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Sep 16, 2021

Cutting-edge technology from CXP’s sports underwear

Tom Austin, founder and CEO of CXP, talks to us about the brand and their C-Cut technology sports underwear

Tom Austin

What’s your business background?
Initially I worked within the buying department of a blue-chip retailer before leaving to establish a garment sourcing business providing support to clothing brands in the UK and US. I ran this for over a decade and used that income to fund the development of CXP before switching over to focus on CXP full time in Jan 2020.

Why did you get into the technical sports underwear market?
Essentially, we realised that underwear has not changed for close to 100 years. Even today the majority of ‘sports underwear’ will use the same garment pattern as standard underwear and simply change the fabric to be more suitable for sports. In the past, sports specific underwear for the most part has been ignored. It is the first item you put on and the last you take off but arguably has seen the least innovation.
We have had experience of working with Premier League players who were supplied underwear from the kit man via Primark and suffering mid-game with chaffing and broken skin. This is incredible when you consider the innovation in things such as the kits and boots. Thankfully, the approach is starting to change and recently have we started to see a real shift in consumer attitude moving away from the idea that your sports underwear are just the oldest pants in your wardrobe thrown into your gym bag.

How did you develop the CXP brand and did you have any obstacles to overcome?
We didn’t actually have a brand until five years into the development process - at that point we were still very much pre-market and constantly working on an ongoing prototype. Once we had a product ready for market, we decided to secure the global trademarks for CXP. This also allowed us to incorporate the updated arrow logo we have today (the arrows indicate the tailored waistband tension either side of the front panel). Obstacles have very much been a regular part of the process, however a great team and a strong belief in what we are doing has allowed us to navigate all challenges on the journey so far.
What was the thinking behind your main offering, the Core XP Boxer Short?
We wanted to launch this new technology into the market using just one style to gauge a reaction rather than offer multiple products. We knew from testing that a boxer shape performed better than other styles and rated higher in terms of comfort so we felt this would be the right entry product.

How long did it take to develop it?
The journey originally started eight years ago when I was trying to develop a more comfortable product for my wife who suffers from Ulcerative Colitis. The plan was to create a waistband with reduced pressure on the abdomen that wouldn’t trigger her IBS symptoms during exercise. However, after we started to test the product with Birmingham University, it quickly became apparent that creating a waistband with dispersed pressure created benefits for athletes that increased the harder they were working. From there we followed the data, and after multiple samples and learnings we felt in 2019 we had a product we could finally test at elite level.

What makes your product different from others on the market and why does it matter?
The Core XP is totally different to anything else currently available in the sports underwear market.
It is the only garment that has a fused multi panel waistband instead of the traditional 360-degree elasticated waistband. The benefit of this is that we can dictate the pressure applied throughout the waistband and ultimately improve garment stability and reduce garment weight. We can also vary the tension in the front waistband panel in order to reduce abdominal pressure and improve comfort.
Over the past few years, we have gathered data from researching all leading sports underwear brands and how they perform during high intensity exercise. We also have data on each brand’s fabric and waistband, having made that investment and worked with a leading independent test house. It is quite possible that we know better than the brands themselves how their own garment is performing vs the rest of the market.
To enable us to deliver a multi panel waistband we use a cutting-edge manufacturing technique called ultra-sonic bonding. We understand that the £30 can be seen as premium at first take but when you consider a leading swimwear brand use a similar process and yet retail their product at £300 a pair, we believe the Core XP reflects high quality and excellent value.

How has the market taken to the product?
Taking the product to market has been a landmark moment for us. We have introduced a new concept and we are asking consumers to drop the habit of a lifetime (traditional 360 waistband shape) to trust a new technology. It won’t be done overnight but the data is clear regarding performance benefits, so we are confident ultimately, we can drive that shift.
Even though it has been an 8-year journey to this point we only actually started selling product to consumers in June 2021 – therefore we now have an ongoing challenge to change the expectations of the market as to what good looks like. It’s an incredibly exciting time and in a way, we feel like we have discovered magic before anyone else.
Product feedback from professionals and everyday athletes alike has been incredibly positive but also constructive, it is important that as a first-generation product we are open to all feedback to be able to evolve the product and maximise this first of its kind technology.

How important are your elite athletes to the brand?
The elite athletes have been critical to us. We made the decision early on to work a back-to-front model: we felt if we could prove the technology and concept at elite level then we could confidently offer to the commercial market.
Data is incredibly important, but the acid test is how it performs at kick-off or when the bell goes.
We have been incredibly fortunate to work with a number of fantastic athletes at little or no cost to the business. This is because the athletes have immediately recognised the fact that there is not currently a sports specific underwear available and that the marginal gains we are offering could ultimately provide that extra 1% during training that makes all the difference. This includes athletes with existing contracts with other sports brands.
Underwear has never really been a true focus of the larger sports brands and has seen minimal innovation. That complacency has given us access to such established professionals in such a short amount of time.
We have always maintained that the commitment to train and the intensity of the workout is down to the athlete, however providing the most fit for purpose underwear product to help push performance is our drive as a brand.

What does the future hold – will you have more products to bring to the market?

The future holds multiple possibilities but ultimately, our immediate focus is on setting new standards in the sports underwear category.  Following the initial consumer response since launch we are already looking at having US fulfilment in place by the start of 2022.
Our research tells us that the C-cut waistband technology can provide the same performance benefits on additional product types (such as activewear, swimwear, cycling wear etc) - but whether we grow our product offering or partner with other businesses to deliver a multi-product strategy, we feel those conversations will naturally evolve as the business grows.

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