Introducing a limited-edition collaboration with womenswear brand With Nothing Underneath for our first women’s boxer short.
Inspired by how many women love to wear a ‘borrowed’ boxer short we decided to design one especially for them.
We sat down with the two founders of both brands, Olivia Francis (Hamilton and Hare) and Pip Durell (WNU) to hear the story of the collaboration and how it came about.
Tell us a bit about your brand and how it started.
OF: It started with an observation that men’s underwear was pretty poor in comparison to women’s. It was unloved and overlooked category so I set out to change that. Our first product was the boxer short. I worked with a Savile Row tailor to redesign a more modern fit rather than the traditional ‘baggy nappy’ shape and used shirting-grade cotton for ultimate comfort and quality. Since then we’ve opened a store on Chiltern Street in Marylebone and expanded the range with a focus on comfort-focused clothing to include pyjamas, sweats and broader loungewear which has really come into its own during the pandemic.
PD: WNU is all about simplicity - paired back, timeless, effortless shirts - just like the woman who wears them. WNU shirts are for women who have a great sense of style but need clothes compatible with a modern, busy lifestyle. We are 4 years old this year; it’s been a journey from the kitchen table to now an office in south London, warehousing in Coventry and our factory in Portugal. What started as an idea seems to be what other women had been thinking too – we need better shirting options. It’s a really exciting time to be a direct to consumer womenswear brand right now – we can engage with our customers more than ever before – listen to them and design for them.
How did the collaboration come about?
OF: We’ve always had a female customer buying our boxers for themselves. The ‘borrowed’ boxer short is a wardrobe staple in lots of women’s wardrobes. As a woman myself I thought it would be nice to design it specifically with the female shape in mind and adapt the fit accordingly. When I met Pip and saw what she was doing with her shirts it was an obvious collaboration, to get her input into the design, work on the project together and also to be able to offer it to her female customers too.
PD: Olivia approached me with this brilliant idea; taking from the boys and adjusting it for the girls is the concept behind WNU so to join forces with the market leaders in boxer shorts was a no brainer.
What was the design process for the H&H x WNU Boxer Shorts?
OF: It was actually a simple design process that was really just about adapting our classic boxer short shape to suit female proportions. We wanted to keep the look of our boxer short style with substantial waistband and fly detail. I’m really pleased with the result, it’s flattering, easy to wear and a very nice female perspective on our range which for me personally has been a welcome novelty.
PD: It was really nice to come together on this and have a collaborative brainstorm from the very first meeting. We wanted to defer to H+H's boxer tailoring expertise, and together work out what adjustments would make them what women want, using our bestselling material the WNU Weave. It was a mix of little details like slightly curving the hem to be more flattering on the thigh, and closing the fly for a better line. It felt really organic and such an easy collaboration of concepts.
The sustainability of the fashion industry is currently being called out, what’s your approach?
OF: The fashion industry is sprawling and it’s very difficult to impose any kind of standards. For us, as an independent brand the big advantage we have is in supply chain transparency, because our scale is smaller we really do know who makes our clothes. But there's always more to be done to really understand every element of the process and it's really difficult. Our priorities are to use only natural fabrics, specifically ensure that our cotton is 'Better Cotton Initiative' (BCI) certified which ensures a holistic approach for fair working conditions as well as sustainable farming practices and to focus on quality, not quantity so that our clothing lasts much longer than most.
PD: I am thrilled it's being called out – the more the better. Greenwashing in this industry is a huge issue, and hard for brands like ours who make transparency and ethics top of our agenda to be heard in all the noise. We need to be looking at the lifespan of an item of clothing, as well as the production and materials. As a conscious consumer you don’t want clothes that lose their fit after one wash, you want to invest in stylish wardrobe staples that are good to the planet and will last for years without a huge price tag.
How do you think men buy clothes compared to women?
OF: In my experience men are definitely creature of habit, like a student bank account, if they find a brand they like, they usually remain loyal. I love this approach and it’s something I’ve definitely found myself moving towards. I now regularly buy multiples of a garment I love and it’s a surprising delight when it goes into the laundry basket and you can pull another one out of the drawer.
PD: It’s hard to speak generally but we have an incredibly loyal customer base here at WNU and yes I think women are just the same as men… When they find a great basic they will come back time and time again. What I love about a shirt is that there is a lot of space for experimentation and styling. This means that they are trans seasonal. The possibilities for way they are worn, and where they are worn, are endless, making that cost-per-wear very appealing.
What are your views on androgynous clothing?
OF: I think it’s really interesting and good to see the lines blur. For me there's a wonderful comfort in an oversized knit or a sweatshirt but I don’t think it works for every item in your wardrobe.
PD: While this works for lots of people, there are fundamental differences in the male and female form that require more attention to detail when creating the perfect fit. Although I love men’s shirts I needed the buttons to sit in the right place for my boobs, the shoulder seams to sit off but not swamp me, the cuffs to be long but not ridiculous .... We are all about taking the traditionally masculine basics and making them more suitable for a women’s body.
Any Summer plans?
OF: I’m going to be in North Cornwall for as much of the summer as I can. For me there’s nothing more restorative than a wide ocean view, even if it’s raining.
PD: I am getting married in August and we are honeymooning in Scotland so I am very excited to be up there for a week – it’s truly one of the most beautiful places in the world. Shirts and boxers top of the packing list, of course.