“Masculinity Exposed” – that’s the slogan of Russian company Maskulo, and it is reflected in the brand’s fashion wear. Based in Novosibirsk in Siberia, the brand is ready to make its mark on the international market, winning over customers with a dedication to quality and an eye for details. We interviewed Maskulo founder Bulat Barantaev, who told us more about the products and how the brand supports gay rights in Russia.
Would you mind giving us some information about Maskulo? When was the brand started? What are the milestones in the history of the company? Bulat Barantaev: Maskulo is a brand of fetish gear for men. It is an openly gay-owned and gay-operated company from Russia. It was founded in 2014 when Artem Smyslov, the Chief Development Officer, and I started small-scale production of fetish underwear that was sold via an online store.
Now, the company has its office in the centre of Novosibirsk, Siberia with sales, customer service, marketing, and financial departments and a 400-square meter production and warehouse facility. We have a strong ambition to develop our brand worldwide. In the near future, we plan to open an office and warehouse in Berlin.
What was your initial motivation to start a fetish clothing brand for men?
There is a lot of fetish gear produced by different companies. However, nobody has ever made hot sports clothing that will make any man feel sexy and attractive. Maskulo offers products made of the best materials with passion and attention to kinky details.
What philosophy does Maskulo pursue with its products?
The Maskulo brand idea is shown in our catch phrase ‘Masculinity exposed’. Therefore, the idea behind our brand is to let men show their sexuality in a masculine way. As any person is attractive by virtue of his manly nature; our stuff only helps highlight the right places.
Could you give us some ballpark figures about your product range? How big is it, which types of products, brands, or product lines does it comprise?
Our current product range includes neatly handcrafted spandex tank tops and t-shirts; shorts, leggings and wrestling singlets that come in three different types – regular rear, open rear, and zippered rear. We also make underwear – rubber-look trunks and briefs with three rear options, jockstraps, and accessories – biceps bands, arm wallets, and masks.
Currently, we are working on product line extensions to add more fetish gear items.
What sets your products apart from the competition?
Our main advantage is gear design with details, like pads and codpieces, that help sculpture the wearer’s body and make them look and feel stronger, with enhanced sex appeal.
We also provide variety in terms of colour, rear design, and pad design, letting customers choose what works best for them.
One more thing that makes us stand out, and for which we get a lot of positive customer feedback, is our extensive size range from as small as 2XS to up to 5XL. Here is what we hear from big guys who often have problems finding clothes in their size that have the right fit: “I think any clothing company that markets to the gay community and produces sizes up to 5XL should be applauded not criticised. I may work out, but I am still a big ol’ bear with a 38″ waist and well over a 42″ big belly and these leggings fit me properly, not like a pair of sausage casings. The padding is very strategically placed to add size to the calf and quads and will improve the shape of any build. Thanks for including us big guys in your size line-up. Bears are sexy too!!!” We care about all our customers, make them feel comfortable and allow them to choose what they want.
“We care about all our customers, make them feel comfortable and allow them to choose what they want.”
When it comes to textiles, there’s always the question of materials and their quality. So what can you tell us about the materials used by Maskulo?
Being a Russian company entering the European market, there is always a certain prejudice to be encountered. Therefore, in order to leave no room for doubts, we have made the quality of not only materials but also workmanship and service the highest priority, right from the very foundation of our company. According to our latest statistics, the percentage of faulty items is only 4%.
As to materials, we understand that their quality is crucial to the quality of the entire item and the brand itself. That is why the choice of material is very important and it is always made by the Chief Development Officer in person to make sure that materials will “work” exactly as is intended for each item.
How often do you launch new collections or new products? And where does the inspiration for your designs come from?
To develop our brand worldwide, we introduce new products 2-3 times a year. As to the inspiration, we simply find it in a man’s body.
How would you describe your target audience? Who buys your products?
Our fetish gear is intended for all men, whatever their age or size. For us, it is hard to identify any specific target audience since we can see that the clothes are popular among men of different ages that live in different countries and have different life styles, because, in the end, everyone wants to look hot and highlight the sexiness and masculinity of their body.
Which prerequisites do you have to fulfil to satisfy the wishes of this target audience?
It’s simple – quality, design, variety, and availability (worldwide delivery and retail network).
Which channels of distribution do you use to make your products available to the market?
We merchandise through our online store maskulo.com and via our retail partners listed on the retailers page of the online store.
We work with online customers in established export markets like Europe, USA, Canada, and Australia, and we are currently also observing increasing interest in our clothes from countries such as Japan, China, South Africa, Brazil, Singapore, and others.
Is the brand already available in every European country? If so, where can the consumers buy Maskulo?
The brand is already available in several stores in Germany, Spain, Austria, France, the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
In addition to those, we have retail partners in the US, Australia, Canada, and Taiwan.
Are you interested in expanding your distribution network in Europe? What’s your strategy for this market – working with distributors and wholesalers, or selling directly to the retailers?
We want to be as close to our customers as possible. That is why we are actively working on the development of our retail network in different countries worldwide. However, in order to retain brand exclusiveness, we only work directly with retailers despite the great number of requests from distribution. We provide our retailers with territory protection.
Maskulo donates parts it’s profits to democracy and human rights organisations in Russia. Could you tell us a bit more about your involvements?
Artem and I support such organisations as the Russian democratic movement ‘Solidarnost’ (Solidarity), the Russian democratic party ‘Parnas’ (Abbreviation for ‘Party of people’s freedom’), the civil movements ‘Za pravacheloveka’ (‘For human rights’)and ‘GORD – Homosexuals, relatives and friends’.
The democratic movements stand for freedom in the media and the internet, honest elections, open government, and democratic values. They call attention to election fraud and administrative pressure on voters, revealing corruption within federal and local authorities as well as rallying to oppose silly international politics etc.
‘GORD –the Homosexuals, relatives and friends’ movement in Novosibirsk organised a range of rallies and attracted a lot of attention from the press because of the ‘scandalous topic of homosexuality’. Maybe its existence was the reason for the local deputies to promote the law ‘against homosexual propaganda’.