They come in a signature bright yellow box with the letters CDLP imprinted on the lid. The single-coloured underwear inside gets its silky texture from lyocell, a wood pulp material that is both smooother and more eco-friendly than cotton. This is a product for the modern man with a taste for understated quality and design. The price is premium (around $30 for a pair of boxer briefs) but what you get besides the high-quality product is the promise of being part of an underwear revolution.
CDLP was founded by two Swedes; Andreas Palm (CEO) and Christian Larson (Creative Director). Both came from successful careers in creative industries. For many years, Andreas ran the brand experience agency Ciceron Group, which tailors trips and events for big clients. Christian is originally a filmmaker and director who’s worked with renowned brands and artists such as Cartier, Beats by Dre, Sigur Ros and Kylie Minogue.
The founders are longtime friends who used to travel together, often sharing hotel rooms. They inevitably noticed the weak spot in each other’s luggage.
“We saw each other a lot in our underwear,” Christan Larson says with a smile. “They tend to be so ugly in comparison to the rest of the male wardrobe. People walk around with big logos and crazy colours, even if they don’t want to. There are so few options.”
The idea of creating a premium underwear brand with a modern take on masculinity took shape after Christian had photographed a campaign for the fashionable lingerie label Agent Provocateur.
“They talk about ‘occasional underwear’ for women. But there is nothing similar for men. We have the same underwear regardless of whether we’re at home, working out or going to a party. Men haven’t had the chance to wear briefs that actually give them confidence – until now,” says Andreas Palm.
No extensive market research was needed before they decided to proceed with their vision.
“We made assumptions based on our own experiences. And they are as valid today as they were then. We still haven’t met a man who is as passionate about his underwear as he is about his watch or sneakers.”
- Christian Larson and Andreas Palm, founders of CDLP.
The brand name comes from the 70’s song “Une Belle Histoire” by the French artist Michel Fugain, which mentions “Un Cadeau de la Providence” in the lyrics. It can be translated as “A nice gift”.
“It’s a bit pretentious, but it sounds nice. And if Comme des Garçons can succeed with their name, so can we. But for our main product line, we use the abbreviation CDLP,” explains Andreas Palm.
CDLP draws inspiration from successful and visionary men of different ages and trades. Their first campaign was shot with Francois-Xavier Dussol, an ex-banker in his 50’s from France who moved to Brazil to start a small boutique hotel outside of Rio de Janeiro.
“For us, inspiring masculinity isn’t necessarily best represented by 22-year-old football players with a six-pack.”
This visual expression is far from how underwear campaigns usually look.
“The main purpose shouldn’t be to just sell products short-term. I’ve always believed that brands need a story to tell, like a movie with different chapters. It must also be visually attractive. By combining these elements, you’ll be more successful in the long run,” Christian Larson says.
The brand recently announced a collaboration with Tom of Finland Foundation, the organisation preserving and promoting the legacy of the late artist Touko Valio Laaksonen. Tom of Finland is famous for his homo-erotic illustrations depicting the male body. In his honour, CDLP created a limited edition black jockstrap and a white tanga brief packaged in a custom box featuring some of the artist’s drawings.
“Through his work, Tom of Finland liberated a generation of gay men with a celebration of male beauty, self-love, and style, that fought against archaic discrimination and sexual oppression,” CDLP said in a statement following the release.
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At a time when many brands collaborate with contemporary Instagram stars, Andreas Palm and Christian Larson decided to commemorate a dead artist and gay icon instead.
“His art was taboo for a big part of his life. Even though it’s better today, it’s still just as relevant as a topic. Many fashion magazines with a straight audience didn’t dare to write about our collaboration out of fear that their readers would react negatively. That’s madness!” the duo says.
“The Tom of Finland Foundation approached us and asked if we wanted to do a collaboration with them. They liked our way of portraying masculinity without using clichés. We were super happy to do it, and it was a very exciting project to be part of.”
Since its launch two years ago, CDLP has expanded its range with a selection of different underwear styles, as well as long johns and socks. The majority of their revenue comes from their own webshop.
The company is still working as a small startup, but growth is really starting to show. This year, CDLP is set to increase its revenue by 600 percent, albeit from low numbers. A lot of focus has been put into recruiting the right people for key positions and improving the online shopping experience even further. Because the founders are not only obsessing about changing the way we look at our underwear drawer.
“We want to revolutionise the way we buy underwear as well. We want to create an e-commerce experience out of the ordinary. That’s why we’re super happy to get the opportunity to try new things together with Klarna,” Andreas Palm says.
CDLP is the first merchant to try Klarna’s new Instant Shopping, which makes the customer’s journey from inspiration to purchase shorter and smooother. Merchants can, for example, place buy buttons on ad banners, blogs and in emails to help shoppers buy without ever leaving their natural habitat. The product also caters for paying with Klarna in social media like Instagram.
“Traditionally you buy underwear when you walk past the department store and inspiration strikes. Klarna Instant Shopping will allow us to mimic this behaviour into the digital world by creating easy purchases from your social media feed or favourite blogger,” Andreas says.
Still, it’s very important for them to be featured at some of the world’s most high-end retailers such as Selfridges in the UK, Barneys in New York, and Mr Porter – the go-to destination for men’s fashion online.
“Our e-commerce business is far bigger than third-party retail, except during the last quarter of the year with Black Friday and Christmas. But retail is still very important as validation. Having the most prestigious department stores sell our brand is a seal of approval. So even if the volumes are not huge, we need to be there,” Andreas Palm explains.
And the love has been returned from some big names in the industry.
“Most premium underwear is made in China with a license from famous brands. We are the real deal and the directors at these big institutions see that. Bruce Pask, the legendary men’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, sent us a personal e-mail asking us to launch CDLP with Bergdorf Goodman as our first partner in the US. He knew that we were on to something big and wanted to be first with introducing us there.”