Cheers to spring! I am getting excited for sunny weather, more time outdoors and having longer days! Today, I’ll introduce you to Wolf Industries, an international LA-based kids underwear brand for ages 2-10. You’ll be happy to discover that in this commonly forgotten niche there are new and playful alternatives. Following the January welcome post on our blog, we caught up with founder Shagane Barsegian Launey to chat collection, vision and workings for 2016. Share your favorite intimates by using the comments feature at the bottom of the post. Shop Wolf Industries on the website, follow the newsletter or get in touch via: firstname.lastname@example.org
Would you mind introducing yourself and your brand to our readers?
My name is Shagane Barsegian Launey, Founder and Product Design Director of Wolf Industries. I make modern children’s underwear. I spend a lot of time talking with kids and parents about potty training, bacteria, playground freedom, skin sensitivity, laundry, physiology and translating these needs and insights into thoughtful basics.
What was your background and why did you create Wolf Industries?
I am a luxury women’s wear designer by training, having worked at Louis Vuitton owned Marc Jacobs in NY and Paris based Swedish womenswear brand Burffit by Lovisa Burfitt. In NY, I was seriously frustrated with the fashion industry. Paris was a healthier experience but I was not ready to move countries so I re-calibrated my focus to design and technology during my graduate studies at the California College Of The Arts in San Francisco. My career in the Silicon Valley has been very rewarding, having shaped and influenced Fortune 500 companies, global brands, startups and products across sectors. However, I missed making making things with my hands. Exploding maker movement scene with Instructables.com, Maker Faire, Renegade Markets, Etsy and my daughter being born pushed me to start tinkering again. First experiments were very inward, executing on a technical challenge or defining an aesthetic that deserves attention. With experience, I started to prioritize and add in business requirements. I retreated from starting in kids wear as I saw a solid community of brands I admired. This was just around the time when Milk Magazine was starting to be an establishment and Babyccino kids launched their shopping site, around 2011/12. It’s rare to find authentic quality intimates being carried by boutiques. My daughter was potty training and I really got excited about trying underwear because of the potential to bring together fashion, textiles and technology. Plus, making my own was the only way to navigate away from princesses and superhero culture. I am finding I was not the only one in need of alternatives.
What is your work centered around and how do you approach design?
To break aesthetic perceptions of what underwear looks like, I spend a lot of time trying to understand the existing language of underwear. We tend to shy away from white that is the foundation of the mass produced basics as well as lace, which maps too much to sexual lingerie. We bring concepts, textures and fabric that are laundry friendly and invite morning conversations while getting ready. I want a certain modern fit with the right touch of gender and soul. For example, the wide leg seam is an intentional direction away from elastic but also a functional way to resemble a shorty under skirt. It also holds the underwear around the leg so coverage is guaranteed with any activity, sitting or climbing. Kids like good underwear. At first glance parents are skeptical of performance and buy a tester pair. Once they see that it holds and that the little one wants to wear that pair everyday, they reorder more. This year we’ll get to boys, so share your thoughts on boxers or briefs. For girls, the styles need to capture the essence of our time along the lines of this NYT editorial piece on shifts in women’s basics. We have tried to level out pink with other colors in our selection, however I am finding at the end of day parents of girls do buy more peach, blush, and red colors in US. There are cultural tastes for color, we see it in international wholesale orders.
Can you tell us a bit more about the new SS16 collection?
Options and colors. We are still pretty small and new so these are huge endears for small scale production as there are more patterns to size and more fabric inventory to carry. We’ve introduced intricate Dreamy underwear made with Mokuba ribbon from Japan. It’s richer in detail so you really fall in love holding the ruffles. It’s intentionally less practical more for dancing, running around on the lawn or at the beach. On the opposite end we launched sporty and 60’s cycling uniform inspired Pop underwear meant to completely strip ornamentation and over deliver on life cycle. We needed a style that was more affordable to be inclusive. We make updates annually, parents need the comfort of reordering so it can’t be too often. We’ve had a fantastic response from parents and stores a like. Our new collection is available at Any Place in Osaka, In The Park in Tokyo, Langkous in Haarlem Netherlands and Cissy Wears in London. My loves of the moment are: Dreamy Powder and Zig Zag Mustard.
Do you have a particular muse for your children’s collection?
My daughter has been my guiding force. I make test samples and watch how they perform over time. I also work with fit models and get direct feedback from little customers. In framing photography, I keep it approachable, a “morning comfy” look that parents can relate to it. Shooting underwear does present unique challenges of privacy and sexuality. I keep a constant pulse on how I feel about it as a parent and how my daughter feels. We’ve had months where she was not interested in participating and I adjusted my work accordingly. Typically my family is not a part of Wolf Industries storytelling. I’ve chosen to put focus on sharing the process instead to bridge the proximity to maker. We also have humourous cartoons based on a wolf character who is in limbo between being a playful kid and an avant-garde adult.
If you could dress any celebrity’s child, who would it be?
I’ll trade dressing a celebrity for dressing a generation. I think that’s a tougher challenge. I feel nostalgic at times of childhood moments I share with my generation in terms of toys, food or cartoons. I love the multitude of niche cultures brought by the long tail theory but sometimes I miss having overlaps and uniformity in some of the experiences. There is beauty in sharing that cultural foundation.
What’s interesting about the near future?
Exploring science and textiles, technology and biology. Improving current practices. In one of the Interview Mondays, designer Maringe shares thoughts on slow fashion, longevity, piece items, and the life cycle of the material.
Designers have accountability for how we source materials and produce items. Nobody wants to talk manufacturing. It’s still an uncomfortable subject. We need more case studies on weaving in sustainability. I recycle our pre-production cut-offs to make long handmade braids. I am still figuring out what to do with post-production scraps and worn underwear. In our case solving for recycling is less complicated since we generally stick to the same fabrics vs brands that rotates supplies every season. I’d like to hope for better infrastructure from fabric supplies, very few have websites so you have to extract what you can on manufacturing process in tiny bites over email. More conversations about care and product life cycle.
I love the garment care series published by Racked in collaboration with expert Jolie Kerr. It’s a funny and human overview on different types of laundry and cleaning challenges. Innovation is blossoming in social media and marketing landscape as we can mimic and try on new approaches with no barriers. It would be great to unleash similar innovation in ares of operations: wholesale, accounting and legal. Instagram and Pinterest have saved the world from boring staples. There is an explosion of small Facebook based kids shops thriving in small and highly engaged networks, that’s a new landscape and powerful. As a customer in the current times we are benefiting from a lot of the experimentation. It’s probably an overwhelming amount of choices on one side but on other hand we shaping history in this transformative moment of time as web and mobile technologies have matured and are approaching the next paradigm shift.
Thanks Shagane for taking the time to answer all our questions! Nous sommes fan!
[All photographs taken by Paris based photographer – Candice Cohen Photography]