The idea of underwear brand

We were three friends back in 2003 who got an idea about men’s underwear in a bar conversation. This conversation covered many issues during the night and one important one was about how men should look like (we really liked the movie “Fight Club” and the main characters were pondering this same question in one great dialogue in the movie). The problem was that – like for the characters in the movie – this all-white-underwear -catalogue wasn’t for us. Of course we didn’t know that these ads were made for women who bought the majority of men’s underwear at the time. So we wondered why the underwear game doesn’t have any balls? Why do these ads look like underwear ads for women expect there are men in them? These ads were so obviously boring that it was like an open invitation – Make a better underwear game. So the idea stayed alive.

Brown and Yellow

The second idea about underwear was the color. Brown and yellow. This exceptionally stylish and retro color combination. Why didn’t it exist in the underwear universe? Of course we didn’t know much about the business at that point, which was a lucky coincidence. Like mentioned before, we didn’t know that the audience for men’s underwear were actually women and for some reason the majority of women didn’t like brown and yellow. Luckily many also did. But at the time we didn’t know that and that was good fortune. In our ignorance we were confident that if we make comfortable and durable underwear of that colour, men would buy it. We have read in a magazine that buying habits started to change at some point. Men started to spend money on their looks and they also did more underwear shopping themselves.

Miesten ruskeat/keltaiset bokserit. Mies ja Mähöne kalsarit maalla.
Miesten siniset/valkoiset alushousut. Mies ja Mähöne kalsarit tankkaamassa.

Naming the Brand

At the time in Finland there was a trend of Finnish corporates changing their names to more international ones. Nobody liked our special letters “Ä” and “Ö” they said. This obviously sounded stupid to us. We happen to be Finns, so why should we hide our roots under some generic name. So, we decided to go totally the opposite way. We chose the brand name “MÄHÖNE”. Not only a very Finnish name but also a name which has questionable associations here in Finland. “Mähöne” is a nickname for a person and the short version of Finnish last name “Mähönen”. Normally he’s the person in a group who fucks up the most. So not the coolest of guys but at least he has some friends. It was a bit of wordplay with different audiences – exotic to one but the total opposite to another. That was also the time when the coolest and most exotic thing was always found from the other side of the world. We just assumed that our culture must be exotic to people from other side of the world.

Finding our way

So that’s how the story of Mähöne begins. To put it in perspective, this idea wasn’t created overnight but kept developing during many weekends between biers, jäger shots and games of Jenga. It became one of those “you will never do it” -jokes among our other friends who had to sit in and listen our brainstorming while drinking. Actually at the end there was so much pressure of losing face that we didn’t have any other choice than to do it. After a few years of bragging the real work started. We didn’t have any idea how to make the underwear. Luckily there was a girl we knew and who understood a bit about the clothing industry. She was designing and making women’s handbags at the time and she taught us some basics about handmade production. There was also a very helpful polytechnic teacher who gave us a one-hour tutorial via phone about production line, which materials to use and how certain things are called in professional language. So, that was our first education in the underwear business.

Trial and error Period

Then we started our trial-and-error period which took us about five years. We can’t say that we were fully active with the business idea for five years, but these things take time. This is one key aspect of the clothing business. Lead times to production take many months and with a few failures you miss a whole year. Our constant failure was not finding the right factory. We were not satisfied with the quality we received from the factories we cooperated with. Naturally we wanted to make the best underwear or at least start a journey towards it, but the samples we received were too far from it.

Mähöne Brothers is founded

In August of 2010 we managed to make our first product. 2000 pieces of Brown and yellow underwear. That moment in the customs terminal (when we saw that the underwear was actually good) is still the greatest moment for me personally in this business. In the absolute worst case, we would have underwear for ourselves to last a lifetime. First we sold underwear to our friends and family, but then gradually we sold some to other people too. We managed to find two shops in Helsinki – Ponke’s the shop and Popot Sneaker store – who were willing to sell our product. Other than that we sold it from the trunks of cars in basketball practices and parties we attended. With a little help from our friends we managed to gather the money for our second order – spring of 2011 we made red and white underwear .

We found some customers

Things started to speed up a bit after that and we managed to create a business model where we didn’t sell the underwear from trunks anymore. That might not be a definition of success, but an important step forward as we started a cooperation with several retailers who liked our product. We even applied for a “Design from Finland” -label to become an active participant in the clothing business network here in Finland. However, our application was denied. This is the only Monty Python moment so far in this business. “We were not qualified”. The question naturally was, if we didn’t design our underwear, who did. Many years later when we started cooperating with “qualified designers”, they finally approved our application. Today we are proud members of Design from Finland -community. In 2017 we also introduced our first women’s underwear and were happy to find some demand on that side as well. Our latest project has been boxer shorts for kids which has been a natural development when we grow older.

Mähöne Brothers Today

This year our company celebrates its 10th birthday. It’s also the start of a new decade. To honour that and also to increase our sustainability, we have published our target of carbon neutrality during the year 2020. We have started a new design from wood-based materials which is one of the steps we are taking to lower our emissions. At the moment we are running our small operation in Helsinki and trying to find a larger audience in Finland and also to find our way to the international markets – to fulfill the whole purpose of our name. Thank you for reading this far. It has been a pleasure reminiscing all this. Hope to see you again here!