Sunday, August 05, 2007

Exclusive Interview: WildmanT

I have had the opportunity to sit down and interview Tim Wildman [pictured below] of WildmanT. This exclusive interview goes in depth into his business, his underwear preferences, and hints at some upcoming products.

UB: What inspired you to start WildmanT?
WM: What a lot of people don’t know is WildmanT is a family business. It started about two years ago as a solution for my mother and her excess time. Three years ago she was diagnosed with what doctors thought was going to be a terminal illness. She wasn’t able to work and run around all day like she use to. So on top of being ill, dieing, she felt functionless and useless. So I started WildmanT to give her something to do. We were just another website reselling other people’s clothes and all she really had to do was get a few orders together every couple days and go to the post office. Keep in mind, I always wanted an underwear line since college when I went to school for fashion design so I thought well this will serve two purposes.

UB: Was creating your own line all part of the plan at the beginning, or did you add that later?
WM: About 8 months ago, her illness left as quickly as it came on and the business was doing a lot more than we thought. When I realized she could do more and I wanted to do more, we started looking to make WildmanT a bigger part of our lives. We had a little momentum with our name and it was just time to start making some items of our own.

UB: What has influenced you most in the design of your products (other designers, other brands, other people, etc.)?
WM: I was a really skinny guy growing up and I was infatuated with bigger and meatier, beefier guys. As a young kid, the only people I saw like that were in underwear ads. Either the posters in the men’s section of Sears or catalogs we got in the mail, I wanted to look like an underwear guy. That silly notion turned into a legitimate interest in the industry. As I got older and became a young gay man I turned my interest into gay underwear designers. I was extremely happy when Greg from GoSoftwear needed a web designer (which I also do) and I was able to work really close with his products. I loved his low-rise underwear and how he pushed the envelope with the first padded under gear [shown] for men.

UB: You have mentioned how your business is family run, to what extent does your family help out in the business and how do they feel about the whole thing?
WM: As I mentioned, it was created to give my mother something to do, but nowadays, she does the accounting, the shipping, and the customer service. When we start new lines, before we get it produced in bulk, I make the patterns and she cuts out all the fabric and I piece them together. My brother helped launch us financially to get started with all the costs and he helps with planning and manufacturing research and follow-up. Plus, come crunch-time, no matter what needs to be done, you will see the four of us around the kitchen table working through the night to meet whatever deadline we have.

UB: You are your own model, what prompted you to do that and what do your friends and family think about it?
WM: Hmmmm, well at first I thought it was just flat out funny and a way to keep costs down. My mother was a tad worried about the extended West Virginia family seeing some of the photos, as they are not as open minded, but she got over it real quick when she was able to pay her mortgage with Ball Lifter money J My other brothers laugh their ass off and try like hell to embarrass me whenever they can. Personally, I didn’t think many people would even see them and I long forgot they are even me until someone mentions it…like my brothers.

UB: Something that people often wonder about is your name, is your last name really Wildman?
WM: I think one of the best things I ever got from my father was his name. Although a curse as a skinny little shy boy growing up, it turned out to be a defining characteristic of my own personal growth. I used to get picked on as a kid being called Wildwomen. But somewhere around the 8th grade, I became 6’4” and kicked a couple asses and permanently became WildMAN.

Yearrrrrrrrrsss later, I worked as a waiter in NYC. We punch our orders into the computer and they would come out to the cooks in the kitchen with the table number, the food order and the server name “ Wildman T” The T stands for Tim. So I just got use to “WildmanT, your order is up” “WildmanT, you are the worst waiter in the world” “WildmanT, WildmanT” You get the picture.

UB: What underwear are you wearing right now?
WM: You have no clue how often I am asked that question. Well today I am home alone working on the computer all day….so none…commando. I suppose that is not a very good plug for my own product, but you asked J

UB: Do you wear just your own brand of underwear, or do you wear other brands? What are the other brands if you wear them?
WM: I always try to wear my own brand first, but when the laundry time comes around, the secondary kind is Joe Boxer. I have always loved Joe Boxer, they are so comfortable.

UB: What is your favorite style of underwear?
WM: We are currently in production with new boxers and other sturdy low-rise styles, but I am probably always going to like our WildmanT Low Rise Leg-band Bikini the best because they are soooo comfortable…much like the Joe Boxers.

UB: What is your favorite color of underwear?
WM: My personal favorite color for underwear is yellow with white trim, but didn’t start our first line with any yellow underwear. Although I like it best, it doesn’t sell best. It will definitely be integrated in the near future.

UB: What is your favorite pair of underwear out of the whole WildmanT collection?
WM: First let me say, the stuff we are working on is my favorite but it won’t be released for a few months. But I do love the WildmanT Micro Jock Laced. I think it is sexy cool looking at the same time.

UB: Do you have plans to expand into other colors and maybe even prints?
WM: The majority of all our products are done or start off being done in-house, meaning we design, cut and sew. We are starting to work with a contractor to meet our growing needs. These items will have a lot more of the intricacies that we could not accommodate with our current equipment. So yes, new lines, new colors and a fun line of boxers called “WildmanT Big Fruit Boxers” made with four fun fruit patterns.

UB: Can you tell me a bit about your popular Ball Lifter style and what your inspiration was for that?
WM: The Ball Lifter was more of an accidental thought rather than a planned product. Like I mentioned earlier, I was the original underwear model for my own items. Well a LOT of what you see in the professional product shots are guys who naturally look “full” in underwear and a lot of great lighting. I didn’t realize this at first…but I was NOT one of those guys. So, I went the other route- fake it. I tried all the tricks I use to do back in old days when I would run photo shots for Next Magazine in New York. Stuff, pin, hike, fluff…whatever it took. So I was tying all of these techniques on myself and nothing was consistent. So I thought, shoot, if I can just put my “stuff” where it looks good and keep it there for the shot, I will be all set. After three or four different contraptions, I ended up with the simplest, most comfortable solution…and the Ball Lifter was born. I had no intention of selling it. It was almost an after thought… “gosh, I wish someone would do something like that for when I put on a bathing suit, I would love to be one of those big crotched studs out by the pool”…duh…make it yourself. By the next morning I had made a prototype, illustration, and a cartoon to boot. We sold 30 or 40 the next day.

UB: Do you have any upcoming new styles that you can tell us about?
WM: No new ball lifters, but new underwear items. I don’t have a projected release date as we are testing several contractors. But I think it is important to mention, that every product made and sold is made in the USA and always will be.

UB: You also have a blog, can you tell us a bit about that?
WM: It is just a personal journal about the process it took me to get here. It also is a place to get good feedback from viewers, customers and other bloggers. I contribute a lot of our success to our blog and more importantly other bloggers who have supported our content like yourselves.

UB: Your site promotes WildmanT as "gay mens underwear", do you really think that your underwear is just for gay men? Or do you think that straight men are also buying and wearing your products?
WM: Definitely both, as we have a lot of female customers buying for their boyfriends. I will sell to anyone, but I will not ever become a “non-gay” company even if it means a better market and more sales. Gay men have worn “straight” clothing their whole lives and have been fine with it. I target gays, but anyone is welcome to wear what I make.

UB: You have a unique section on your site for users to share their photos. Most underwear companies don't do this, why did you decide to include this section on your site?
WM: My whole marketing plan was based off of the networking of individuals, and making them feel they are part of a community and part of my company.

UB: Do you have any final comments that you'd like to make?
WM: Live green, be proud of who you are, and buy my underwear J

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