Brothers David and Mike Appel thought they could fill a white space in the men’s and women’s underwear and sock category when they launched Related Garments in 2015, which sold matching socks and underwear packaged together.
But David said since competitors have copied the concept, Related Garments, which has collaborated with Baja East and Luka Sabbat on capsules, is having to pivot in order to stand out.
“Our shift has been in letting customers choose what they want and give them more options,” said Appel. “I don’t have the same marketing budget as Calvin Klein, so we’ve been really trying to figure out how you compete with brands that are spending that much money.”
Related Garments now allows customers to purchase socks and underwear à la carte, but it is also introducing new categories over the course of the year. First up is R-Squared, a line of ath-leisure dress socks and underwear that can be worn to the office and the gym. They are made with fabrics featuring anti-odor and Coolmax properties and include extra cushioning for toes and heels. The underwear is made from a nylon spandex blend that David said looks like designer underwear but is still suitable for working out. A set retails for $38.
“It’s funny how family plays into what we make. I would see my brother change out of his Related underwear and socks before going to the gym and this sparked the idea,” said David. “This is the first time we are playing in the activewear space and we felt the perfect segue into this was to focus on ath-leisure and a hybrid of style and athletic.”
David said Related Garments wants to do more within this category and introduce socks and underwear with technology that offers the wearer a direct benefit.
“Every brand can say they are the most comfortable, but people want to know the real benefits or why your product is unique,” said David. “We plan on launching more hybrid styles for work and gym and getting into health care.”
There are also plans to launch a customization program. Related Garments has done well in the groomsman and bridesmaid category and David believes personalization will help the brand grow in that space and expand to other customers who are looking for differentiated product.
“This is a huge trend that we want to be on the forefront of for our category,” said David. “We are currently looking for the right processes that allow us to personalize product quickly.”
Related Garments has developed distribution within hospitality channels including the Ritz Hotel, the Mondrian, the Dream hotel, the Ace hotel and others. And for marketing, the firm is doing unconventional things such as casting the brothers’ 79-year-old father to appear in campaigns.
“The biggest challenge is cash flow and inventory,” said David. “When you are small you have to be more creative and find ways to grow when your competitors are just spending money hand over fist.”