The tennis legend holds court with Ana Santi on how he got into the men’s underwear game some 20 years ago
Why did you decide to launch an underwear collection? When we launched the brand 20 years ago, there was not really such a thing as men’s underwear in bright colours. I was bored with the black, white and grey on offer. It seemed a great product to get into, as it’s a repeat purchase and also a big gift item. Men are loyal to their underwear brand if the fit and design is right.
Where did your inspiration come from? Even though we do not create technical sport products, we flirt a lot with our tennis heritage. If you look closely, quite a lot of our patterns contain parts of tennis courts, tennis balls, rackets or other tennis symbols. We dare to be different in a product group which was historically very conservative.
How much involvement do you have with the brand now? I’m not working with the collections on a daily basis, but I have a lot of contact with the head office in Stockholm. I am also involved with new launches.
Would you consider launching a sportswear line? Actually, one of Björn Borg’s new spring 10 concepts is a sport-inspired underwear product. It is made in materials that ‘breathe easy’, which is great for sports. We do not create any technical product as such, but this concept is an exciting phase for the brand. We are furthering our tennis inspiration and reaching out to a wider customer group.
What advice would you give to designers who licence their name? The brand is always equal to the people working with it on a daily basis, so it’s important to build a strong organisation and have a strong business model. Björn Borg is working with both licensees and distributors, including The Interpool Group in the UK. Since the distributors work in their own markets with support from the Swedish HQ, they really put their soul into the brand. Each market is so different in terms of the way we need to communicate the brand, and the way we sell it.
What skills do people coming from outside the fashion world need to succeed in the industry? To succeed in a business where you have a lot of competition, as you do in both the fashion and the tennis worlds, it is about hard work on a daily basis, and a strong organisation. At Björn Borg we have a great team with decades of experience, as well as loyal employees who have been there from the start. You need to accept support from others. Of course, you also need a good product.
Does it help when you are already famous? Of course it helps to have a recognised name when starting up a new business. But in the end, that won’t make you succeed. It is about maintaining the momentum. We do this by reinventing ourselves and our product all the time.
Can the industry expect more from you in the coming years? We keep expanding into new markets and the consumers, or fans, as we like to call them, can look forward to a lot of exciting news in terms of products and concepts in the coming years.
Who is your style icon?
Steve McQueen. He is timeless, always in style.
Who is your favourite designer?
I wear a lot from my own collections.
- Björn Borg is a former tennis player and founder of the eponymous underwear label