By Julia Eskins
Photography by John Maye and Black Cannon Productions
Dylan Ribkoff, a Canadian entrepreneur who recently emerged in the world of designer underwear, couldn’t have found a better place to continue embossing the family name.
It’s no surprise that his branded briefs suggest an heir of familiarity. The 25-year-old is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, women’s wear designer Joseph Ribkoff, and heeding his advice along the way.
“When people ask me where I went to school, I don’t say Concordia or John Abbott,” he says. “I tell them I went to the university of Joseph Ribkoff.”
It was during a five-year stint at his grandfather’s company that Ribkoff found the inspiration to launch his own label. After catching a glimpse of his underwear in the mirror of a plane washroom, he decided to start with the basics and spice up the world of neutral, ill-fitting skivvies.
Shortly after landing in Montréal, Ribkoff geared up for the June 2010 launch of his underwear line, a collection of travel-inspired men’s trunks, briefs and boxer-briefs.
Utilizing bold colour blocking, high-grade materials and Canadian manufacturing, Dylan Ribkoff Inc. aims to combine style, quality and comfort; a trifecta that he says is rare in today’s world of undergarments.
“I’m very set on educating the consumer on what’s good quality cotton,” says Ribkoff. “When you touch it, you’ll know.”
After seeing how high-end labels cut corners by using cheap materials, Ribkoff decided to use ring-spun cotton and fine spandex.
In addition to selling his line to boutiques across Canada, the e-commerce side of his business has grown exponentially, with pieces selling online for as much as $22 to $31 a pair. Each piece in Ribkoff’s collection is named after a city around the world.
Everything is manufactured near Ribkoff’s head office in Pointe-Claire, Quebec, where he is able to closely monitor quality standards and promote sustainability.
“One of the hardest things I’ve had to do in this business was finding people who can sew underwear properly and not just rush through it,” he says. “It took me six contractors until I found one that was suitable. There is a very high ratio of garbage to good out there.”
In an attempt to align with key industry players, Ribkoff pitched to the tycoons of CBC’s Dragons’ Den in an episode that aired in October. After originally asking for $50,000 for a 25 per cent stake in the company, Ribkoff accepted a counter-offer from Jim Treliving and Arlene Dickinson at $50,000 for 50 per cent of the company. Though the deal is still under negotiation in a stage of due diligence, Ribkoff can’t deny that the publicity gave his business a boost.
“I think I had something to prove by challenging myself. It was really an awesome feeling,” he says. “You go in with stark white lights positioned around you, and have one shot at it.”
Following the show, an influx of orders left him and his two employees scrambling to get same-day shipments out.
Customer service is incredibly important, says Ribkoff, who offers a full refund within 30 days of purchase, and continually folds customer feedback into his designs.
The latest developments in the works are a line of socks and women’s underwear, which he predicts will be ready in eight months. Eventually, he hopes to set his apparel sights even further.
“There’s definitely a plan. Well, I don’t know about a plan, but there’s definitely a dream to delve into the world outside underwear,” he says. “It’s a one-step-at-a-time attitude.”
While Ribkoff admits leaving his grandfather’s company was a risk, he didn’t want to be known as “the kid who had it all made for him.” Instead, he’s using his experience and inherent perfectionism to make his own mark in the world of fashion.
“It’s where the bar has been set,” he says. “My grandfather used to tell me when I was writing an essay, ‘Make sure it’s good, because your name’s on the bottom of it!’”