Meet Mike and David Appel. As brothers, they are joined at the hip. As designers of Related Garments, they aim to inspire and make a difference in menswear. But as entrepreneurs, they cross paths with icons (such as Playboy) to create the lifestyle that adds value to your wardrobe. If there is anything that nobody sees, the Appels are ready to put their Midas touch to make dreams into a reality for Related Garments.

While we are more than 3,000 miles apart, we chat about how they got into making fashionable underwear, what it's like to collaborate with James Goldcrown and the power of influencers.

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As brothers, was working together something you originally planned on when you joined the fashion industry?

Mike: We used to fight over clothes. It's funny that we're business partners but Dave is really the fashion guy. I steal the clothes that he picks out in his closet. When his clothes go missing, they usually end up in my closet.

It's cute how both of you fought over clothes. It's always like that with siblings, you know.

Mike: It's that case of sibling rivalry to sibling partnership of business. It is crazy to think that we now sell clothes.

Both of you have founded Related Garments based on the fact that women have responded to surveys about men's underwear. Why have you chosen to focus on this aspect when you created your line?

Mike: We focused on what we launched with the concept of matching and coordinating the basics. Obviously, the history of women and what they matched their bras to their panties whether it's a special night out or a daily routine inspired us. And guys have a basic problem of not really taking in the time to think about how their socks look with their underwear and/or even like how they kinda look at their drawers. They need to make a change. Women expect more out of you to take that step and think about their undergarments overall. So what we came out with can provide a key solution to that problem. Each set of underwear comes with a boxer brief, dress socks and I added on a "no-show" sock.

I have to say that as a woman, I honestly never thought that men need to have things that mix and match. I'm so glad that you brought me to realise this. I wholeheartedly do agree that coordination is important. When did you realise that the "no show" sock needed to come into place?

Mike: That came from my brother Dave - he loves "no show" socks. We wanted to make a product that was available on the market. As our company evolved over the last year, it has become popular. We are definitely at the forefront of that as we created our own no show socks to have a non-slip addition on the back of the heel. We want men to adopt a "no show" sock.

How has being a men's underwear designer empower yourself?

Mike: You know, the way I find it empowering is that we are able to provide a fun product, but it helps people with their confidence. Empowering is what I feel when I'm out and about. I was on a flight home and my girlfriend noticed somebody wearing our polkadot socks. She asked, "I gotta know if he's wearing Related." He said, "Yeah, I bought it at this company called Related Garments." That, to me, was empowering that it's become what it is where people all over the world know it. Seeing it on people and hearing the feedback is empowering.

You collaborated with James Goldcrown and Baja East to release women's underwear and socks. What made you want to expand?

Mike: We had a lot of feedback from our women buyers who ask, "When are you coming out with stuff for us?" All we needed was to know that we had our customers that were out for our product. Instead of saying "we're a men's underwear brand," we decided to enter that space with key collaborations. One: a designer collaboration that you'd buy, and two: an artist collaboration with someone like James Goldcrown. We want to perfect everything from the fit to the fabric.

What made you want to reach out to Goldcrown?

Mike: He put trust into us as a brand, coming right off a collaboration with TOMS Shoes. I basically approached him with "Hey, let's do something with the bleeding hearts on our undergarments." He just said, "as long as it's for women," because his designs speak more to women. We went into that direction and we also talked about potentially doing maybe a different design, not so colourful - maybe a unisex print featuring black with gold hearts.

How has this experience taught you to grow as a designer?

Mike: For James, he wants to see his art come to life through different fashion collaborations. To have more creative ability to break out of just art murals is awesome for him. For us, it's to really work as a collaboration effort bringing his murals to life through our clothes. From creating the design back and forth through sampling and stuff, that was part of the process. As long as we have the integrity of his art in our product, he would be happy to give us a carte blanche. That's the way we like to work as a brand to have that shared collaboration effort.

Where do you look to influence and innovate?

Mike: Our customers and people in general are aware of how influencers obviously do what they do and how being an influencer is influential. We love people that create the content and share our vision. What is influential these days is a question mark amongst people. Even if social media influencers have a million followers, it doesn't mean that the million followers are going to be a piece of what you're selling. It's kind of like a game of who you are going to portray a brand. As far as influencers are influential, they do their best to connect to people that we feel have the same message as we do and cater to an audience on how to step up their game. We want to challenge people to think outside the box on how to think when it comes to socks and underwear because influencers help us to make that magic happen.

So when did you realize that listening to other people became valuable to your life?

Mike: I think that's something that developed for years. What you hear along the way is super valuable in every step of the way. Before we had this business, it's taking what we learned throughout the years and applying to what we are doing now. We listen to our customers; we listen to what they say. With some people, we heard, "Hey, why don't you have the little people on your boxer briefs?." We listen to that and we try to make sure they understand why nowadays we don't have it. We take a step back and make sure that we provide the best quality, the best fabric for customers. So, we work very closely with our production partner and making sure that we are doing whatever is possible to develop all of our product offerings. We got cool things in the works, whether it be with different technology and fabrics...because it's becoming a saturated category. Everyone talks about doing underwear, vice versa... so, we want to make sure we are on the forefront with innovating our products.

Editor's note: Although David was present, he did not speak throughout the majority of the time during the interview.

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