Co-founded in Zurich, Switzerland in 2017 by Roy Bernheim and Allan Perrottet, TBô Bodywear has become a major player in the Men’s underwear industry by making one huge decision, allowing their consumer community to lead the style and functionality of the underwear.
There’s been a long lasting stigma about men and their underwear. The basic assumption is that underwear doesn’t matter. Well, we are here to tell you not only does it matter, it’s a huge industry. In 2016, the male underwear industry was valued at $3.3 Billion and currently skyrocketed to over $32 Billion.
While living in Bangkok, a friend of Roy and Alan encouraged them to start a company around something they were passionate about. Underwear. The challenge was that neither of them had much of a background in the fashion industry to launch a product of their own. However, they understood the basics of what the market was missing and decided to figure the rest out in the process.
Roy moved back to Switzerland and started selling their created product online. They were in community forums and on social media talking with other men about their likes and dislikes of the underwear industry. Things like comfort, functionality, and sustainability were the highest-rated topics. So the pair took those concerns and a brand was in the works.
You see, I’m one of the customers and one of the guys in the forums telling the brand what I like and dislike about products that I buy. Little did I know these guys were not only reading the comments but making changes accordingly. I purchased my first pair of TBô Bodywear after seeing an ad on Instagram. The price point was perfect and the cut was exactly what I was looking for. I figured “Give it a shot. If I don’t like them, I won’t feel horrible about the money spent.” I fell in love with the brand and have been a fan ever since.
When I had the chance to talk to Roy about TBô Bodywear, I jumped on it. Like the true champion of his site community, Roy loves what he does. As we talk via ZOOM for the interview, a few co-workers come over and speak to him because this is his regular action. They don’t realize he is doing an interview, they think he is speaking with another community board member. His computer is not inside of his office, he is set up in the public space of his headquarters where his entire staff has open access to him.
Every now and then someone says hello and Roy waves to them and lets them know he’s doing an interview and the whispered “Oops, I’m sorry.” can faintly be heard in the background. But Roy just laughs and lets them know he will catch up with them later. I can now see why this team continues to grow…it’s a friendly and family environment and everyone is here to make TBô a success.
Roy: We didn’t have a fashion background selling. We started and then we sold really quickly into 120 countries, and that was really overwhelming to us. We didn’t expect that at all. But then that kind of got us thinking, okay, now we’ve gotta improve our product. But I’m not a fashion designer and Alan has no tech manufacturing experience. So, we started asking our customers that bought from us and then generally also on social media. Okay. You know, what features they want, what fabric, what cut. What are they missing basically? And this big moment for us was when we sent out this email to our first 5,000 subscribers. And this huge survey was 25 questions, you know, way too long. And we thought maybe 10 people 15 will get back to us if, you know, if that, and then over 2000 replies just came in.
Roy: And to us, that was super. We got so much feedback and it got us thinking. It was like, okay, there has to be something happening. And that’s when we realized that the consumer, that everybody, nowadays, really wants to be part of shaping whatever they wear, whatever they buy. And that’s how TBô Bodywear was born. That’s when we figured out that we wanted to invite everybody, everybody out there from whatever background, wherever they are in the world to, to chip in, make their voices heard, and create cool products together.
SUAVV Magazine: And that’s interesting because, you know, most men’s underwear companies get it wrong and you think to yourself, “how are they missing this?” And the common issues are:
- The fit is horrible.
- The waistband is uncomfortable.
- The cuts are ugly.
- The designs are ugly. So for you guys to create a brand that checks all the boxes and it’s probably the most comfortable underwear I’ve ever bought in my life.
Roy: Thank you.
SUAVV Magazine: Absolutely. So again, when you don’t come from a fashion background and you are now creating a product based off of the input from a community, was that scary?
Roy: It’s more surprising to us that other brands out there, whatever category, really don’t do that yet. And we only realized later on that, that it’s unique. It just seemed kind of natural to us that guys know what they want. They know what they wanna feel like. They know what their products should feel like. I mean, we started with underwear, now we also have lounge pants, t-shirts, and we’ve got some shorts as well, which we’re really excited about in the same kind of bamboo fabric. So it’s like the same comfy fabric that was also shaped by several hundred thousand guys out there.
SUAVV Magazine: Wow. And what made you go with bamboo fabric? That was always interesting to me.
Roy: We wanted to have something that was super comfortable, very breathable, and at the same time really sustainable, from a fabric’s point of view, that uses way less water. The usage of water is a huge topic. There’s a lot of water that is used for producing cotton, for example, or other kinds of fabrics that are widely used. Bamboo just grows with way less of it. I mean, bamboo grows up to three feet a day. So it can basically watch it grow.
SUAVV Magazine: Which is insane. And when most people think of bamboo, you think hard, stiff, or wood. You wouldn’t typically think bamboo can be processed down to create really comfortable underwear.
Roy: No, it’s true. And that’s also why it’s kind of a challenge when you wanna sell something online as well, if we said “oh, this is bamboo underwear.”, people don’t think, “oh, it must be super soft.” No, it doesn’t work that way. It just doesn’t. So that’s why we say “This is super comfortable. Don’t take our word for it. Check out all the guys out there that have worn it.” And then people say, “Wow, you know, what is this? Why does it feel the way it does?” And then we say, “Well, it’s actually bamboo.” And people were really surprised by that.
SUAVV Magazine: That was the biggest surprise when I got the first pair from you guys. I read bamboo but I would have never thought they would be that soft and comfortable. After that, I purchased bamboo sheets and pillowcases, I have a bamboo like throw blanket on my couch.(Both laughing) I was like, this bamboo is everything and these guys are amazing. It made me trust bamboo products. But I love the breathability of the underwear. You guys are already branching off into loungewear and shorts. What do you plan on bringing into your line? Or, are you going to stay in the underwear and loungewear arena?
Roy: So, it’s really up to you. That’s how we look at it. If you go to our website, to our community space tbo.clothing/community, and there, you literally just go and you can create your own room where you invite friends or other people that are already there. Let’s say, for example, you want to create this perfect gym wear for lifting weights, for example, that it gives you some tuneage, but still have enough movement for your arm., I’m sure there’s tons of guys out there that would love to develop a product like that. So it’s just as easy as that. You create the room, we’ll help invite people by sending an email out to all our known 400,000 community members. We can let them know that a member, who also wants to create something for the gym, has opened up a room, to resolve apparel issues that you may share. And then you just get going.
SUAVV Magazine: Yeah. It definitely doesn’t happen. Companies basically design something and it’s done. The testing process is after the product is completed and the consumer critiquing what is already finished. But you guys allow the community to pick everything from buttons to slots, and all things in between. Literally, everything that you can think about which makes a difference. You guys are taking advice from the community before you make the actual product.
Roy: Absolutely. And this is also the way that we wanna make sure that there is no waste. I think waste is another big topic in the industry. A lot of products get produced and when they get into the shops, no one actually wants them. So we wanna make sure that BEFORE a product is launched, people want it.
SUAVV Magazine: Yeah, you don’t need a whole list of stuff going to salvation army or thrift stores. So you guys have sold in over 120 countries. Do you plan on going into department stores, Walmart, Target, or do you plan on sticking to the selling base that you have now?
Roy: So for us, in terms of market, we say 120 countries and we’ve sold and shipped to all these countries, but our most important country is the US, for sure. It’s where a lot of engagement happens. I think people really love to chat. That’s one thing. So the mentality is really there, which is great. We love that. So this is our main market and it’s really a focus for us. Direct connection is what the brand and the community is all about. It’s selling and engaging with people through the website and our platform. This is the focus for now, but of course, eventually it makes sense to also be in the offline space as well. It’s not just because we were born online that we’re only gonna stick to online. Right. But, but for now, this is really where, where it’s happening.
SUAVV Magazine: I think it makes a lot of sense. You guys are doing amazing from what I see. There’s always been a stigma of men and underwear. Like, men don’t require much when it comes to their underwear goals. Like it is just, you get the basics and you’re happy, which is so untrue. And now, you’re starting to see this plethora of options coming out. Do you feel like the market is going to get to a place where it’s gonna become oversaturated with men’s under clothes and does that push you to figure out your product even more?
Roy: I think, I think you’re right. So there’s two aspects to the underwear category. There are the basics…the everyday black, dark blue, gray colored products. So these are always going to be in stock and we wanna make sure you get them really quick. So whenever your laundromat doesn’t work or something, you’re sure to get your product before then.
SUAVV Magazine: definitely before. (both laughing)
Roy: So, so that’s always gonna be there and it’s gonna be super important. but there is a huge area of growth. And this is where you’re hinting at, where you have the, all the more special products which we call a limited edition. So for example, we had a group of runners come in and create a room on a community space and say, “every time I go running, I gotta hide my key somewhere, or I gotta tie it to my shoe laces or something. And my credit card.” So, what they’ve done is they created an underwear with the little inside pocket, a really tiny pocket where you can stash your key in, and it doesn’t fall out when you go for a jog. So this is more of the evolution of more functional products. That’s a whole category on its own. And it’s really cool to see on a community space, people really exploring that and chatting about it. In the shorts, for example, the second really big piece is the comfort. I think comfort, especially for products on our own skin, and especially in the very special part of your body, you want to make sure that you’re comfortable. I think guys now more and more are gonna be more conscious of this and especially working from home or, or partially working from home more as well. You wanna make sure it’s comfortable there. These are the three areas we look at.
SUAVV Magazine: Yeah. Working from home has been amazing for the last year because you don’t really have to get dressed. I’ve been home for a year, comfortably. Now, people are going back to the office. So there’s the question of how to transition from one to the other? So, what else do people need to know about TBô Bodywear?
Roy: So I think this is gonna be really, really exciting to have more of those everyday type products. So that’s one thing to look out for. And the second I’m excited, we’ve got a couple of more limited editions coming out now the next few months, which you’ll hear about first in the community space as well. So you’re in there and, and you’ll get the first releases. That’s cool. And then what we really want to do, it’s not about us, not about me, but we love to invite everyone to collaborate and contribute. We have people from really all over the world in a really productive and kind collaboration way. So it’s really about connecting with others as well.
Photos By Michael Letterlough, Jr.
Model: Troy Ferguson of DMTM Inc. Model Agency