If you spotted clothing designer Andrew Christian pounding the star-studded pavement of Hollywood Blvd., you might mistake him for a cleaner-cut Colin Farrell or, perhaps, a more rugged Robin Thicke.
But Christian is neither a reformed drunk from Dublin or a pretty-boy R&B balladeer.
Still, the 29-year-old Christian seeps sex appeal with the best of 'em.
Especially in his underwear.
Born and raised in Fresno, Calif., and moving to Los Angeles at age 19, Christian is the proprietor of Andrew Christian Inc., the up-and-coming clothier that's giving Ginch Gonch and other alternative fashion houses a run for its money. Once a fledgling brand back in the late 1990s, Andrew Christian is now a popular and, more importantly, profitable endeavor that's outfitting gay America from its skin-tight shirt obsession to its super-low-cut skivvies.
Perhaps you've heard of Andrew Christian. If you haven't, then surely you've seen its ads. They feature taut models in various positions of bare-chested brotherly love, clad in nothing more than a pair of briefs.
By now, every in-the-know homo should have stumbled upon the single-shot spots. That's because they've appeared in myriad fag rags from D.C. to Dallas, New York to Newport. Beach, that is.
But while these scenes of PG-13 playtime emit an aura of sex and excitement, Christian's company wasn't always a label to which consumers flocked. In fact, it wasn't until recently that anyone knew it existed at all.
Christian's story starts out like most of those who head out west with twinkles in their eyes and a few dollars in their pockets. But unlike other hopefuls that land in L.A. seeking fame and fortune, Christian was content attending college to become proficient in his passion. Of the schools he applied to, L.A. Trade Techwhich the designer describes as 'the more ghetto of the designs school in L.A.'accepted him, giving him the experience he needed to eventually fly solo.
'I moved here to go to school for fashion design,' said Christian, from the floor of a Las Vegas fashion convention. 'I worked for clothing manufacturers like KikWear and did freelance for Freshjive while working on my own line on the side. Even while working for these companies I knew I wanted to do my own thing. I used them as more of a learning experience, a steppingstone.'
While that springboard proved worthwhile, Christian encountered problems along the way, namely, moving his products. Although he describes the southern California fashion scene as easier to break into than other areas, it still wasn't a weekend in WeHo.
Like most companies, his startup was barebones and barely on its feet. Christian knew he had marketable merchandise, but he wasn't sure he had the funds to follow through. Ever determined to claim his piece of the American pie, however, he buckled down and made the best of his most abundant resourcehimself.
'I was basically doing as much stuff on my own as possible,' Christian recalled of the first few years on his own. 'I kept my payroll as low as possible. I ran my own errands, cut patterns myself, invoices, packed boxes myself. I was working very long days and weekends.'
'The toughest thing was getting people to know who you are,' he continued. 'There are a million different companies out there; that was the biggest obstacle to overcome. There were lean times when I thought I wasn't going to make it, but I always believed I could do it. I just said, let me stick with this until I absolutely can't do it anymore. Finally, it paid off.'
It's paying off big time, too. Not only is Christian shipping his goods across the nation, he's also exporting it to customers in other countries. In addition, he has a list of celebrity clients that includes comedian Alec Mapa and former 'Queer Eye' guy Jai Rodriquez.
But why all this sudden attention? Why, after 10 years of snipping and clipping, has the Andrew Christian clothing line only recently taken off?
It's simple, really: Christian became a contender in the Battle of the Bulge.
When Andrew Christian underwear debuted earlier this yearit was strictly sportswear beforehandthe vast array of colors and styles wasn't the only thing that demanded the attention of potential customers. Also peaking interest was an adjustable elastic strap sewn into the inside of each pair that worked as a sort of WonderBra for the nether region. That's right, dubbed Show-It Technology, Christian's groundbreaking briefs, boxer briefs and jockstraps featured a device that offered PR for the penis while holding the male anatomy proudly in place.
'Whether you're male, female, straight or gay, it seems that most agree that size matters,' Christian said sheepishly. 'Show-It Technology just facilitates the 'bigger is better' theory. It assists guys in showing off what they have.'
Or don't have, as is sometimes the case. But that's neither here nor there.
Though the line initially helped secure Andrew Christian a place on the fashion map, Show-It Technology was discontinued just a few short months after its launch. Christian says that despite the 'technology' helping to broaden Andrew Christian's fan base, it ultimately scared a certain sect of its constituency.
'Seems like [Show-It] freaked out some people who are a little more conservative,' he admitted.
While Christian hopes that eliminating Show-It from his underwear will help generate a greater acceptance of the line, it doesn't mean that he has abandoned all attempts to innovate. Just the opposite is the case. Taking what he learned from his initial outing, the buff designer has launched a new feature in the near future.
'[We've introduced] one style that has a sort of butt lifter in it, called the Flashback,' he said.
Another recent announcement from Christian was his company's association with runway-walker-turned-reality-show-renegade Janice Dickinson. The pair have teamed up to place Dickenson's models, from her eponymous modeling agency, in Christian's clothing.
As a result of this win-win spin on piggyback advertising, new models are now appearing on the Andrew Christian Web site, and 'The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency' aired episodes featuring Christian.
Notwithstanding a brief turn as a stone-faced strutter'At one point in the shoot Janice and I had to demonstrate to the newbie models how to runway walk properly,' Christian quippedthe former Fresnan has since returned to the real world, where real work is required, to ensure that his supply of package-promoting products meets its current demand. That means nothing less than continuing to creatively pioneer everything that bears the Andrew Christian logo, a Swiss-inspired cross.
And you can bet that will include even more cheeky concepts.
'I definitely see us doing underwear, continuing with that,' the entrepreneur says. 'New fabrics, more breathable fabrics, eco-friendly fabrics.
'We're also trying to get actively involved in the communities. People appreciate us coming to them to show them our products so they can see the quality and understand that Andrew Christian is a real person and not just a big corporation that doesn't really care about them.'
It's a philosophy that, considering the source, gives bold new meaning to having a heart on.
Michael A. Knipp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .