The origins of Body Aware go way back to 1985 when a chance game of squash between David and Kristina in Guangzhou, China, led to a partnership that evolved the outrageous concept that men's underwear did not have to be 1. white 2. ugly, and 3. lacking style.
Kristina and David had been living and working in China in the State Department and the oil exploration industry respectively, but both felt the time was coming for a change of direction, but they had no idea what.
After a whirlwind marriage in Hong Kong in 1986, they set off for Beijing train station to spend their honeymoon on the Trans Siberian Express, travelling through Mongolia and Russia, in mid winter. Even the train's borscht and hot Russian tea were not enough to keep out the cold of the Siberian winter, but the one thing that kept them cozily warm was the long silk jersey knitted underwear they had bought in China. Thus the seed of an idea was born.
The couple lived for two years in Paris while Kristina worked at the USA Embassy and David researched the market for this long silk underwear, only to find it was not available in Europe. The thermal underwear of the time was made from cotton jersey. Silk is not only light weight, but wicks away the moisture and keeps a dry insulated layer of air next to the skin, so it had clear advantages.
The next step was to import 1200 pieces from China, to start a new mail order business. Initially there were just 2 garments on offer, a top and a bottom. The company was called Shamian Silks, named after the the island on the Pearl River where the French and English traded with China in the 19th century. As the Internet had not yet emerged, the business started with a mail order leaflet. Kristina found a great source of models in the marines stationed at the embassy, and working with these athletic men she came to the realization that the marine's own underwear could be improved upon with some color and style and perhaps different fabrics. Initially the company expanded by offering many styles of silk jersey underwear in briefer styles and bright colors.
By 1990, David and Kristina had moved to the old mill town of Trowbridge near Bath in England to start a family and set up a small factory to manufacture new concepts in men's underwear in other fabrics besides silk, moving 3 times within the town as the factory increased in size over the same number of years. This allowed very fast turnaround from design to having the products available to sell in typically 1-2 weeks, compared to the lead time of 4-6 months for goods custom made in China. The company name was changed to Body Aware Ltd.
Due to their incredibly skilled machinists, the company expanded rapidly in the 1990's with several labels in production and new mail order catalogs coming out almost monthly. Brands included English Naturals for women's lingerie, American Built for sportswear, David Nicola for racy men's underwear and Body Aware as the core brand of men's underwear. The first BodyAware.com website was launched in June 1996 (15 months before Google!), but the internet was in its infancy, and print catalogs were published for another 10 years.
Now there are new brands of men's underwear seemingly coming out weekly, so it is difficult to imagine a time when the choice for men was limited to just a few traditional big name brands. Body Aware was a sensation in the 1990's simply because it was a totally new concept and Kristina was a regular on daytime TV shows. In 1994 she won a British television competition to find the best and most promising small business.
The Xdress brand's origin go back to 1994 after Body Aware started to make lace underwear for men. Lace and men's underwear had never been tried together before, and it proved a sensation. Following feedback and plenty of input from customers, more feminine styles and manufacturing techniques normally only used on women's lingerie were added. The Apres Noir men's lingerie brand produced its first catalog in 1995. Later the name was changed to Xdress.
In 1996, David, Kristina and their 2 young daughters moved to Sonoma, California, to set up Body Aware Inc, the USA branch of the company. Several moves later, the company is currently located in Arizona. The company now proudly makes the majority of its products in USA and all designs, pattern and sample making, and some production are still carried out in house.
There have been many changes in the company over the following years, many great employees have come and gone, but Body Aware's core mission continues to be to bring a little happiness to men who for so long had to put up with unattractive and plain boring underwear!