Undies for a cause Living with AIDS # 268

KHOPOTSO: Market research before the underwear label, Unda-G or Unda-Ground, was launched showed it would resonate with the youth. Kgauhelo Dube works for a Johannesburg based communications firm, Matchbox and is the brand manager for Unda-G.

KGAUHELO DUBE: Here at Matchbox we do a lot of work around HIV/AIDS for clients such as Levi’€™s, amongst others’€¦ So, we speak to a lot of young people on the streets’€¦ And one of the questions that we asked the young people is: What would make you not to use a condom? And most of them said, ‘€œWell, if I don’€™t have one, I’€™d still carry on’€- meaning I would have unprotected sex. And that inspired us to remedy that situation. Hence, the label came up with the stash pocket for the condoms.

KHOPOTSO: Dube says 250 young people were interviewed prior to the label design. The undies are something out of the ordinary. They are fashionable items that come in either baggy or tight-fitting boxers.  

KGAUHELO DUBE: One of the other important elements of the underwear besides the stash pocket is that it’€™s basically a pair of boxer shorts and we’€™ve commissioned under-ground visual artists such as graffiti artists, young artists who are trying to get their work out there to actually submit their work and have it printed on the underwears. What we have in front of us is a pair of underwear with Jill’€™s art-work. And Jill is an under-ground artist from Cape Town. Very funky, bright colours, very different’€¦ This is quite daring, you know. The prints are bright and whatever.                                  

KHOPOTSO: Because they are so unusual, major retail outlets are cautious about having the underwear on their shelves. As a result, sales are made direct from the marketer. The designs are very much a curious creation. Some of the items have the brand logo and stash pocket at the back. Dube explains why.

KGAUHELO DUBE: Firstly, we put the label, the branding, at the back to emphasise the stash pocket which is at the back. For us, we wanted the stash pocket at the back because, I think, you know when people are cuddling and playing around they usually touch each other’€™s asses. So, that’€™s the best positioning for you to reach out for the condom while you’€™re groping your partner’€™s ass.

KHOPOTSO: Thirty-year old Neo is a proud owner of a pair of Unda-G boxer shorts. And he finds the reasoning quite lucid ‘€“ for other reasons.

NEO: A point about the condom at the back ‘€“ I think there’€™s only so much space in the front. You want to have it at the back for comfort reasons. You don’€™t want the condom interfering with the job at hand (giggles). The fly is about 10 cm. If you put the condom on the front it will take about half that much space. So, you want it at the back so that it doesn’€™t interfere with, you know’€¦ (giggles).

KHOPOTSO: I asked Neo if there was any particular reason as to why he likes his unique pair of boxer shorts.

NEO: I wear them to impress. I wear them for the basic reason that they were made for. They are much more than being comfortable and being hygienic. And they are about a cause. They are about fighting AIDS. And I wear them for that’€¦ to put a condom in them’€¦ I’€™m not playing around.      

KHOPOTSO: The brand also has a female line comprising of a boxer and camisole. Twenty-five year old Crisulla Zuckalis took a chance and bought herself a pair. She was soon to discover that they would serve as something to spice up her sex life.  

CRISULLA: The first time my partner saw them he didn’€™t understand what’€™s happening. But then, he saw the pocket and he thought, ‘€˜wow, that’€™s actually very clever, we should use them more often’€™ (giggles). So, I think it gave him that whole excitement. It’€™s like he sees the shorts, he knows what’€™s coming. He’€™s a happy person, definitely (giggles)’€¦

KHOPOTSO: While the concept might largely appeal to the youth, adults should also find the range appealing. What I didn’€™t appreciate with one of the male designs though, is the washing instructions which read: ‘€œMachine wash 30 degrees or get chick to hand wash’€. I thought it inappropriate for a society that is trying to foster better gender relations. As for the response to the Unda-G range of underwears so far, here’€™s what Kgauhelo Dube says.

KGAUHELO DUBE: Awesome. The response has been great. People love the art. They love the concept. I think they like the fact that it personalises the cause for young people. This is a fashionable way of actually being part of the cause, and also, the cause for your own life ‘€“ personalising AIDS.


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