of that, what does that mean to you?
On: To me, I feel like it means freedom and it means to be happy with who you are, which not a lot of us are. Even if we think we are, it’s a work in progress. I feel like, years ago, I never even took pride in my country. I’m not that kind of person to go and be out and about it. But the more I get older, I’ll say, I find it more important and very… It’s a happy place and I think that it’s important to acknowledge it.
Dave: Yeah. I think it’s a time to celebrate the progress that’s been made. I think it’s a time to try your best to let down your guards with everyone and just appreciate who you are, where you’ve come from, and the work that you’ve done. So often, I feel like society tries to tell us certain things that we should be embarrassed by as a member of the gay community, or what’s not right about us. I think it’s a time to just make sure to say, “Fuck all of that,” and strength in numbers, and watch everyone be super amped up and hype about who they are no matter what their struggles are, because we all have struggles, gay, straight, whatever, but especially within the community. I think it’s just a time to just throw everything to the land and just have a celebration for all the progress that’s been made.
GAYPV: That’s right! So I hear y’all are planning to visit PV this summer. Do you have any plans of what you want to do while you’re here?
Dave: Honestly, no. We’ve never been!
On: We just heard so much about it.
Dave: Just going to step into it blindly and let the vibe take over and see what happens.
GAYPV: I’m very, very biased obviously, but it is a really wonderful place. There are a lot of really cool gay shops down there. Would you be trying to get underwear in the shops down in PV?
On: That would be ideal and that would be our goal.
Dave: Yeah, for sure. We’re never opposed to doing stuff like that. But again, it’s about sniffing out the right shop, making sure it has the right vibe for us.
GAYPV: Got it. Where would you like to see MOUNDERWEAR in five years?
On: Everywhere! I would say I would want to see it in department stores. I know business-wise, it’s not smart because it’s best to sell online. We will make more money. But for me to accomplish my end goal, I want to see it in Macy’s. I want to see it in Nordstrom. I want to see it everywhere. I want to walk into a mall and just see it. Or maybe I will open our own stores. I don’t know.
Dave: Yeah. We’re traditional with how we view it. Obviously, in this day and age, you make all your money selling on social media because you don’t have a lot of expenses to do so. But like we said, we’re still old school with it.
GAYPV: Okay. Lastly, where can our readers keep up with you? How can they get in touch? Where can they buy? Tell me everything.
On: They can buy it online at mounderwear.com. They can keep up with our life on my Instagram. It’s @iamonmekahel. Instagram is for both of us and there’s the Instagram for [the brand]. Just @mounderwear.
Dave: We’re also trying to master TikTok right now.
GAYPV: Well, thank you both so much. We actually are very much looking forward to y’all coming down to PV and joining us.
On: Yeah, we can’t wait.
Dave: Thank you. We appreciate it!