Tommi Lähde, a man with about 20 years of consulting and expert level experience in marketing, always knew he wanted to create his own brand from scratch. After having “helped some brands succeed and contributed to some failing”, he had a clear idea as to what works and what doesn’t.
Thus it was time Lähde and his long-time friend and colleague Matti Pesonen to put their thinking hats on. Three things were essential. Firstly, what is for sale has to be a consumer product people actually need, want and pay for. Second, no price regulation allowed. Third: a strong brand should put the product ahead the competition.
The men kept on working as consultants whilst planning their next step. One of the business trips took the duo to New York, where Pesonen found out he was wearing an ill-fitting pair of underwear. Long story short: a few days and a lot of lotion later he ended up in a Wall Street bar ladies’ loo trying to soothe his wounds, and ended up severely scaring some innocent women – whom the bartender then comforted by saying “the other Danish guy is having a problem”.
[Curious to hear the whole story? Watch it at the end of the article.]
Witnessing your colleague’s tail end in pain might not be a turning point for many startups. Yet, to The Other Danish Guy, it’s essentially where everything started. After this incident, two more rules were established.
“Never again would we share a hotel room. I’d seen enough – or too much,” Lähde says with a grin.
The other one was about underwear. Every time Lähde and Pesonen travel together, Pesonen would have to wear comfortable undies.
Lähde made sure of this by marching him into the flagship store of a brand he liked and forked out 800 euros on dozens of pairs for Pesonen.
Then it dawned on them: comfortable underwear, as daily and essential as it is, was hard to come by. Also, underwear as a product ticked all of their three boxes: a consumer product, no price regulation, and branding matters. Also, the witty name: The Other Danish Guy, in the need of fresh undies in downtown New York City.
“At first it was all a joke. Then I happened to come across some business intelligence data and noticed athletic leisure clothing market was skyrocketing. That’s when new players can step in the game,” Lähde explains.
After researching fashion and sport businesses, the duo spent about a year building strategies for sales, marketing and distribution. The resultant brand belongs to Lähde & Co, a company jointly owned and run by Lähde and Pesonen.
Standing up to Calvin
Although the fashion industry is one of the most competitive in the world, men’s underwear scene is dominated by big names. Lähde and Pesonen weren’t afraid to stand up to the likes of Calvin Klein.
“People in general should have more courage. What would you do if you stood no chance of failing?” Lähde asks – rhetorically.
Currently The Other Danish Guy sells underwear for both men and women. The focus is strictly on “things that touch the skin” and keeping them classy and comfortable at the same time. That, Lähde has found out, is the source of confidence.
“In our discussions with customers, we’ve learned that particularly for women confidence begins from underwear – including in situations where no one else sees it.”
Contrary to the norm in clothing industry, the duo wanted to keep production in Europe. The products are manufactured in a factory in Portugal, where there’s no cutting short when it comes to environmental or other ethical issues.
“We visited the factory and wanted to get to know the process from meeting employees to seeing what happened to water after it’s used for dyeing,” Lähde notes.
As underwear is worn all over the globe, The Other Danish Guy is facing a huge crowd of potential buyers. The first target is in Germany, where negotiations with retailers, distributors and brand ambassadors are at full steam.
Lähde deems Europe as the core market, at least for starters. One country in particular has proven interested.
“We’ve received plenty of messages from Denmark,” Lähde says and laughs. “They ask if we’re Danish – and where they can get our products from.”