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Nils Bohner has been selling their premium underwear, made in Germany, since 1997. According to them, all of their products feature high-quality materials and are made with the highest standards of quality workmanship. It isn’t this quality, though, that’s their major selling point, but an emphasis on original designs that you won’t see anywhere else. We spoke with Nils Bohner himself to discuss the men’s underwear industry, in general, as well as his brand. What we get is an unparalleled glimpse into the mind of an underwear designer and an analysis of the men’s underwear industry as a whole.
Underwear Expert: How did you get started making men’s underwear, Nils?Nils Bohner: Even as a teenager I started to sew and change my clothes by myself. I always wanted to have something special and to be able to set myself apart from mass production. I could never afford to study fashion (which is why I participated in a lot of training courses and internships), so I basically taught myself the trade.
Underwear Expert: And when did you decide to launch your own brand?
Nils Bohner: There simply wasn’t anything innovative in men’s underwear, just the usual black, white and grey, so one day I decided with some friends to set up my own company. We started with a very simple men’s collection consisting of atypical fabrics; our label developed from this one series. As we didn’t have much time to find a name for the label we just used my own name for it. Even today, I still find it a bit creepy to read my name on all these products!
Underwear Expert: You’ve been in the men’s underwear industry since 1997, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned since then?
Nils Bohner: The fashion industry is a very hard profession and you always have to be very careful in whom you put your trust. On the other hand, it’s a fantastic and colorful world full of fantasy–a gigantic playground which gives you never-ending fun and joy. You can run wild with your creativity and there’s always the urge to make everything much better and even more beautiful. And this weighs much more than the negative aspects.
Underwear Expert: And since 1997, how has the men’s underwear industry changed?
Nils Bohner: The garments and the ingredients have become much, much better. Nowadays underwear has to fit extremely well, too, and be nearly invisible and barely noticeable. Comfort is number one, without a doubt – but that is more than understandable and a [continuing] goal of the whole industry. The consumer gladly pays more if the quality is high enough and the wearing comfort is extraordinary. That’s why we produce Nils Bohner in Germany and Europe and not in low-wage countries.
Underwear Expert: Where do you draw most of your inspiration for your underwear from?
Nils Bohner: From everywhere! I love all beautiful things in life, even the seemingly unimportant little things–I always walk through life focused and with open eyes. Of course, I’m inspired by the fashion shows in Paris, Milano, London or New York, too. This way I stay on the cutting edge and alive. Sometimes, it’s simple things like a piece of fabric or a book about ancient cultures by which I’m inspired for a new line. A stroll around the fabric fairs of Munich or Paris can trigger the same. There’s a saying that [informs] my designs: What you read today in the newspaper will be yesterday’s news tomorrow.
Underwear Expert: In a word, what is at the core of your designs?
Nils Bohner: Lust for Life!
Underwear Expert: I imagine you witness very different tastes in consumers from different countries?
Nils Bohner: The goal is to meet the tastes of every nation! But I can’t tell you the specific differences between our customers, as I only create stuff that I like and would also wear myself. I’m lucky that no matter what nationality the customer is, our products are always highly accepted.
Underwear Expert: Note taken! What’s the hardest part about designing men’s underwear, Nils?
Nils Bohner: I think the hardest part is the creation, this constant process of development. If you’re standing still, your heart’s gonna stop. Another difficult aspect is the correct fit – if that’s not working there’s no design which can save it. The correct fit is a lifelong process–there will always be improvements. And you’ll never know in advance which design will catch on and which will bomb. That’s why I always listen to my heart. But you know how life is–sometimes this, too, can be a complete flop. The customer always tells you one way or the other, though.
Underwear Expert: So you make a point of staying true to your heart, and making authentic designs. Do you ever look to others designs to inform what you’re doing?
Nils Bohner: It would be a huge mistake just to focus on what the others are doing–this would only be a copy of someone else’s works. This is a big problem in the underwear industry, actually. Some labels don’t have the strength to create something unique and just base their work on the repertoire of others. That’s why they’ll always be lagging behind, being just a copy of other creative minds.
Underwear Expert: If you could snap your fingers and make one change to men’s underwear, what would it be?
Nils Bohner: I would get rid of the cheaply (and often by children) produced multi-packs of 10 or more. I think these packs are terribly boring, but even worse, they can only be produced through child labor and the lowest wages–I think everyone who works hard should earn fair and appropriate wages.
Underwear Expert: Excellent stuff. Lastly, where do you see your brand in 5 years?
Nils Bohner: I see Nils Bohner being on its way to becoming a multi-product brand.
For more information on this brand: Nils Bohner