MySmallBusiness is running a selection of readers’ favourite stories from 2015 over summer. This is one of them.
Bored of bog-standard boxers and briefs? Brent Krause was. Seven years ago, he did the only logical thing: created his own line of male lingerie.
Today, his range of panties, G-strings, bras and underwear manufacturer camisoles – all designed for the male shape – is nearing $1 million in annual turnover and has recently revamped its online presence to meet increasing demand.
Far from diluting his offering, Mr Krause says the designs at his Homme Mystere store have only become more flamboyant, extending to C-strings (essentially a lace sock for the penis, without straps), peek-a-boo bras and the crotch-less thong (a big seller for Valentine’s Day). Some of the garments come with frills, see-through lace or stretchy lycra.
“The more that we did, the more popular they were,” the 48-year-old says.
The target demographic for this style of unorthodox underwear might come as a surprise. Mr Krause, whose background is in supply and logistics, describes his typical client as a married man over 40, with “discerning taste” and disposable income. And American.
“The Americans – they get it. They’re so embracing of it,” the Brisbane-based entrepreneur tells Fairfax Media. He now has a distribution agent in Utah and says the US is by far his biggest market. Sales have struggled in his home country, by comparison, with some people reluctant to take the idea seriously or believe his vision could be successful.
“We used to call it the tall poppy syndrome,” he says.”When I first started in Australia, the reaction was very much: ‘Jesus mate how weird are you? This isn’t very Aussie.’ ”
While some people assume his products are marketed at gay men, Mr Krause says that never crossed his mind when he was starting out. He is not a part of the gay community, and doesn’t ask customers about their sexuality or why they want male lingerie. But he has undertaken surveys that indicated his clientele is about 90 per cent heterosexual.
The unusual nature of the business also limits its marketing opportunities. Mr Krause says his customers do not want Homme Mystere to have a presence on Facebook, lest they accidentally “like” a page or somehow reveal their predilection to family and friends. For most men, their taste in lingerie is still a secret that does not leave the bedroom – even if they’re wearing the garments in the boardroom or on the sporting field.
Mr Krause says sceptics would be impressed by the comfort of lace and satin. “A few mates have got samples and they’ve reluctantly agreed that it is pretty good,” he says.
His enterprise is not the first innovative underwear brand to originate in Australia. Marketing itself as the cheeky insurgent from Down Under, aussieBum was founded in Sydney 15 years ago and has become a global name, selling 90 per cent of its product overseas. Its “Wonderjock” briefs, launched in 2006, are designed to lift and accentuate a man’s package.