20 April 2018

Underwear With A Mission

Written by Published in Entrepreneurs




Underwear brand Marc Skid (yes, really) was originally conceived while founder Dan Barry and a friend were having a laugh at the image on a pack of designer briefs. Now it’s raising a smile on the faces of satisfied customers – and helping them make their Marc on the world

Sublime: What was the inspiration behind Marc Skid?

Dan Barry: The idea was born more than twenty-five years ago over a few beers with a good buddy. He had a pair of high-end underwear out on the coffee table. We got a chuckle from the observation that all you needed to do to sell underwear was put a ‘fly bod’ on the packaging and roll with it.

TextDanBarryWe discussed how a brand should have the same qualities we admire in people: a sense of humour, a strong character and for it to be purposeful. We laughed, too, at how both our mothers were obsessed with the state of our undies as children (‘You better not embarrass me!’ prior to a doctor’s visit).

The memory of that humour-laced discussion lingered on in my consciousness for years.

I have been blessed to see great examples in my life of individuals taking responsibility to give back to the greater world, most of all my parents and Sister Laurinda, each of whom now has a Marc Skid underwear style named after them.

Both of my parents have served my hometown community in elected offices and as volunteers in programmes bettering the community. Sister Laurinda, my mum’s childhood best friend, became a nun and started a mission in Honduras. I saw her good works in action when I joined her doing mission work. To this day, nothing has impacted me more than my Honduras mission trips.

S: What sets your products apart from other underwear brands? 

DB: When I put together the business plan in 2015, the first thing I wrote was the brand’s call to action: Make Your Marc on the World. It is the ethos of the brand, and it drove me to want to do more in every phase of bringing the brand to market.

I can confidently say that there are many things unique to our brand within the industry as a whole and, perhaps, within the entire apparel industry. First and foremost is our $4 donation per pair of undies committed to helping Feed, Save and Cure the World. Our ‘giving back’ model is different to most in that it is clear and transparent about the money given on behalf of the customer. Once a customer decides whether he or she wants to Feed, Save or Cure the World, that customer then chooses which four-star charity will receive their $4.

To maximise our efforts to make a difference, we believe that money in the hands of expert charities is the most efficient and effective way to Make Our Marc on the World.

Moreover, we are the only company using Peruvian organic Pima cotton, which is considered the finest cotton in the world. Pima cotton is actually rarer than organic cotton.

The final distinctive would be our use of REPREVE®, a fibre made from recycled water bottles, to make our waistbands. Although expensive, it is the right thing to do because of the world plastic issue. Eighty-five per cent of plastic waste, which can take a thousand years to decompose, goes into landfill sites.

S: In what ways does Marc Skid have an impact on the world?

DB: You can go to our website at any time and see the counter that displays the money we have given so far to charity and the number of water bottles we have kept out of landfill.

Put in simple terms, this is what one pair of undies and a $4 donation can do to Save, Feed and Cure the World: it can plant four trees, it can feed a child in the developing world for twelve days or it can vaccinate two children.

We are a brand-new start-up, but just for a second let’s allow our optimism to run wild and say we sold 2.5 million pairs of underwear. That would be $10 million given to our wonderful charity partners. Ten million dollars would plant 10 million trees, provide 30 million days of full meals to children or vaccinate 5 million children.

S: How might Marc Skid change the underwear industry? 

DB: I know from my twenty-five years in the corporate world that larger brands often do not make changes until they see smaller brands being successful. In any industry, small brands are usually the innovators. For example, we could realistically upcycle every single water bottle into polyester fibres for use in all forms of textiles. Just take note sometime of clothing labels, to see how much virgin polyester is being used. To me, it’s a cost that should be borne. TextlargeSeley

S: Tell us about the key materials you use to create Marc Skid underwear.

DB: ‘Organically grown’ tells you that the textile was grown in an eco-friendly manner you can value and trust. Our organic cotton underwear is sourced from family farms that shun GMOs and toxic pesticides in favour of environmentally sound techniques such as crop rotation, intercropping, hand or mechanical weeding, mulching and the use of beneficial insects to control harmful insects.

Often called ‘the cashmere of cotton’, Pima is the generic term for cotton boasting extra-long fibres. Ordinary cotton fibres are between ½” to ¾” in length. Pima is a luxuriously long 1-3/8 inches in length. As is true of any natural fibre, the longer and smoother the cotton fibre, the softer it is. Peruvian Pima cotton has a special softness, durability and resistance to pilling.

Pima cotton alone makes up less than 2% of the world’s cotton, and organic Pima is even rarer. Indeed, organic Pima cotton, the world’s very best cotton fibre, makes up only 0.0005% of the world’s cotton supply – and this exclusively fine cotton is used to make Marc Skid underwear!

Each velvety-smooth Marc Skid waistband is made with one recycled water bottle. Marc Skid is the only underwear company putting recycled water bottles to good use in this way. Our key materials offer incredible comfort to the customer and are also comforting to the world itself.

S: What’s your relationship like with the people who make the underwear?

DB: It’s very good – they are rooting for my success! I would say that if anyone ever aspires to create their own brand, they’ll find that most companies have little desire to work with start-ups. Let’s be honest: it doesn’t make economic sense for them, so I’m appreciative to everyone who believed in our little brand and helped bring it to life.

S: Why should we choose Marc Skid underwear? 

DB: Marc Skid is primarily an underwear company. I believe that providing the customer with premium-quality, super-comfortable underwear begins with selecting the best materials. We have done that.

In addition, everyone leads busy lives. You are also looking for an opportunity to make a difference. By choosing Marc Skid underwear, you’re getting a brand that is eco-friendly, and that not only allows you to Make Your Marc on the World, but gives you the opportunity to influence how that will be done.

S: Which charities help you Make Your Marc?

DB: At launch, all our charity partners were ranked 4-star – the highest possible ranking – by Charity Navigator, America’s premier charity evaluator. For Save the World, we have partnered with Amazon Conservation Association, Carbon Fund and Water.org. For Feed the World, we have partnered with Action Against Hunger, feedONE and The Hunger Project . For Cure the World, we have partnered with Catholic Medical Mission Board, Concern Foundation and Project C.U.R.E. If you sign up for our newsletter, I’ll send $1 on your behalf to Sister Laurinda to help with the cost of the life-saving clinic she recently renovated.

S: Any plans to expand the brand?

DB: I would be humbled to have the opportunity to expand. As a start-up, I had to limit my offer with regard to sizes and styles. Of course, I have other types of apparel that I think would be desirable to customers, and that would offer additional opportunities for us to Make Our Marc on the World together.

S: What makes you most proud about the brand? 

DB: The sustainable way in which the underwear is made, and the opportunity for each pair to Make a Marc on the World. We are still very small and I see every order, so I am thrilled any time someone decides to join us in our mission. I wish I could hand-deliver each pair of undies to our customers.

S: Can we expect to see Marc Skid on store shelves?

DB: It’s a future possibility, but, as a start-up, the initial plan is to be e-commerce only.

S: Where did you get the cheeky name?

DB: The name evolved in a fictional fashionista way from our mothers’ concerns so many years ago! During my mission work, I noticed that no matter how tough the people had it, there was always laughter. Mark Twain famously said that laughter is humanity’s best weapon. I feel that if, going through the morning routine, the wearer smiles just once and is reminded of the great gift of laughter, the name will have served its purpose.

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