Bob Barnett, Million Dollar Decorators and the Guys Behind Bradley Cooper’s Boxer-Briefs

LunchAtMichaelsWe, not of the town car set, braved the elements to get to Michael’s today and once we dried off, found plenty of the usual suspects at their perches doing the power lunch thing, despite the monsoon. In attendance: attorney-to-the-A-List Bob Barnett with Susan Zirinsky, Bravolebrities Kathryn Ireland and Martyn Lawrence Bullard, The Post’s Keith Kellyand a squadron of publicists ordering Dover sole and billing their media clients for time served.

I was joined today by Adam Dinkes and Yarden Gagnon of Tani USA, a “premium” brand of underwear and loungewear that originated in Asia under the name Tanitex. The luxe line is family-owned and was founded over an decade ago with 300 stores in China alone. Adam, the brand’s president and creative director Yarden are launching Tani USA for men in the states on in June. (The line is currently available on their website, The body conscious briefs with “unprecedented stretch and recovery” are a favorite of Neil Patrick Harris, Daniel Craig and Bradley Cooper. (If you’d like to take a moment to ponder this, we’ll wait.)

Clearly not for the guy who buys his Fruit of the Looms at Target, a pair of Tani’s boxers start at $40 and loungewear can run up to $300. But why so pricey? Tani “meets the demands of the growing population of consumers who appreciate the very best in performance fabrics.” Obviously, if you want any item of your wardrobe to perform, it should be your underwear.

Lest you think these guys are newcomers to the business, let me enlighten you. Yarden’s CV includes over two decades at Calvin Klein, where he oversaw product and design for the the designer’s iconic underwear during the era that spawned the company’s much talked about advertising campaigns featuring Christy Turlington, Zoe Saldana, Eva Mendes, Hillary Swank, Djimon Hounsou and Jamie Dornan (whose ads must have factored into the producer’s decision to cast him as the lead in the upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey).

“Models are easier to work with than actors,” said Yarden of those days spent on private fittings with Hollywood’s hot bodies. But his favorite anecdote comes courtesy of the man whose name was on the underwear. “One Saturday I was at my desk working on the new seamless product and the phone rang, and the name that came up on the display panel was ‘Calvin Klein,'” recalls Yarden, still sounding awed by his early encounter with the designer. “He told me the waistband on a style was too wide and asked me, ‘Can we reduce it by an eighth of an inch?’ That’s only about three centimeters. I was mumbling because I was thinking we can’t do it. He could see through my thought process and chuckled. Of course we did it and it was perfect. You have to respect that kind of attention to detail.” Boxers or briefs indeed.

Adam, whose background is in beauty and skincare, is the former COO of Park Avenue dermatologist Dr. Neil Sadick. While there, he developed scientifically formulated skincare products marketed on HSN and launched the No! No! products (whose infomercials you must have seen if you’re up late at night). He explained that he’s utilizing his marketing background in launching Tani here in the States by developing a social media campaign (they just hired a specialist for the job) and plans a fully integrated campaign online. Off line, getting product into the hands of those well-heeled guys who “spend $6,000 on a Prada and want to look and feel their best” through the right placement opportunities has been key. “VIP gift bags are a very effective way to get the product out there,” he explained. The boxer briefs (the preferred style of the moment) was given to 250 A-list attendees at the Jeffrey Fashion Cares benefit at the Armory earlier this month. Their celebrity fans have come to the brand “organically” without any specific effort directed at snaring stars. Said Yarden: “It’s a bit frustrating as a designer because you can’t see who is wearing them.” No argument there.

The men who are wearing the product are, said Adam, part of a growing contingent of hipsters who are willing to pay a premium for what they want — even if it means they aren’t the traditionally affluent consumer. “We assumed that the majority of our business was coming from men 35 and up, but 33 percent are between 25 and 34 — and 22 percent are between 18 and 24. Young men that care about these things are interested in spending on this product if they like it. If they like it, they’ll wear it.”

The couple, who are married and live in Williamsburg with their two Italian greyhounds, started the business in 2012 when Yarden was doing some consulting for Tani and brought home some product for Adam to try. “I was always asking him why he couldn’t do more luxurious and special product at Calvin, which is really a mass brand,” explained Adam. “I loved this and I knew there was an interesting opportunity here.” For his part, Yarden had “fallen in love with the product and the people, so this was a light bulb moment for us.” Having never worked together before, the guys dove head first into building the business and report there are no issues blending their personal and professional lives. “He can’t do what I do, and I don’t want to do what he does and we’re very supportive of each other,” Yarden told me. And besides, they don’t share an office. Plans are in the works to expand into women’s product within six months and add a line of socks, the fashion accessory of the moment for urban 20-something men (especially those wearing high waters with caramel color shoes — just look around! — everywhere. “In a world of navy and gray suits, a lot men don’t have a lot of opportunities to express themselves with fashion. We want to give them great product they’ll love.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Designer Carlos Falchi and Mickey Ateyeh with Carlos’ daughter Juliet and a handsome cousin visiting from Brazil.

2. Uber agent Esther Newberg

3. Designing duo Kathryn Ireland and Martyn Lawrence Bullard, whose drama-fueled encounters with impossibly difficult clients makes Bravo’s Million Dollar Decorators so compulsively watchable!

4. Tal Kernan and Dr. Ruth Westheimer

5. Hearst’s Ellen Levine, looking pretty in pink with cosmetic titan and one of the city’s highly sought after bachelors (according to “Page Six,” anyway) Leonard Lauder

6. The New York Post‘s media man Keith Kelly with Lori Rosen and another gal we didn’t recognize

7. Adam Dinkes, Yarden Gangnon, Lisa Wells and yours truly

8. Publicist Sandi Mendelson and pals. When my delicious dover sole arrived, Sandi’s female guest leaned over to inquire about my meal and after hearing me sing its praises, promptly told her server, “I’ll have what she’s having.” Hmmm… haven’t I heard that somewhere before?

9. Fashionista Jaqui Lividini, whose fabulous apartment is showcased in the latest issue of New York Cottages & Gardens. Tres chic!

11. Agent Wayne Kabak with Fox Business’ Gerri Willis who smartly kept her animal print Hunter rainboots on during lunch. We were very jealous.

12. Tech guru Shelly Palmer

14. Simon & Schuster’s Alice Mayhew

15. Katz Media’s Chris Hamer

16. PR princess Catherine Saxton, who escaped the dreadful weather of the past few months by moving her offices to Palm Beach to wait out the winter. Bet you’re real glad you’re back today, aren’t you?

17. The stylish duo PR maven Lisa Linden and lobbyist Suri Kasirer

18. 48 Hours Mystery executive producer Susan Zirinsky and attorney Bob Barnett who was dashing back to Washington, D.C., after lunch

20. Susan Blond

21. Media Link CEO Michael Kassan

22. Michael Gross (no, not the author or the actor)

24. Angie Dalton

25. PR impresario Tom Goodman

26. Lindsay Galin, SVP at Rogers & Cowan and Gotham‘s entertainment editor Juliet Izon who sat down to dish with Richard Johnson and me and gave us the full celebrity treatment in “Gossip Gods Do Lunch” for the magazine’s May/June issue. Much appreciated…

27. Kate Edelman Johnson, who, so we’re told, was a ladylove of Burt Reynolds’ back in the day. Just thought you should know.

28. Cathy Lauren

29. Zite’s ex CEO Mark Johnson and Onswipe’s founder Jason L. Baptiste, who introduced themselves to me on their inaugural Wednesday at Michael’s. Nice meeting you both!

81. Lalita Khosla

In the Garden Room: My good friend Richard Bilotti of P.Schoenfeld Asset Management LP and TV Guide‘s CEO Jack Kliger with Arthur Becker (Vera Wang’s ex)

Diane Clehane is a contributor to FishbowlNY. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Please send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.


@DianeClehane Diane Clehane is Adweek's weekly 'Lunch' columnist.