SvenNordin Underwear Co. is the Ideal Underwear for Now and Beyond
When Businesses Challenge the Status Quo
One cold April morning while I was flicking through my Instagram, I came across a photo from an underwear campaign featuring Lance, a silverfox wearing SvenNordin Co. an underwear brand unknown to me. The first impression of an underwear brand using a mature guy had a huge impact on me and it made me want to know. It demonstrates a forward thinking creator behind the brand by being aware of the lack of representation in underwear advertising. Halfway around the world, we also have the same idea.
Since December 2020, we disrupted the Australian LGBTQI underwear marketplace being the first to proactively speak out about diversity and inclusion.
- First to use a mature aged model for underwear advertisement
- First to feature all Asians for a series of underwear campaigns and continuously for 3 more series
- First to showcase body positivity in a series of video and editorial
- A huge breakthrough when we influenced another major LGBTQI underwear retailer in Australia to rebrand
We like building relationships with the owners of the underwear brands by sharing thoughts, ideas and our experiences which then evoke conversations on how to build better communities across the globe. Raising awareness should be universal, the rapport we build together should transcend across the globe. We don’t see colour, gender, age and borders, we treat everyone as human. When you are educated, knowledgeable, socially aware and culturally sensitive, you achieve great things. At Stanley Burton, we encourage the LGBTQI consumers to start supporting brands and retailers that support them, because you are not only supporting the products but also everyone else that makes up the whole community. That means you, the customers contribute to people that matters.
The Making of SvenNordin Co.
As I learned more about Sven, the designer / creator of SvenNordin Co the underwear brand, I realised that we have a lot in common, both of our lives changed when we moved to Sydney. I think there is always a life changing moment that defines your destiny, you need to have that power to change or you can be on a stand still and spiral downwards - the choice is yours. Sven and I are associated by our experiences as artists with a visionary mindset. Anyone can be an artist but not every artist has a vision to shake the system. As a mentor, I always encourage younger artists to think beyond what they know and use their life experiences to make an impact. Knowledge is more powerful than privilege, the people with privileges don’t need to think when things are handed to them. Often they don’t have a broad perspective other than the narcissistic world they live in.
Sven was born in a small town in Korea, he served the Korea Navy after college, then uprooted himself to move abroad to Australia and found a second home in Sydney. Can you imagine the culture shock of a small town boy from Korea, a country with traditional values, strict upbringing not only from family but also the mandatory military service with a path that is already set for you. By no means is that path narrow, because the military can provide great tools to build a foundation for the best to come. Sydney is not just another dot on the map, it is a mindset and in order to make it, you need to work hard. As Asian immigrants, failure is not an option that is the unified values across all Asian cultures.
SvenNordin Co. Identity: Less is More
Before the age of 30, Sven had already stomped his footprints across three continents. While living in Sydney, he started to think about creating a brand at the start of the pandemic, eventually when he met his boyfriend then moved to Germany to create SvenNordin Co’s first underwear range - Signature Brief Yellow Stone. I can see a slight German influence on this style, the colour grey reminds me of Brutalist expression which is often seen in German architecture and if you look closer there are few Brutalist architecture across Sydney CBD. As artists we have huge awareness of our surroundings. We are constantly looking at imagery and compartmentalising them into sections in our subconsciousness then during a creative stage we unlock the strongest ideas onto our work.
My creative process is very similar, I am aware of my surroundings by observing people, taking into account what goes on in the world but instead of following trends, I go against the grain. It seems natural to me to cause a vibration not by jumping onto people’s bandwagon.
When I saw the photo of Lance the silverfox model wearing the grey underwear, I was captivated by the yellow tag design. I could tell it was designed by someone who knows about designs and can think outside the circle. Grey and yellow work well together, it reminds me of graphic design from the 2012 era that focuses on graphic as a communication language. It was after a decade of loud and chaotic designs from 2000 during the beginning and the end of the dotcom era. The young design communities across Australia and beyond created bright colour graphics with a lot of shards pointing at every direction while still great designs but they are not timeless. The designers stripped back to simplicity and focused on communicating with the audience. SvenNordin Yellow Stone definitely spoke to me and I think that’s why it works.
In this interview, Sven the designer and creator of SvenNordin Co., talks in detail about his organic creative process, the reason behind the hybrid underwear / swimwear and the grey brief with the yellow tag, unlike any other basic grey briefs on the market just, SvenNordin Co. is all about “Less is More”.
What is your role in Sven Nordin?
I’m the designer behind the brand SvenNordino Co. Actually I do everything. I have a background in graphic design, also I developed the website, product development, sourcing of material and also the entire creative process including art direction and product shoots. It all started when I used to live in Australia before moving to Germany during the pandemic, I invested my time in forming the ideas about the brand.
What is your background and how does it reflect on SvenNordin?
I was born in a small town in Korea, I had to do navy service after graduating from college, but soon after that I moved to Australia and that’s where it all started. I dedicated my time to learning the English language and trying to blend into Australian culture. I was living in Potts Point (Sydney) at the time, Sydney is my second home which I consider the gayest city in the world, it changed my life.
I met a lot of amazing people and mixed with the gay culture. I was enthralled by everything - the lifestyle, weather and people who were really supportive of each other. Growing up in a small town in Korea where being gay was forbidden so I never got to be myself until I came to Sydney and that was also when I started to wear jockstrap and different types of underwear and I used to hang out at Bondi Beach in my swimwear, something I never got to do in Korea.
What is your impression of underwear designs in Australia?
Australia is definitely the leader of underwear (and swimwear) fashions with a wide range of styles and designs for the consumers to choose from. I got a lot of inspiration from just living in Sydney seeing all the new independent brands popping up, everyone has their takes on designs and styles. It was just inspirational and that means the consumers have more choices and guys love to experiment with new brands which is great to see. It was in Sydney when I decided I wanted to have my own underwear brand, after soaking up all the life experiences.
How did you come up with the concept for the brand?
I get a lot of inspiration from places I have lived at and even just life itself. When I was living in Sydney I learned that ‘less is more’, so that became the concept for the brand SvenNordin Co. Sven is a name that I got when I was studying Linguistics and German in college then I met my boyfriend at the time and eventually moved to Germany. Nordin is just something I found and I think they work well together.
During the pandemic I had a lot of time to develop the concept and create the entire look and feel of the underwear - typography and colours then I started thinking about the structure and designs against how conventional underwear is designed. For example, "why is the brand always placed horizontally? inside? and at the inner back of the underwear?”
Then I revealed everything on the exterior, everything I see in normal underwear, I reversed and that’s become the design of 'Signature Brief Yellow Stone’. I had to make a lot of adjustments for the first design because the font was too skinny to print on the fabric, then also the colour matching process was not easy.
I love to keep this brand identity as “LESS IS MORE”.
Was underwear the first product for SvenNordin?
Signature Brief Yellow Stone brief was the first style I created, it took about 4 months to complete. I sourced the fabrics in Korea, made the pattern and samples then I sent it to the manufacturer to adjust the size and shapes. I learned about product development as I went, it was a very organic process, I get better as I go.
The second style was Adrenaline Rush so I chose to use black as the foundation, I just think it’s a very sexy colour that can go with everything, this one took about 3 months to complete. I made this one in my room while working with the manufacturer in Korea. I developed a great relationship with them so they decided to sell the fabric I wanted even though I could not meet the minimum requirement orders. I also design the white socks that are ideal for fitness, it is fitting for field sports so when you move around a lot it won’t slip away.
SvenNordin socks, not available at Stanley Burton
I see that you have some other accessories on your website, how did that come about?
Later on I created the leather accessory of my fave animal which is a bear. I used to do leather craft as a hobby so I know a lot of things about leather and their quality. I love going to the fabric and leather market because you always get ideas from there, there are great designs and colour choices . That bear was very popular so it is now sold out, for the next update, I will put metal chains on it to make it look even sexier.
There are a lot of underwear brands on the market, it seems to be growing .. What are you hoping to achieve in the future with SvenNordin?
There’s a wide range of underwear and swimwear across different price range, but some brands come and go so it is quite unsteady. I want to keep SvenNordin Co. alive and have longevity. I want to make a memorable brand with a unique identity for the people. I have a roadmap planned for the product range from underwear, swimwear and leather. I personally love leather so much which is ironic, because I never fancied leather when I was younger. I also want to develop a perfume range, I believe perfume completes who you are. So I am really excited to expand these items one by one. I hope this brand keeps its identity across different generations. Having an interview with Stanley Burton is one GREAT achievement!
Your choice of fabric is quite unique, why did you choose them?
The choice of using Pique fabric came from my personal experience actually. When I was living in Sydney I used to hang out at Bondi and Tamarara Beach straight after work, quite spontaneously on my way home and I would forget to bring my swimwear. I would jump into the water with my underwear and it was very inconvenient having to carry my wet underwear home. The underwear was mostly cotton so it gets very heavy after it’s soaked in water. So I always wished that there was one underwear that could dry quickly or ones that could dry fast after a machine wash without having to get ruined in the dryer.
When I created Adrenaline Rush, I was literally looking for fabric that is used in sportswear. There is a HUGE fabric market in Korea, I used to go there to find the best prices for the best fabric, it was fun! So I found this Pique fabric that dries quickly. I tested the fabric, washed it, then hung it on the wall without squeezing. I love the fabric!! Since this isn’t the traditional fabric to make underwear it is a bit hard to sew.
I had a few trial and errors producing Adrenaline Rush, the fabric was cut in the wrong way. Cutting fabric is really important, especially when the fabric is 2-way stretch fabric, you can either cut the way stretch horizontally or vertically, it is a different style to sewing cotton or lycra, but now I know how to handle it.
You must have made some conscious decisions when choosing models for the first campaign. I think as artists everything we do is a reflection on how we want the world to understand our visions. The model Lance in your campaign is extremely sexy and age inclusion isn't something any underwear brand has successfully done or should I say achieved. No one in the LGBTQI community in Australia has done anything about it until we came along. Was this something you wanted to push?
As a gay man, the more I aged, the more I see there are so many different types of sexy guys that I’m really attracted to. In fact, most of the underwear brands’ models are pretty much the same ..no shades, they choose the best model for their business but they all seem to be overlapping.
Majority of the gay brands are mainly young white muscle model but they don’t consider other body types for people like me who is a hard gainer or something with body fat which is disappointing. So I think diverse body types and age groups should be represented too. We are living in 2022, there is so much diversity on social media as yet underwear brands are not giving them much visibility. I know many new and unique brands are using different body shapes, races and age groups.
Our behind the scene video for the photo shoot with Lance has gained a lot of views which I considered a breakthrough. Lance was very collaborative, he shared a lot of ideas and he knows exactly how to work his body to showcase the underwear. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. My photographer Justin was great to work with, he actually introduced Lance to me.
After the shoot they offered to help me promote the underwear which is amazing, I need all the help I can get to get the brand out there. I am the only person working on the brand at the moment so it is great to work with photographers and models who can contribute to what I do. So I feel blessed to have them on my team.
The first model of SvenNordin Co. was a faceless Asian guy, on the website there is a wide range of men from Asian, mature aged men, white, Latin. I hope we all can do a shoot together in the future to produce great work.
Are we expecting more underwear designs from SvenNordin in the near future?
Yes, 1000% there are few designs that are almost complete to make patterns and also for swimwear as well, hopefully they will be ready for the next summer in Australia . It is going to be a unique colour that you have never seen before on a unique fabric that has never been used by anyone before. Also, there will be leather products like harnesses that are sturdy with SvenNordin Co. style. Trust me I LOVE Leather I know what people want.