Founded in Hossegor, France in 2000, PULLIN pioneered printed boxers made with a mix of LYCRA® fiber and polyester that has never compromised on quality or comfort. We recently spoke with Brand Manager Guillaume Baché to learn more about the lifestyle brand and how customer satisfaction became the brand's central focus.
You have a background in snowboarding, how has that influenced your range?
Emmanuel Loheac founded PULLIN in 2000 to solve a problem. Men's low-rise trousers that were popular at the time usually revealed boring and unattractive underwear and waistbands. He thought underwear on display should be gorgeous. This prompted him to launch his own brand that introduced an innovative elastic band to underwear that had only been used in snowboarders’ masks previously. He also used an innovative fabric comprised of LYCRA® fiber for lasting comfort and fit, and top-quality polyester with an impeccable finish perfect for his unique, rich prints.
How do you explain the speed at which the brand became well-known?
I think PULLIN filled a gap in the market. We also had a stroke of luck with the reality TV boom in the early the early 2000s. Production firms were seeking out smart underwear suitable for the small screen, and many wanted PULLIN. Likewise, the brand appealed to many personalities who agreed to wear it. French football hero Zidane, for example, is a brilliant ambassador!
With success comes competition and other brands creating printed boxer shorts. How did you deal with that?
It’s true that we have been imitated. In fact, these brands turning out low-cost prints have merely served to underline our credibility. Our customers tried them out, of course, but found the quality disappointing. They soon came back, doubling down on loyalty!
So the introduction of your plain boxer shorts wasn’t a reaction to that?
No. The competition mainly served to demonstrate that we ought to perhaps expand our customer base. No doubt we also felt like innovating, since we too have matured. Anyway, we knew that prints mainly appeal to consumers under 25, whereas we could also reach the 30-40 age bracket with plain designs.
Nowadays, how do plains and prints shape your offer?
We are developing both in all our ranges, since we can achieve the same impeccable prints on cotton nowadays. It’s mostly the type of fabric that makes the difference. Our polyester/ LYCRA® fiber boxers make up most of our collections (about 75%), while cotton / LYCRA® fiber is starting to gain traction. We sense a cotton comeback in the men’s underwear market.
Do you still only have a couple of boxer shapes?
Yes. We have one short and one mid-thigh length and manage to meet the expectations of a broad customer base with these two shapes. Classic consumers prefer the former, for the comfort afforded by the curved seams supporting the buttocks. The latter appeals to athletes and younger consumers, with the length allowing more room to express our selection of designs. We are not interested right now in introducing more cuts just to keep putting out new products. We are more concerned with improving comfort and seeking out the best possible fabrics. The quest is ongoing!
Which men’s prints have enjoyed the most success?
Our early strawberry print was hugely popular, as was our Star Wars collaboration and the iPhone icons coinciding with the smartphone’s release. I don’t think crazy designs are necessarily the most appealing. People tend to prefer designs that demonstrate a cute sense of humour or that brighten up your day first thing in the morning.
So, what about your new products?
We brought out new underpants for autumn-winter 2019/20 called Secret Garden, which were plain on the outside with a photo print inside. The idea was to shake things up, drawing inspiration from sake, where you see a picture as you drain your glass. We firmly believe in this product, extending the idea to Summer 2019. The initial feedback shows great promise.
Can you tell us about your women’s intimates? How and why did you branch out?
We wanted to make products for the women’s market because there are many who are into sport and who like our philosophy. We absolutely didn’t want a corsetry positioning! We had to explore this thoroughly, in particular because the retail networks are completely different. We now have a fitness range, matching our sporty side to a T, mainly featuring colorful panties and bras.
You launched some ready-to-wear a couple of years ago. What were you aiming to achieve?
The aim was to reach out to and develop other retail networks than jeanswear, where our products have mostly been marketed. The range comes in addition to our underwear, with a primary focus on comfort. Hence the 2014 launch of DENING®, a portmanteau of denim and moving. These closely fitting trousers are crafted with LYCRA® fiber for all-round elasticity. I reckon they are the most comfy jeans in the world. We are continuing to develop them, and now have three different cuts, and we hope to market them to both men and women.
You mentioned retail, how is that shaping up?
We have 14 own-brand outlets in France and four abroad. About 400 multi-brand stores sell PULLIN in France, most of which sell mainly denim.
Which countries do you export to?
Northern Europe remains our main market, especially the UK, where the web has contributed greatly to our expansion, in addition to Germany and Austria. Beyond Europe, we still have our work cut out for us. The US is one of our priorities. We did start developing our own network but stopped that. We are now working on a dedicated website, and ad hoc communication with mannequins and photos exclusive to the US to gain a proper footing in this market.
Your collections are the ultimate in "Instagram-ready". How do you go about social media?
We set up all sorts of events, at ski and beach resorts, to make our brand a fixture in our customers’ daily lives. And of course, that generates posts. But the most important aspect for us is to be close to our consumers and help them reach out easily to us. Whichever network they use to reach us, we make a point of answering their questions personally. This helps us keep in touch with our customers and see how the market is shaping up.
In 2020, you’ll be celebrating your 20th anniversary. Do you have any surprises in store for your customers?
We’ll be developing in-store events and a social media campaign to draw our customers in and “engage” with the celebrations.
LYCRA® fiber is a trademark of The LYCRA Company.
DENING® is a trademark of PULLIN