Sunday, July 22, 2007

Exclusive Interview: Danial Webster

In a continuation of our interview series, I just sat down to interview Danial Hellman of Danial Webster Design. You may remember Danial Webster Design underwear from this review I did a while back. Anyway, here is the interview. Enjoy!

UB: What inspired you to start creating men's underwear?
DW: I was inspired by the lack of great mens underwear on the market. At the time, there weren't any brands that were fun, playful and sexy, without catering to a look that is very childish and fetishizing of little boy underwear. At the time, I was also looking for way to support other clothing design ventures, and men's underwear seemed like a good market to enter into. I figured that if I couldn't find any underwear that I really loved, there were other guys out there with the same problem.

UB: What underwear are you wearing right now?

DW: I'm wearing one of my original samples, from the beginning of it all. They're a red "punk rock" plaid.

UB: What inspires you to create the individual designs?

DW: In general, I let the fabric inspire me. As you can see, I really enjoy stripes, but over all I just hunt down fabric that inspire me. Fun energetic prints and bold graphics really inspire me.

UB: You started as a one-man operation filling all the orders yourself, is that still the case?

DW: I'm still a one man operation, but had a chance to build up a backstock earlier this year. That means no more playing catchup when bunch of orders roll in, or a new store wants to carry my line.

UB: Where do you find all the great fabrics that you use for your underwear?

DW: I hunt all over for them. I've ordered fabric from NYC and LA, but also order from online stores all over the country. I even hit the local Seattle fabric stores and buy up anything the looks like fun. I'm really hoping that in the coming year I will be able to have some fabric custom knitted for me. There's some fabrics that I'd love to have, but just can't find.....like the red plaid I mentioned earlier.

UB: What prompted you do the fun contrasting pattern on the inside of the pouch?

DW: That all started with a joke, actually. I was making underwear sample for a friend to try out and lined the pouch with a fun fabric, and realized what a great detail it was. It's in every single pair from the very first too this day.

UB: How did you decide on a pattern for the underwear? And why did you decide to go with trunks, why not briefs or boxer shorts?

DW: I started with a pattern that I already had from another project, but never really liked. I altered the waistband, pouch size, leg length and some other details to achieve the fit you all now know. I deicded on the trunk because i like them. I think they're the most comfortable style and also fairly attractive on lots of body types. I've been told by major online stores that g strings and bikini styles outsell trunks 10 to 1, but still stand by my design.

UB: Are there any plans to create briefs or boxer shorts in the future?

DW: I have considered a brief style but have yet to decide on whether to develop it, but I do know that I would much rather develop a boxer style. Unfortunately, developing a boxer would require a large output of time and money in research and development that I currently can't afford. It's definitely on my list if the company continues to grow, though. Other than these styles, I would really like to develop an all-in-one men's undergarment. I love the turn of the century all in ones and think they'd be a fun addition to my line.

UB: What do you mean by the "all-in-one" styles of men's underwear?

DW: By all in one, I mean the style that is like the underwear and a tank top all connected into one garment, with buttons or snaps down the front. Sort of like a long underwear union suit.

UB: All your underwear is limited edition. How limited are they?

DW: It varies widely. I've been trying to buy at least enough fabric to make 30 pair of a style. It's difficult to put the very limited edition styles up on my website, so not many of them make it. Currently, the truly limited editions are carried in one my retailers in Seattle, Fancy+Pants (www.pantsunderpants.com). They carry some styles that only have 3 pairs, one per size. On the high end, I can make as many as 100 pair of some styles. It's definitely a balancing act, keeping the quantities small enough that they are unique, but having enough fabric that I can make a profit off of the business. The reason many underwear lines can sell so cheaply is that they manufacture styles in large quantities, and I'm at a total disadvantage in this area.

UB: Do you always wear your own brand of underwear, or do you wear other brands as well (if yes, what are they)?

DW: I really only wear my own undies anymore. Not out of disliking all the other brands, but I just have a lot of samples that I get to keep.

UB: Besides websites, where can we find your products?

DW: Currently, I'm mostly in Seattle retailers: Fancy+Pants, Retail Therapy on Capitol Hill in Seattle and then a store called Apartment 3, in Los Angeles, CA. I'm about ready to do a new photo shoot and make a big push to get into more retailers all over the nation. Right now, its definitely spreading word of mouth, so it's a slow build.

UB: What are your goals in creating men's underwear? How do you want men to feel when they put on your underwear?

DW: I want them to feel sexy and fun. Underwear is such a personal item, and no matter what you're wearing on the outside, you can wear whatever fun, colorful, crazy undies you want and no one will know.

UB: Who is your target market?

DW: I really think the market for people looking for fun underwear defines itself. I have clients that cut across a full spectrum of classes, ages, body types. I think my product is for anyone that wants to have fun underwear.

UB: Are there plans to expand further into men's clothing (you already have some T-shirts)?

DW: I do have some tshirts, but they are more a sideline and not a focus of my line. I really want to rework my tank tops and expand my line a little with the styles I mentioned earlier. Since I am a small business still, I think my big goal is to establish myself and do this one product really great. After I've done that, I can then start focusing on other items and have the energy to really pour into perfecting them.

So there you have it! I'm interested to know what you think about Danial Webster Design. Any follow-up questions?

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