How MeUndies Founder Used Creative Inclusivity To Turn Unmentionables Into Conversation Starters

Jonathan Shokrian was born into a family of conservative, entrepreneurial immigrants. His passion from an early age was to start a business with a focus on community – and so, in 2011, MeUndies was founded.  Selling more than 10 million pairs of underwear to date, this challenger brand formed a new niche within the category and birthed a community built on inclusivity, creativity and a better buying experience.

Why did you start MeUndies?

I saw an opportunity to innovate underwear and basics, and the experience of shopping for them. Everything I saw on the shelves was overcomplicated, oversexualized, and overpriced for less-than-quality. I wanted to inject life into a commoditized project and create an experience that resonated with modern consumers. It was important to me to have these values of individuality, inclusivity and self-expression woven throughout the brand – a departure from what we’d seen in the industry before. We developed our underwear with an obsessive focus on fabric, quality and comfort while using sustainable materials. We embraced bright, bold, conversational prints to add fun and personality to what was once a boring product, and created a new platform for self-expression.

What major challenges did you overcome as an entrepreneur?

One of the biggest obstacles was getting MeUndies off the ground. When I was meeting with investors, the idea of an online direct-to-consumer company that delivered underwear to people’s doorsteps every month sounded like a crazy idea. Some even thought it was a joke. It didn’t help that I was a first-time, unproven entrepreneur. More than that, the direct-to-consumer and online subscription model didn’t really exist when we launched in 2011. The industry was just seeing the end of the daily deals era and new brands were launching that spoke directly to the consumer. MeUndies was at the forefront of the first generation of direct-to-consumer companies.

What defining characteristics make MeUndies a Challenger Brand?

Post from MeUndies instagram feed
Post from MeUndies instagram feed

At its core, MeUndies exists to upend tradition. Our community is at the center of every decision we make as a company, from design to delivery.

Our approach to D2C and retail has always been authentically connecting with our customer. We’re an aspirational and inclusive brand. Before us, the aspirational underwear brands showcased unattainable images that ultimately created feelings of being less-than. We flipped that on its head. Rather than being divisive, we launched matching pairs, for any kind of couple, and highlight confidence being expressed in every shape and size. And when people look at that, that’s inspiring. That’s aspirational. And we’ve stuck with it. We’ve never been afraid to post “unpopular” photos — like same-sex couples or diverse body types — that sometimes lose us followers but ultimately support our true community. And through that, we’ve built integrity with our customers and it’s kept them coming back, and inspired more to join.

So much of our brand is experiencing the product, being able to feel, touch, and live in it. So, it was only natural to expand into retail where we can create space to provide that experience and bring our core values to life — all the ethos behind the brand.

What’s currently happening in marketing that most excites you and how will it impact the future of marketing?

Today’s brands are slowly but surely prioritizing connection and values as core elements of consumer appeal. Brands are beginning to care about being authentic and engaging with customers in a more profound, personal way. This has been a foundational piece of MeUndies’ brand identity from the beginning and we’re constantly searching for new ways to create a deeper connection with our community. I’m inspired by the fact that marketing is becoming less about telling consumers what they should want and need, and more about celebrating who they are. Brands can succeed by telling real stories that reflect company values and refocus customers as central to their goals.

alexa.comeau@adweek.com Alexa Comeau is the programming manager at Adweek, where she works on event curation while dabbling in some writing.
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