What does men’s underwear have to do with the culture and lifestyle of action sports? Everything, according to what I extracted from my visit with MyPakage Co-Founder’s Dez Price and Dustin Bigney. I enjoyed (and suffered a little bit) a whirlwind 24hr road trip from Seattle, Washington, to Vancouver, BC, to join them for their annual Holiday Party and a visit to the MyPakage headquarters where I got the full download on the brand, their culture, their plans for the future, and what has quickly become a force to be reckoned with in the highly competitive game of “lifestyle” marketing.
“If you were built overnight, you will die overnight.” – Co-Found, Dez Price on the topic of building a sustainable and, perhaps, a “memorable” brand. I love this quote. The brand itself and the offering certainly aren’t targeting me, a 31 year old female, but what attracts me to the brand is what they are doing to give back to their employees, partners, the industry and the global community at large. I learned a bit about their core values and initiatives and things to come in the future which were highly compelling, but what was most memorable was the camaraderie that i witnessed and the tight knit group of ambitious, beautiful people.
Even as recently as a few years ago, the action sports market was pretty much limited to hardgoods, outerwear, goggles, footwear, and denim. Accessories accounted for a pretty small share of the pie; that is until a handful of companies like Neff, Skullcandy, Stance, and Canadian upstart, MyPakage, emerged to put an “action sports” flavor on typically bland categories like hats, headphones, socks, and underwear. Underwear is not something you normally think about, especially in terms of being sold in core skate and snowboard shops, but that is just what MyPakage founder, Dez Price, has accomplished with their line of practical, comfortable, and technical underwear.
In the interview, Dez explains that building a brand is much more than just having good product: it’s how you market. Head to mypakage.com to check out their full line of products, read about their Hall Pass philosophy, their Permission to Play campaign, as well as their MyContribution program, which is helping to work to end world hunger. If that sounds like a lot—it is. While MyPakage has an ambitious set of goals, after hearing Dez talk during this interview, you will feel if there’s anyone who can reach them, it’s him and MyPakage.
Molly: Hey Dez, thank you so much for the interview today! Where are we?
Dez: You’re welcome. We are in North Vancouver, about an hour from Whistler.
Molly: Tell me about MyPakage and its inception. What got you to where you’re at today?
Dez: It started in 2009 as an idea that Dustin and I had. I was working for another distribution company here in Vancouver and it was one of those things where I felt the timing was right. People had approached me in the past with t-shirt companies, board companies, and everything else, and I just felt that those things were in such a niche. I had this rule that if I was going to start my own thing, it had to be something that was affordable to everyone; at least 50% of the population needed it, and the biggest thing—that it needed to be a necessity. So when the underwear thing popped up, I was like, underwear really hadn’t been cool since Marky Mark and Calvin Klein.
Molly: That’s so true.
Dez: Underwear has always been an accessory to bigger brands. I thought we had a chance to take something and make it cool again. Action sports are our backyard, so we started there, but at the same time we’re not an action sports brand. We’re an underwear brand for every dude.
Molly: For folks who haven’t heard of MyPakage, what makes your product different than what Calvin Klein is doing?
Dez: Well, we’re a boxer brief and we feature a trunk, and we have some long underwear and everything. But, when I started I wanted the whole underwear thing to work. We have this trademarked technology called Keyhole Comfort Technology. It’s basically a one-bedroom apartment for your junk.
Molly: How does it work?
Dez: When put them on everything falls into place. Keyhole keeps everything separate. The keyhole is like a U-shaped pouch that everything goes in. Because underwear is one garment that you wash the most—and people don’t think about this—Dustin and I wanted to make sure it wouldn’t shrink or pill. We went with a fabric called Modal, which is 50% more breathable than cotton, it doesn’t shrink when you wash it, and it has a very high pill rating. That was the main thing and the whole keyhole thing was a bonus. That’s what I wanted it to be. This is the best, most comfortable underwear that also features the Keyhole Comfort Technology.
Molly: Well and I look at what you guys are doing, and you’re creating a brand around something that’s seemingly just an accessory. I can’t think of anyone else in the market that’s doing what you’re doing.
Dez: I’ve had some really good mentors in my life and I know that it takes more than products to build a brand. With underwear, it’s kind of the same as Redbull, we can basically go into anything we want. We have tennis players, volleyball players, and hockey players. We get to do everything we want to be apart of.
Molly: I was looking at your list of athletes and you have some pretty inspiring and successful people. I was looking at the Hallpass program and your core values, and it seems like there is certainly something special about each of the people you sponsor.
Dez: I think it goes back to your last question. Underwear is the first thing you put on in the morning and that’s where we came up with the hashtag, #permissiontoplay. It’s basically just rad people doing rad shit. That’s our criteria. If you are having fun and have a passion to live life to the fullest, then you’re in our entourage. Our underwear is just a byproduct of everything else we’re doing. That’s where #permissiontoplay comes from. Hallpass is basically the idea of wanting to live in a better world and wanting people to think about how other people want to be treated. If we make every person around us successful, then we can’t fail.
Molly: If you could pick one thing you’re most proud of, or excited about, what would it be?
Dez: Our new 2014 line has got me really excited because for the first time we have prints and can design on a level to really push the envelope. When people see the new line they are going to understand that we have designed something that goes from the everyday guy to the fashion forward guy.
Molly: You guys don’t give discounts, how do you compete with the brands that do?
Dez: The guys that discount, I feel like they have to because they don’t have a rad brand. Why would I discount just because a bunch of brands started discounting? We offer free pairs for staff and free pairs for VIP customers. Once you try them, 80% of folks buy six to eight more pairs. If stuff isn’t selling, we will switch out colors and sizes to make sure they have the product to sell.
Molly: How does the fact that other companies advertise more and discount factor into your marketing strategy?
Dez: We need to put pairs on people. That’s what works for us. That’s our marketing strategy. Every single person has to get a pair before they buy it. That’s how we work.
Molly: What do you do to build your employees?
Dez: Not pay them. Make them work ridiculous hours.
Molly: They must love it for some reason—they are here.
Dez: From day one our goal has been not to react, but to do our own thing. We want to build the best company we can. I want this office to be a new version of what Google was five years ago. Watching all these people work their ass off for us—I can’t thank them enough.
Molly: In the words of the great Mikey LeBlanc and Holden Outwear, Thank you for being you.
Dez: Thank you very much for taking the time sit down with us.