By  on January 26, 2009

Frilly knickers and luxe lingerie aside, underwear is by most people’s standards a bare necessity. but judging from all the novelty items out there, it seems the banality of such basics begs to be spun into something more. Like t-shirts, intimates — underpants in particular — is a genre prime for all manner of angles, ranging from kitsch to convenience.

Consider the age-old days-of-the-week undie campaign, recently coopted by Stella McCartney to adorable effect. Whether girls ever coordinated their drawers to their designated day, the weekday motif has become a classic. It’s a  conceit that’s inspired an endless supply of specialty thongs and panties for every marketable occasion — weddings, Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s day, even current events: a simple google search turned up at least three sites peddling Obama undies.

Silly though it seems, people buy into such novelty acts. Take, for example, t-box, a line of cotton pieces, thongs and boyshorts among them, which are compressed and packaged to look like candy, butterflies and ice cream cones. “The idea is it’s an impulse buy,” says Zeynep Ergin-Vitale, vice president of T-Box Usa. “The brand is for fast-consumption retail. It’s by the cash register — the customer likes the packaging, they pick it up. It’s an eye-directly-to-the-brain type of thing.”

Not to mention gimmicky, for which T-Box isn’t apologizing. The line, owned by Turkish retail giant the Boyner Group, launched in the U.S. in November, and intimates accounts for approximately a third of Boyner’s $1 billion in worldwide sales.

As owner of Urban Aid, purveyor of cheeky travel kits (the Shame on You kit includes a pair of panties, a toothbrush and a “leave behind” note, among other personal products, for the girl on the go), Karen Barnett also cashes in on quirky concepts. “We use humor in the copy and the packaging to explain ourselves and to pull you in,” says Barnett, who worked in product development and packaging for Disney and Mattel before launching Urban Aid in 2005. “Everything is supposed to be funny.”

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