NEW YORK — Karl van de Paer is selling something most woman want: a better-looking man. Or at least a better packaged one.
If that sounds a bit unrealistic, consider Karl’s credentials: the super-stylish New Yorker is a private equities fund manager in Manhattan’s financial district, investing other people’s money in consumer lifestyle ventures. When he decided to start his own business, to put his own money where his mouth is, Karl put it in his pants. Literally.
At the CurveNY women’s lingerie show this week, the 29-year-old entrepreneur debuted the premier collection of Charles Van Der Pear, an upscale collection of tailored men’s underwear billed as “the world’s most comfortable and best-fitting boxer shorts.”
The brand name is a modified version of Karl’s own name, while the company logo references his Dutch-Belgian roots by reworking Belgian painter René Magritte‘s Son of Man, with a pear replacing the apple in Magritte’s surrealistic classic.
Charles Van Der Pear offers a dozen different boxer styles in colorful stripes and check prints, all named for NYC neighborhoods (and yes, there’s a Wall Street range). The brand’s appeal, though, lies mainly in the construction of its shorts, a 7-piece fabrication that combines the European tailoring of Karl’s heritage with some modern technology.
Traditional men’s boxers are loose-fitting and easily bunch up under your pants. CVDP‘s lightweight cotton shorts are tailored and slim-fitting and include an inner liner (similar to what you often find in gym or running shorts) that provides the support that men usually get in briefs. As well, the adjustable two-button waistband promises the breathing room you’ll need after that big client dinner.
Karl is clearly bullish about the underwear market, but the obvious question about CVDP is why a successful young investment broker (and his wife Aysha, a real estate investment specialist) would target this product niche for their first business venture.
“I always wanted to start my own company, and I really believe in the product,” Karl told Lingerie Talk. “Men’s underwear doesn’t get enough attention.”
“The modern man has recently embraced substantial wardrobe enhancements in terms of tailored and monogrammed shirts, bespoke suits, colorful pants, etc.,” he adds on the CVDP website. “However, the basic clothing that supports a man’s manliness has received little attention. We plan to change that.”
According to Karl’s vision, presentable shorts should be an essential part of the new uniform of upwardly mobile urban professionals and style-conscious metrosexuals.
And he’s not alone. Karl is one of a new breed of fashion entrepreneurs who are redefining the modern dandy with slick e-commerce sites and curated menswear catalogues that promote integrated, fit-conscious, head-to-toe looks. Most of those efforts have overlooked underwear, though, he says.
CVDP aims to be a part of the style conversation in men’s fashion by becoming “the luxurious boxer shorts of choice for the modern gentleman.”
“The straight American guy has embraced Bonobos (the massively popular men’s shopping portal),” Karl says. “Now it’s time to upgrade your underwear and impress your lady friends.”
Charles Van Der Pear also wasn’t alone at the New York lingerie show, which included nearly a dozen new men’s brands or existing women’s labels branching into men’s underwear with the aim of getting men to invest more in their basic layers.
“70% of our buyers are women,” Karl said, explaining why he chose to launch CVDP at a women’s apparel show that attracts lingerie retailers. And that statistic says a lot about what women think of their guys’ current choices in underwear.
“We did a survey of our friends, 80 men and 80 women, to find out how people shop for their underwear,” Karl said. “We asked how much money they were willing to spend, and for guys the average was under $30. That has to change.”
But will men follow women down the path to higher-priced and more stylish undies? To borrow a term from Karl’s daily world of high-stakes finance, this is what you call a low-risk investment.
Charles Van Der Pear luxury cotton boxers are made in New York and carry a retail price tag of $49 a pair or three for $129.
NOTE: A product sample was tested for this article.