Ten years since the launch of iconic Aussie menswear brand Teamm8, we speak with founder and Cre­ative Direc­tor, Michal Ni­co­las about evo­lu­tion, sex ap­peal and giv­ing guys what they want!

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT #227 - By Joshua Heath

For ten years, iconic Aussie menswear brand Teamm8 has been giv­ing guys what they want! We speak with founder and Cre­ative Direc­tor, Michal Ni­co­las.

DNA: Michal, con­grat­u­la­tions on the 10th an­niver­sary of Teamm8. What prompted you to launch the brand ten years ago? Michal Ni­co­las: When I launched Teamm8 it was purely as an un­der­wear la­bel. Ar­guably, the idea of men’s un­der­wear as a fash­ion state­ment had been well es­tab­lished by Calvin Klein back in the 1992 cam­paign with Marky Mark and Kate Moss. That changed the game, and sud­denly ev­ery brand wanted to show­case men’s un­der­wear. If you look at the mar­ket to­day, it’s hard to even con­tem­plate that there was a gap that I thought Teamm8 would be able to fill – but there was.

That Calvin Klein cam­paign was a long time be­fore Teamm8 launched, though.

Yes, many years be­fore, but it had a huge ef­fect on me and stayed with me. I love the clas­sic yet hy­per-sexy feel of it, and it in­flu­enced my de­sign ethos. But ten years ago I thought the big play­ers were all play­ing it safe and I felt I had some­thing to con­trib­ute – with­out the con­straints of fo­cus groups. [Laughs.] I mean, in the se­cond cam­paign we shot for Teamm8 the guys weren’t even wear­ing the un­der­wear, they were naked and just hold­ing them!

You went your own way from the be­gin­ning. The way I see it, if you have a good prod­uct and a strong brand ethos there’s al­ways the pos­si­bil­ity to carve your­self a niche.

What was your de­sign back­ground?

I’m not a trained de­signer but I’d worked in ev­ery as­pect of re­tail fash­ion for years be­fore I launched Teamm8. I’d worked at Coun­try Road in sales and stock con­trol and went on to be a Man­ager and then Area Man­ager for the United Col­ors of Benet­ton in Syd­ney. I then en­tered the lux­ury mar­ket work­ing for Liz Jones’ Arida and was buy­ing her men’s col­lec­tions. So, although I had no for­mal de­sign train­ing, for 20 years I un­der­went a fash­ion in­dus­try ap­pren­tice­ship! [Laughs.] I felt I knew a thing or two about cre­at­ing a qual­ity prod­uct and, just as im­por­tantly, a strong brand.

You also had an ear­lier ca­reer as a singer and per­former.

Yes, prior to Teamm8 and in­ter­spersed within those years in re­tail, I had a ca­reer as a singer. And although that feels like an­other life­time ago, it re­ally was the launch­ing pad for Teamm8.

How so?

Back in those days it was all about Mys­pace – so retro! I had a record deal in Ger­many and was lucky enough to have had some suc­cess and had gar­nered a sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­na­tional fol­low­ing. My strat­egy was to launch Teamm8 to the au­di­ence I al­ready had and, I guess, that’s why since the day I launched the brand it has had in­ter­na­tional suc­cess.

How did the early days go? Who em­braced the brand first?

The con­cept I launched with was the Teamm8 search for Ev­ery­day Cham­pi­ons. I had ten lo­cal guys who each had a back story and, of course, were easy on the eye! I then cre­ated a pro­file for each of the guys on the site and asked the pub­lic to vote for their favourite. The top three be­came the Teamm8 Star Play­ers and fea­tured in the cam­paign. Blogs all over the world picked up on it and it went from there; it was huge. So it would be fair to say that gay men from around the world em­braced Teamm8 first. I lit­er­ally launched with a Brief and a Trunk un­der­wear style in three colours each. That’s it.

The brand has evolved a lot since then! To­day, Teamm8 is much more than just an un­der­wear brand, with ac­tivewear and swimwear be­ing just as im­por­tant. I feel like ev­ery cou­ple of years Teamm8 evolves into some­thing dif­fer­ent. We never lose our brand ethos, but we try dif­fer­ent things and most im­por­tantly give our loyal cus­tomers some­thing to look for­ward to. I’m still blown away when guys tell us they have been a cus­tomer from the be­gin­ning and still love

Teamm8! In an age where we’re bom­barded with so much, I don’t take that lightly and I’m so ap­pre­cia­tive of the sup­port and loy­alty. What is the brand’s ethos?

Teamm8 was cre­ated for the con­fi­dent guy who was com­fort­able in his own skin. He is fash­ion-for­ward with­out be­ing a fash­ion vic­tim and ap­pre­ci­ates clas­sic style with a

I thought the big play­ers were all play­ing it safe… in our se­cond cam­paign the mod­els weren’t even wear­ing the un­der­wear, they were naked and just hold­ing them!

def­i­nite twist. Above all that, the Teamm8 man wants to look his best whether he’s sweat­ing it out at the gym, hang­ing out with friends or en­joy­ing the beach. And when all that comes off he’s sup­ported by su­pe­rior qual­ity un­der­wear that im­presses. [Laughs.] The Teamm8 man is sexy but he doesn’t take life too se­ri­ously!

From your per­spec­tive, how has the fash­ion re­tail land­scape changed over the ten years? It’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ball game these days. Fash­ion has be­come so ac­ces­si­ble and dis­pos­able, with the lat­ter mak­ing it a tough field for play­ers like Teamm8. We are a bou­tique brand and very proud of that, but some peo­ple don’t dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween a mass brand who can man­u­fac­ture for a frac­tion of the cost, and brands like us, who fo­cus on qual­ity and unique­ness. Lucky for us, we have a huge mar­ket who ap­pre­ci­ates that, and doesn’t want to be wear­ing some­thing that thou­sands of other guys are wear­ing.

What have been some of the “hero” pieces over the years?

Be­lieve it or not, a de­sign from our se­cond ever un­der­wear col­lec­tion called the Su­per Low Brief is still our num­ber-one best­seller. It sums up the whole Teamm8 brand per­fectly. Clas­sic, un­der­stated yet su­per sexy. It’s who we are. So, although we bring out sev­eral new styles each year, we still lis­ten to our cus­tomers and make sure they get what they want.

What about in the swimwear range?

Two years ago, we did a flamingo print swimwear col­lec­tion that went crazy. The was the fastest sell-out we’ve ever had. We still get so many en­quiries about it that we’ve just launched the new ver­sion of the Flamingo and it’s awe­some. As Cre­ative Direc­tor, I never want us to rest on our lau­rels and just re­peat what has been suc­cess­ful be­fore be­cause I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant to keep mov­ing for­ward. At the same time, our cus­tomers need to know they can come back and find that cut or that piece that works per­fectly for them, so my aim is to pro­vide a lit­tle of both.

It about con­tin­u­ing to evolve and be­ing aware of what our guys want… They want to work­out and hang out and want to look good and feel sexy. That’s what we’re here for!

Let’s talk about the over-arch­ing trends of the last decade – fast fash­ion, and the rise of on­line re­tail!

Fast-fash­ion is a by-prod­uct of this manic so­cial me­dia world we now live in. Ev­ery­thing is so in­stant and fast. Mil­lions of peo­ple are wit­ness to things as they hap­pen, no longer hav­ing to wait for it to ap­pear in the me­dia. Ev­ery per­son is now a broad­caster, whether they are equipped to be or not. As a re­sult, fast-fash­ion brands are poised and ready to strike as soon as some­thing hits the cat­walk and make it widely ac­ces­si­ble and af­ford­able. I don’t think it’s a ter­ri­ble thing, but it has changed the game.

This fast-paced life also means that Ac­tivewear is our go-to and I think that’s great. Peo­ple are more body con­scious than ever, trav­el­ling more, and gen­er­ally just jam-pack­ing their lives with as much as pos­si­ble so, re­ally, it makes sense that we dress as com­fort­ably as pos­si­ble. When we’re de­sign­ing Ac­tivewear we’re very aware that the pieces we make have to be able to take you from the gym to your ev­ery­day life. Our slant is fash­ion ac­tive and it works great for us.

There’s also in­ter­est­ing stuff hap­pen­ing in the tech­nol­ogy of fab­ric mak­ing, right? There are some in­cred­i­ble things hap­pen­ing in fab­rics be­ing crafted specif­i­cally for Ac­tivewear that makes them more durable, func­tional and en­hances per­for­mance. We have all of that avail­able to us and it’s ex­cit­ing. You in­tro­duced a range of ac­tivewear a few years ago; do you have any plans for a readyto-wear or street-wear col­lec­tion?

We’re def­i­nitely more Fash­ion Ac­tive now. The pieces are still very func­tional but they have a sexy street-wear ap­peal. It goes back to con­tin­u­ing to evolve and be­ing aware of what our guys want. And they want to work-out and hang out but above all they want to look good and feel sexy! That’s what we’re here for!

Sexy men… let’s talk about this im­por­tant as­pect of the Teamm8 story: model cast­ing and mar­ket­ing im­ages.

We’ve built a very strong fol­low­ing based on our brand image and that has ev­ery­thing to do with the cam­paign and mar­ket­ing im­ages we shoot. Our guy is con­fi­dent but not ar­ro­gant. He is sexy but in a nat­u­ral, un­der­stated way. I know it’s just a pho­to­shoot but we will not work with any­one who thinks too much of him­self or takes it all too se­ri­ously. I’ve had the plea­sure of work­ing with the nicest guys around and most of them don’t even re­alise how in­cred­i­bly hot they are. That, to me, makes them the per­fect Teamm8 man.

You’ve also worked with some great pho­tog­ra­phers.

Amaz­ing pho­tog­ra­phers like James Demetri, Michele Aboud and Mar­tijn Smouter. They’ve helped cre­ate our aes­thetic and our very unique foot­print.

I re­ally fo­cus on our cus­tomers and what they’re telling us they want… We try not to be too tricky. Less is more and our guys love that.

Where do you draw in­spi­ra­tion for each col­lec­tion?

It’s hard to talk about this and not sound wanky! [Laughs.] I truly fol­low my heart in ev­ery­thing I do in my life. Some­times with suc­cess, some­times with mon­u­men­tal fail­ure! But for me the big­gest pay-off is learn­ing from both and the best les­son is learn­ing to trust my­self with­out be­ing closed off to other opin­ions. Like most peo­ple, I can be con­sumed with self-doubt, but I think as long as you stay true then ei­ther re­sult is ac­cept­able.

Is part of that lis­ten­ing to and trust­ing the peo­ple around you? You’ve al­ways had a tight-knit Teamm8 team.

Ab­so­lutely. This is by no means a one-man show. We have a great team and we’re all in­volved in the de­sign process and brand image, so a lot of in­spi­ra­tion comes from what the team brings. It’s very much a team col­lab­o­ra­tion but I love driv­ing it. I’m so lucky to work with in­cred­i­ble peo­ple who share the Teamm8 vi­sion and we are very close. Sounds like a bit cliché but we are like a fam­ily.

For any fash­ion brand to sur­vive 10 years is a huge achieve­ment so, con­grat­u­la­tions! Thank you. I’m very aware of that, and so grate­ful for it. Ev­ery day I see a new brand emerg­ing and I hon­estly wish them all the best; I think there’s room in the mar­ket for any­one do­ing some­thing great. I also know what it takes to launch a brand and keep it go­ing, stay rel­e­vant and sur­vive.

I like to keep abreast of what’s go­ing on out there, but I’ve never spent much time look­ing at what other peo­ple are do­ing. I re­ally do fo­cus on us, our cus­tomers, and what they’re telling us they want. And they love that we lis­ten to them. We try not to be too tricky. Of­ten, less is more, and our guys love that. I be­lieve that’s prob­a­bly the big­gest fac­tor con­tribut­ing to us be­ing stronger now than ever.


Matthias Franke (and op­po­site) in the Ae­rial range

The Na­tions range fea­tur­ing Ja­son Beam for Team USA. Josh Ivory in the Ae­rial brief.

The Base Brief cam­paign fea­tur­ing Thomas and Jan Miedema.

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