A MOVEMENT FOR MEN
All Photographs by Franz Liu.
mens underwear brands often showcase one body type with their models; bodies that don't represent the entirety of men in the world, failing to promote inclusivity or body positivity.
mintwear is a brand that is changing this. as aotearoa's first inclusive mens underwear brand, they create undies for men of all ages, body shapes and sizes. they definitely don't shy away from showing and celebrating the real bodies of real men. men with scars, stretch marks, hair and all things that make us human. they are also a sustainable brand.
I spoke with Bayon Kim; the Co-founder and Creative Director and he shared the story behind mintwear so read our interview below and join the movemint!
Bayon Kim; Co-founder + Creative director and Justine Kim; Communications Director
MODE: What is the story/inspiration behind the creation of Mint Wear?
Bayon: About 4am one hot January morning back in 2020, I had an idea. I sat up in bed and messaged the boys, Rocky Lokeni and Jerome Kaino, and told them we were starting a men’s underwear brand. I couldn’t sleep after that; my mind was buzzing.
"We’d always wanted to start something together. But life had pulled us in different directions."
I had founded a creative agency in Melbourne, Rocky forged a career in sales in Manly, and Jerome was obviously more well- known, and was living in France and playing rugby.
We all grew up together in Papakura, South Auckland. It’s a melting pot of diversity - people from all different cultures, religions and lifestyles. But our community was never represented in mainstream brands. So, when we conceptualised MINT, we knew it had to be a champion for diversity. And a celebration of our beautiful Kiwi culture.
For us, men’s underwear seemed to tick all the boxes – we could make it a truly inclusive brand that represented all men, we could make it sustainable by using organically grown bamboo and we could design a product that combined form and function. It wasn’t until the world went into lockdown, and our day-to-day jobs were affected, that we took it seriously. We had a glass half- full mentality, like now we’ve got time to work on MINT!
"We’re proud to be New Zealand’s first truly inclusive underwear brand for men of all ages and body shapes. Consciously created, a champion of diversity and a leader in comfort and innovation."
What does your day to day role/work look like at Mint Wear?
That’s an interesting one, because all of us are in different parts of the world. For me here in Auckland, it’s a juggle between MINT and family life with two young kids, so it’s constantly shifting. Today, it went something like this:
- 4.30am: Woke up before everyone else was up for the gym. The drive there and back is when I mentally plan the day or spin creative ideas - 8am headed to the warehouse to pack and send orders.
- 11.00am: Meeting with the factory to talk about upcoming campaigns.
- 1.00pm: A lot of background admin – social media, website updates, emails with suppliers.
- 2.00pm: Coffee with our Comms Director to plan for Christmas, and suss out campaigns and marketing for 2023.
- 3.00pm: School pick up.
- 4.00pm: More admin – all that fun ‘behind the scenes’ stuff.
- 7.30pm: Once the kids are in bed, it’s back on the computer to work, design, update, write or plan,
- 9.00pm: Late night zoom call and WIP with Rocky and Jerome – one of the only times we are all free because of time differences.
Your underwear is made of Bamboo, what does this do?
So many things! Bamboo is truly remarkable. It’s the fastest growing plant on earth, loved by pandas, resilient and tough. And yet, through a sustainable closed-loop process (which means all water is recycled), it can be transformed into the most buttery soft material you’ve ever felt.
We tried a bunch of others to be certain and tested them all not just for the way they felt but for their durability and sustainability. Organically grown bamboo was always the winner.
For MINT men, bamboo has a bunch of incredible benefits. It regulates your body temperature, so you stay cool in summer and warm in winter. It’s buttery soft, far superior to pure cotton underwear. It’s highly breathable and pulls moisture from the skin. It’s anti-bacterial. Incredibly durable. The list goes on.
For the planet, organically grown bamboo just makes sense. It’s naturally renewable, which means it can be harvested again and again without harming the environment. It needs only rainwater to grow, which means no artificial irrigation, pesticides or herbicides. It improves the quality of the air we breathe and offers carbon fixation.
Need I say more?
We at MODE love everything your brand represents, your brand is very inclusive regarding the models you use, compared to many other men’s underwear brands out there. What does inclusion mean to you?
Inclusion for us is representation - something we never saw in mainstream media growing up. There was no diversity in skin colour or body shape. In fact, the whole concept of loving yourself, as a man, was a rebellious act. A bold and revolutionary idea.
Over the past decade, we’ve seen the women’s body confidence movement gain momentum. Slow, but steady progress. It’s not quite the same for men. In fact, the men’s underwear industry is dominated by harmful stereotypes, lack of diversity and representation, and outdated notions of male beauty ideals. We know how dire the consequences, particularly post- pandemic.
Our solution is woven into our ethos: every man’s a MINT man. We empower men to embrace their bodies and feel confident in their own skin from the moment they put on their underwear. We do this primarily through the men we use in our photoshoots – men of all ages, shapes, sizes and cultures. It bucks societal norms, challenges male model stereotypes, and breaks stigma associated with body image.
Our MoveMINT series backs this up through storytelling. Men from around the world have shared their experiences with mental health and depression, the pressures of family life and work, racism, discrimination, body image. And our community have rallied behind them.
By carving space for these tough conversations, we’re driving real and authentic connection.
Finally, we celebrate our culture in more subtle ways. The SKU codes reflect the telephone area codes where we grew up in Papakura. The concept and design of both the Signature waistband and the MINT monogram was inspired by traditional Pasifika tattoo. And we offer inclusive sizes from 2XS up to 5XL to cater for our larger whanau and friends who struggled to find good quality underwear in their sizes.
Being an inclusive brand is multi-faceted. For us, it was never to stop at the talent we use in our campaigns. As I said, it’s our very ethos and we will continue to hold this mantle and carve space for inclusion and diversity.
What is the most profound thing you have learned about your customer base through Mint Wear?
Our customers – our MINT community – are a phenomenal bunch. They’ve embraced our messages of body confidence and diversity with open arms.
But most profound for us was just how deep that acceptance ran, and how ready New Zealand was to stand behind a brand that wasn’t afraid to shake up an age-old industry.
None of us expected such an overwhelming response. We’ve been flooded with messages and emails from men and women, of all ages, thanking us for what we’re doing. It reinforced for us just how important representation really is.
One story I won’t forget was from a guy who had bladder cancer. He’d had surgery in delicate places, and he struggled to find underwear soft enough on his scars that didn’t create pressure sores. He was also in a wheelchair so would normally suffer from bad chafing. He bought a pair of MINT and aside from saying how comfy they were, he said it saved him pain and stress.
That one always stands out to me because it goes beyond underwear that fits right and breathes and is comfortable. It’s adding value to someone’s life. It’s solving a problem and making them feel happy and confident.
What is the funniest/strangest question you have been asked by customers about Mint Wear?
Open the lid of the MINT tube, and you’re greeted with a subtle hint of mint. It’s our way to turn things on its head and make underwear a sensory experience.
But the funniest question – and we always seem to get this one every few months – is if the mint smell stays on the underwear even after they’ve been washed. We have to explain to customers that the fabric itself doesn’t have a magical mint smell, and that once washed it will definitely disappear.
What is your favourite piece of underwear that you sell and why?
This is a point of contention amongst us! Hand on heart, my favourite are the Classic Humphrey Boxer Briefs. In other words, white undies, longer in the leg with our velvety soft waistband. But Rocky and Jerome both disagree.
I believe Rocky loves the sleek Signature waistband in the bright and bold Parker (red), while Jerome favours the Hank (blue). I happen to think white looks classy, and it’s great on my skin tone!