Hot Threads

Mitch Dowd Design

Nothing says cool comfort quite like the onesie. “They’ve really gone off,” says Amanda Ryan, Product Manager for Women and Kidswear at Mitch Dowd Design. “The onesie has been the biggest single trend in sleepwear for the last 20 years. Love it or hate it, it’s getting great sales at the register.”

People who want to nod off in style are snapping up onesies from the new Mitch Dowd website and Myer stores across the country. And the trend has caught some major national attention; viewers who tuned in to Sunrise earlier this year, Australia’s number one morning show, were treated to the team and studio audience all wearing snug Mitch Dowd onesies.

While onesies may have stolen the show for now, there are plenty of other fabulous Mitch Dowd products set to be released, from purpose built underwear and photo printed boxers to eco-friendly sleepwear and underwear. Forget boring boxers and daggy pyjamas – Mitch Dowd is continuing to innovate and expand at a time when most competitors are playing it safe.

Being Adventurous
While cheeky onesies have been a runaway success, the creative minds behind the brand are busy interpreting key trends and exploring design possibilities. “We have a young group of designers who just love what they do and they put a great deal of time and energy into product design and innovation,” states Heidi Phillips, the brains behind Product Development for Women and Kidswear. “I look at a lot of catwalk styles as well as fashion blogs, street snaps and translate that into the Mitch Dowd brand.”

Daring to be playful and fashion forward has kept customers loyal to Mitch Dowd Design for 26 years. “I think that we’re different,” says Marketing Co-ordinator Catherine Carnegie. “I think what sets us apart from our competition is that we’re excited to push boundaries.” Five years ago, Mitch Dowd broke the mould by developing carbon neutral underwear. Today, Mitch Dowd is proud to be the leading onesie supplier to Myer, and business is booming.

This summer, surf’s up for underwear and sleepwear at Mitch Dowd and prints are definitely in. With funky prints galore, oh-so-soft fabrics and luxe trims, Mitch Dowd sleepwear has never looked hotter. “For 2013, it’s really all about prints for sleepwear, especially with a nautical theme,” says Ms Phillips. Designer for Menswear, Gypsy Merritt agrees. “The nautical theme is still really strong this coming summer, especially in sleepwear; there’s lots of stripes and really fun prints. One of the main trends for men’s sleepwear is shapes becoming hybridised.” With more athletic styling and the use of fabrics such as bamboo, silk, modal and organic cotton, sleepwear is becoming more like leisure or loungewear.

Men are much more comfortable with the idea of wearing eco-friendly fabrics like bamboo and organic cotton to bed than they were in the past. These sustainable fabrics feel wonderful and allow the skin to breathe, which means a better night’s sleep for the wearer. Mitch Dowd now has bamboo underwear on replenishment in Myer. In sleepwear, there are also a few new styles available made from organic cotton that do not cost the earth. “We’re also doing a couple of soft modal sleep tees which have been really popular and new French terry athletic-style sleep shorts.”

Better Basics
Whether guys are suiting up for another day at the office or kicking a footy around on the weekend in jeans and a t-shirt, comfortable underwear and socks are a must. And if you don’t fancy catching forty winks in your underwear, pyjamas are another essential item. Mitch Dowd creates briefs, boxers, socks and sleepwear that appeal to the average Aussie bloke wearing it, along with their partner who is most likely the one buying it.

It’s no surprise that comfort is king when it comes to underwear, but that doesn’t have to be at the expense of style. Men’s Product Development and Quality Assurance Officer, Anthony Hardstaff believes that Mitch Dowd has a quintessentially Australian style that customers can relate to. “We see the DNA of the Mitch Dowd brand as being style, irreverence and humour, but over the last few years there’s been a greater emphasis on doing more styling and for that styling to develop into a comfortable range of underwear.”

When it comes to creating underwear and sleepwear that looks as good as it feels, Designer for Menswear, Gypsy Merritt draws on many sources for inspiration. “I look at a lot of novelty prints and vintage styling, social media and men’s fashion blogs. A lot of our inspiration for prints comes from popular culture, what’s going on and what’s relevant today. We have a lot of discussions about what the Mitch Dowd man wants from his underwear and sleepwear.” Inspiration can strike from just about anywhere and outerwear fashion trends provide a lot of direction. “We also get a lot of good customer feedback and try to look at our products from a customer’s perspective. What do they want from us and how can we make underwear more fun for them?”

While Mitch Dowd trunks and boxers are usually bright and cheerful, this coming summer season is set to sizzle with zingy colours and bold geometric prints. “In men’s,” Ms Merritt says, “we have a few new shapes launching this season with a focus on purpose-built underwear.” Hikers, jet-setters and amateur adventurers will love the new Travel Trunks, which have been designed specifically for exploring the world in comfort. For those who like to hang ten, there are Under Boardies that are designed to be worn in the surf, primarily under boardies (as the name suggests) or under a wetsuit.

These innovative products add to the purpose-built underwear range Mitch Dowd released last season that included shape enhancing underwear and the ultimate performance trunk. “We’re also trying new print techniques this summer, taking advantage of the new digital printing technologies which give us the ability to print photo quality on different fabrications. We’re doing a few photo printed boxer shorts which are going to be good for Father’s Day.”

Good Times
Mitch Dowd is proud to be sharing its phenomenal success by giving back and its charitable work can only be described as being a perfect fit. “We do the Undies Run each January for the Anti-Cancer Council,” says Ms Carnegie. “We’ve been seeking something to support and it was really good timing.” At this stage, People’s Choice has held the Undies Run for bowel cancer in Adelaide, but there are plans to expand nationwide. “They are looking to expand into Darwin and Melbourne in the next year or two. They’ve had such success that it’s given them the confidence to move forward. I think they’re on a winner,” Ms Carnegie states.

Speed isn’t just important to win the Undies Run. Speed to market is a critical factor in order to stay ahead of the competition. Emerging local and international trends need to be spotted quickly; the time it takes to go from design to production makes all the difference. Selling to major retailers who are quite risk-averse at the moment is challenging. “They’re a little bit hesitant to take the risks that we like to take,” says Ms Ryan. “When we’re bringing in new products, it’s a push to get them over the line.”

Mitch Dowd is committed to providing loyal fans and newcomers with super cool and comfortable underwear, socks and sleepwear that they will love to wear. “We’re proudly Australian and we’re very passionate,” says Ms Carnegie.

She adds, “As a team we work really hard, we all love what we do and from my perspective it’s a pleasure coming to work each day because we are in a really supportive, open environment. We’ve got a hard working management team that leads by good example.” The management style is based on trusting people to put their best foot forward at work. “People aren’t micromanaged and that makes them enjoy what they do even more,” notes Ms Carnegie. Criticism is constructive and staff are never made to feel like they’re being personally attacked. In turn, staff take ownership of the results and work even harder to ensure that they don’t disappoint. “This is exemplified with the low staff turnover, which is less than five per cent in the last four years, which is quite impressive. This means we get to keep good experienced people that are highly productive,” she explains. The company nurtures experts in their respective fields and fosters a culture of ownership, accountability and doing it right the first time. It has a management culture of few meetings and minimum reporting and a “get out there and do it attitude”.

A forward thinking approach to design and innovation is at the heart of the Mitch Dowd brand. “I like feedback,” says Mr Hardstaff. “I don’t care what type of feedback it is, positive or negative, it’s all good to me and helps improve our product and keeps us moving forward and producing a better garment. We’re looking for that edge to gain more market share. We’ve actually gone from being the seventh national underwear supplier for Myer in 2009 to being number three in 2013 and we’re not stopping until we’re number one.”

Mitch Dowd Design is in good hands with people like Amanda, Anthony, Catherine, Gypsy and Heidi onboard. As Mr Hardstaff observes, “We can introduce new elements, push boundaries and be creative. I think that’s what makes us special.”

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September 20, 2018, 5:30 AM AEST