Smuggling Duds Origins

Ben Warman is the energetic young man behind the Smuggling Duds brand. The Newcastle native is an avid Motocross and MMA fan and his sponsorships reflect that. Smuggling duds are a clothing and underwear brand that has partnered with FSPRO and will be stocked in our store from early 2014 onwards. Ben has been kind enough to recount the story of Smuggling Duds for our blog. I was always interested in brands from a very early age, starting mainly through the sports that I did, whether it was having the latest Fox Racing gear for motocross or the newest pair of Puma King football boots I always wanted to look the best I could when competing or otherwise. I had been interested in starting a brand from a very early age as designing Warman board shorts, T-shirts etc.. When I was about 12 years old (still have some of the designs now), and my Dad had discussed starting a brand when I was young so maybe this planted the seed. As I got older I was determined to come up with an invention that would be big, my first idea was for a square Pritt stick as the majority of things you stick have a straight edge, Pritt stick were happy to look at the idea but decided not to go with it and a few month later come out with their own triangular version. Then being interested in DJing after getting some decks for Christmas I came across the problem of having warped vinyl records. This happens due to heat making the record go bowl shaped, that means it is much harder to control, spinning out of control, so I came up with the idea of Tamper Slipmats that had a ledge around the outside edge giving more grip and control. However, it was a few years too late with the emergence of CD decks and other equipment, the need was much less and the slipmat market was massively on the decline. I eventually came up with the idea behind Smuggling Duds after going on a few lads holiday’s whiles at college and Uni. After a few attempted muggings and one successful one on a friend in Magaluf I started to try to think of was to keep your valuable safe and undetectable on your person and thought a secret pocket on your underwear would be the best place. After doing some investigation on the internet I quickly realised that the idea hadn’t been done so started coming up with design idea and finally based the design on what I believed to be the best and most comfortable boxer short already on the market but added a slick pocket that was built into the crotch area (best place and near your private parts so most unlikely to be checked or rubbed down). After sketching out my ideas I then got advice from my patent agent who helped me get the protection required so that competitors couldn’t replicate the exact idea. After being granted a European Design Registration and filing for a US Design Patent I decided it was time to try start building a brand around my unique selling point. Having little if any experience of running a company I got some advice from a friend who had started a number of companies that was happy to look after the business admin side of things and get us set up as a company. Whilst in my first year of my Multimedia Design Degree at Northumbria Uni I got some samples made by one of the Fashion design lecturers. We then sent these off to a manufacturing company in India that was happy to produce small minimum orders; however there was a lot of teething problems with some coming back at different sizes and just general an untidy finish. For this reason we decided it would be a good idea to bring onboard another director that had experience in manufacture and product sourcing. We then added Graham to the team who had a wealth of knowledge working in this area with many years of experience. Once we located a manufacture of a high enough standard in Turkey we produced the Stealth and Raver Ranges. Stealth being the more subtle colours of black, grey and white for the more conservative customer and for the more eccentric customer we made the Raver range with bringer colours such as baby blue, orange and red. While looking at different angle to promote the brand and make use of the secret pocket we had the idea of promoting safe sex giving away condoms with each pair of underwear. I contacted Durex who put us in touch with their PR company that was more than happy to send us thousands of condoms for the promotion. The promotion itself didn’t seem to create many sales, maybe it was the wrong angle or just the brand wasn’t ready but at least I had an endless supply of condoms. After doing lots more market research it became evident that to get sales in the designer underwear market the USP of the pocket wasn’t enough on its own and had to develop more eye catching designs. We then developed the Deluxe Range that consisted of the Back to Basics, Carbon Check, Paintball and Rainbow SD Smuggling Duds designs. When we launched this range the impact was evident from the very beginning, our sales doubled over night and people from the industry such as online stores and underwear blogs took our brand much more serious. Once we realise we didn’t have big advertising budgets to compete with the major plays in the market we decided to go with a niche marketing plan. As I grew up racing Motocross and had many contacts in the industry I decided to try use these to the companies benefit. I got some of the top riders in the UK to endorse our brand, this gave us more of a story and allowed us to get PR and competitions in some of the leading magazines and media outlets in the industry. Once we realised it was of great benefit to the company I looked to target another niche in MMA, I chose this as not only do I love watching the sport, have great respect for the athletes competing but knew it was the fastest growing sport in the world and the weigh-ins that get lots of media attention would be the perfect place to show of our product and designs. Written by Ben Warman

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