Maybe most of our kitchen customers don’t know that I also have an underwear business. I started it about 6 years ago with the help of some investment from De Montfort University and a Fashion Designer friend of mine Darren. The underwear look pretty normal; that was the intention, because they are not ordinary underwear. They are, it’s safe to say, extra-ordinary underwear. Which is why they were featured on This Morning on ITV last week, as they have been on numerous TV shows, such as Daybreak and Home of the Future and even Radio 1. I received a big hardback book last year titled “The History of Men’s Underwear”. Our underwear were in it! Two whole pages right next to Calvin Klein and Diesel. Our underwear are patented in the UK and Europe, the U.S. and Canada. It’s all quite intriguing I guess; what could be so innovative about a pair of pants that they need Patent protection and receive all this press.
Well it’s a subject that has made grown men giggle since they were wearing loin cloths. Farting, trumping, letting off, letting rip, letting one go; the fact that we have so many names for it says something about us. Either we just love to talk about it or it must be a fairly major part of our lives. I have done a lot of research in this area and for many people letting off is not at all amusing. Sufferers of Chrohn’s disease, I.B.S. or food intolerances are particularly embarrassed by the regularity and the odour associated with their need to let off. People with digestive issues who work in a confined environment, like hairdressers, opticians and dentists find that their digestive problems can begin to govern their lives. Sufferers of excessive, foul smelling wind can become social recluses, turning down wedding invites and social functions and too nervous to get on a plane (cabin depressurisation makes holding it in nigh on impossible).
I’m a product designer by trade and by my way of thinking. I might have to run my businesses now and I might have lots of talented designers doing all the necessary head scratching on a daily basis, but that doesn’t stop me thinking like a designer. If I see a problem I have to think of a solution; it’s like a mental disorder, I feel guilty for doing nothing, so my brain over-compensates by righting the worlds wrongs on a pretty random basis. One day it’s dribbling service station tea pots, the next it’s snow chains. I had this idea 25 years ago; wouldn’t it be good if you could wear pants that filtered out the smell of trumps. Simple idea, but whether there was a solution or not would have to wait, I was busy designing furniture. Until, about 6 years ago, when on holiday with my friend Darren, who is a leading fashion designer, I mentioned I’d had this idea for ages and would it be possible…. Amazingly a few weeks later Darren had sourced a suitable fabric used in chemical warfare suits and we were mocking up prototypes. They worked, they really worked and they were comfortable and ordinary looking, problem solved.
Well, I wish it was that simple, in reality proving that they worked and getting all the patents was like pulling teeth. But, skip forward six years and here we are selling our patented, award winning flatulence filtering underwear. I called them Shreddies and formed Shreddies Ltd, much to the annoyance of Nestle. My Father was in the RAF and I grew up on Air bases; to us pants were shreddies, always had been. The nickname originated in the forces after the standard service issue underwear developed numerous holes and tears on the inner thigh and gusset, because of hours of square bashing (marching, halting, about turning etc.) So shreddies was an affectionate nickname for pants that weren’t actually very good, but that didn’t stop me. I was surprised to find out that 90% of people didn’t know the term, so now I was not only saving the world from noxious odours but educating the uninformed Civvy to boot.
This year shreddies will hit the high street, finally. We have been selling them on-line for 5 years and have many very grateful customers, whose lives have literally been transformed. I’m not kidding, you should read the testimonials, they are heart wrenching. People able to see their family for the first time in years, because they can face getting on a plane, kids that are not bullied any more, people feel well again because they don’t worry themselves sick any more. However good they were, you had to look for them to find them, so it was only the desperate who knew. I always believed they could be a mainstream product that everyone could benefit from, but until now we couldn’t sell to retailers because the margins didn’t work out for them and our suppliers were so erratic. Finally we have all the machinery to make them at the right price ourselves and after a gift fair in Harrogate, we have signed up 7 retailers including Fenwicks and Bentalls who have prominent department stores throughout the UK. This Christmas will be an exciting time when we will find out what the general public think about the idea of wearing pants that make your trumps smell like fresh air.
This launch into retailing needed some decent photography and we are used to taking our own photo’s and we have a great location. So Tim, deVOL’s photographer, Louise, pant twiddler and myself dragged two very accommodating models from DNA models all around the Mill, looking for something memorable to get in the magazines to coincide with the retail launch. We tried a bit of Calvin Klein, Lynx, voyeurism and some retro holiday snaps. It was 4 hours of random ideas and meticulous instruction and here are some of the results: enjoy….