We were three friends back in 2003 who got an idea about men's underwear in a bar
conversation. This conversation touched many issues during the night but one
issue was about movie Fight Club and how men should look like. 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 underwear 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
underwear were so obviously boring that with our confidence and ignorance we were certain that we can do better.
Brown and yellow
The second idea about underwear was related to the colours - Brown and yellow. This exceptionally stylish and retro colour 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 with brown and yellow colouring, men would buy it.
We didn't study marketing but we had some experience from university classes about the basic idea of a brand. One of the key things that was emphasised at that time in Finland was that you have to have an international name to be successful. 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. What kind of things you can build if you
deny your roots. 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. He's the goalie in a yard game or he's the
guy that orders a round in a bar but doesn't have the money to pay for it. So not the coolest of guys but at least he has some friends. At the same the word doesn't mean anything to people outside of Finland, but it sounds and looks
exotic. 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 Thai, Balinese and Australian people.
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.
The era of trial and error
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 Ltd
After five years of failure, we finally succeeded in making the first quality product. Beating our heads against the wall was stopped for moment in August 2010 when two thousand pieces of brown-yellow underwear landed in Helsinki-Vantaa Airport and we sold our first pieces. Our first customers were friends and family members, but little by little others also discovered our brand. Ponke's the Shop and Popot Sneaker Store also agreed to take our underwear into their stores. 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 and in spring of 2011 we made red and white underwear .
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 in Finland. However, our application was denied. This is the only Monty Python moment so far in clothing business. “We were not qualified”. Apparently us designing underwear and selling large quantities of them didn't make us "qualified professionals", because we didn't have proper clothing industry education or references. Many years later when we started cooperating with "qualified designers", they finally approved our application.
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 now
in the year 2020, our company celebrated its 10th birthday. We have put sustainable development at the center of our activities right at the beginning of the new decade, and our goal is to be carbon neutral already during this decade. One step towards carbon neutrality is our latest collection "MAHÖNE Woods", where we designed and manufactured underwear from wood fibers.
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!