Proteo is a Mexican luxury lingerie brand for men that cannot go unnoticed! The main goal of Proteo is to let anyone know there are different types of masculinity; to show that embracing your feminine side is the most powerful thing; to highlight that these stereotypes of toxic masculinity are dated and that feeling sexy in lace is for every person who wants to experience it.
YASS Magazine interviewed the designer who created the luxury lingerie brand for men, Juan Oyervides, who tells us how his luxury lingerie brand is proposing a new concept of masculinity.
How did you come up with the idea of Proteo?
When I finished fashion school, my first brand was a very high quality tailored suit project. It was something I loved doing; My main type of clients were politicians, business men and in general very conservative guys. In Mexican culture being “macho”is the most desired quality for anyone to have; and the recurring comment I got from my clients was that I had their respect because I didn’t look “that gay”. This made me so unhappy, made me feel I was hiding who I really was in order to be successful and also made me feel I was giving up to my true self to be respected.
That’s when I decided I had to rebel in some way, I couldn’t just drop my business and run away, I had to do something to feel I was being honest somehow. So that’s when I started wearing lingerie under my very fancy suits. If I had a meeting with some senator or any other big shot, I would wear the most beautiful lingerie underneath. That made me feel like I was winning, cause even without them knowing. I felt sexy and powerful in this “typically” feminine way. It was a secret and it empowered me.
Time went by and I realized it was much more than just clothing. It was something that made me feel complete. But as obsessive as I am with patterns and fit (because of my training) I realized most of the things I bought weren’t particularly practical to wear “all day long. So I started developing my own patterns, to fulfill my needs so it would be beautiful and also wearable in large time frames. This remained a secret for anyone in my workshop, I had to do all the samples whenever everyone was gone, and erase track of everything by the time they came back the next day.
Until one day I decided I was proud of myself, what I’ve accomplished as “a man” but also realized there shouldn’t be just “one way” of being a man. I knew it was going to be something that could hurt my reputation in a bad way, because people woulndt want to be involved with me workwise if I “came out” as a lingerie designer for men.
But at this point, 3 years later I was ready and willing to take the consequences.
That’s when in december 2019 I made the first collection and decided to launch it to the world, it was all or nothing. I could fail miserably and also “stain” my name. Or succeed and show the world how many different ways of “being a respectable man” exist. And that wearing lingerie is one of them too.
Why did you decide to give this name to the brand?
Proteo is the mix in between two very important important things for me, fist of all is my favourite flower “king protea” which is a very rare and expensive flower that looks tough and intimidating on the outside, but happens to be very soft and delicate on the inside. That’s how I see men in general, we’re expected to develop this tough armour on the outside to fulfil whatever being a “man” means, but the ones that are lucky enough get to shelter their feelings intact in this very soft core that is our heart.
The second one is “proteus” (greek mythology) sea God, guardian of the sea. Often portrayed as hybrid in between human and snake. As you know, snakes in history resemble phallic symbols and sex, so it seemed appropriate to honor this god as well.
What is the message you want to spread with Proteo?
Our main goal is to let anyone know there are different types of masculinity, and embracing your feminine side is the most powerful thing. That these stereotypes of toxic masculinity are dated and that feeling sexy in lace is for every person who wants to experience it.
How do Mexican clients differ from the European/American/Latin audience?
It’s been the hardest crowd to reach, at the beginning NO ONE would follow us on social media, because they wouldn’t want to be connected to the brand in any way. People sent messages and made orders, but never liked the pictures or followed the brand, they would often ask if the box was “discrete” or if the package said something in the outside that could “tell on them”. Also the main issue was “why thongs”? as if wearing thongs was something so degrading.
American and European audiences have been the most welcoming, almost 60% of our sales are divided in the US and Europe. They love the brand, love the content. Even take pictures with our designs and post them on social media.
Where are your products most famous?
Are we famous somewhere? LOL, but the most orders come definitely from the US.
How important is diversity for you and your brand?
I think it’s the core of our brand, in the end it would be ridiculous to portray just one type of beauty if we’re claiming there are more ways than one for being a man. All of our pieces are designed and tested in every size and body type to make sure they fulfill our clients needs. The hardest part is getting to photograph diversity, since we’re a Mexican based brand the idea of “machismo” reigns and very few people would want to model for us, model agencies refused sending models, so we did what we thought was best. And that was reaching out to whoever loved our collection, regardless of their weight, height or race.
Do you try your lingerie before you sell them?
Everything gets gested!!!! in order to find the ones that we really love! I give samples to my friends and ask for their reviews. We make so many samples, I have so many myself!
Every comment is important so anything we launch has been tested in the type of stitching, quality of the lace and softness of our mesh. Even the pieces with crystals or gems, they have to be comfortable enough to wear for at least one night out. If it doesn’t then it means we have to keep on trying.
Who is your brand addressed to? Are gay people your biggest target?
It’s funny cause at the beginning I was like… “who would want to wear this other than gay men” , but to my surprise the ammount of wives making orders for their husbands keeps on growing! To me, those are the most exciting ones, because they often “speak” on behalf of them and they have the final choice on what their husbands are getting. So it’s amazing to see all these different ways and dynamics of intimacy. Makes me happy and proud at the same time.
How did your love for the human body influence your brand?
I am obsessed with beauty, in every possible way. I live my life watching everything around me and falling in love constantly with colors, scents, light and even “flaws”. Who said a cracked vase couldn’t be beautiful? So the idea of enhancing the already beautiful human body with elements that could ornament it so majestically, is what gave my life meaning.
I believe there’s beauty in all of us, the only problem is we were taught to only appreciate a very specific kind, and we keep on missing out on all the other types of beauty there are.
What is your favourite part in the human body?
I would have to go for the groin. I think there’s something very animalistic about finding each person’s personal scent. And I’ve discovered it’s one of the parts of the body where the scent is kept intact without mixing.
Was there a gap in men’s luxury lingerie that you decided to bridge?
I realised there are very few brands that sell men’s luxury lingerie! And some of them didn’t ship to Mexico not so long ago. I tried buying “anything” of the sort and since I couldn’t find options I launched Proteo as one.
What has been the reaction of the LGBTQ+ community?
I think it has been great, I’m very proud to be part of the LGBTQ+ community so the acceptance we’ve had makes me feel very accomplished as a designer.
Tell me some things about you. How do you define and how would you like to introduce yourself?
I am a former catholic school kid, who was expected to be a doctor. With very conservative Mexican parents. Who ended up studying fashion against all odds and now sells thongs for a living. LOL!
Also I’m a very passionate human being, everything I do, I do out of love. So anything I cook, draw, sing or sew comes from a very deep place in my heart. I think that’s my best quality.
I take part in every process, from design to patterns. In photoshoots when I’m not photographing everything myself, I build the set’s and choose the type of light. I contact all the models, also designed our box. It’s a very demanding thing to do, since I lead other projects as well. But I wouldn’t change it for anything else.
Did you know form a young age what you wanted to become when you grow up?
I did , at an early age I thought I wanted to be a cartoonist. I would spend the whole day drawing non stop. So art has always been a part of my life. I’ve been trained in so many different fields in art, I love learning. But at 13 I realized clothing made my heart beat the most. Clothing always has an intention, you dress a certain way in order to achieve a specific goal. So every piece of clothing takes part in the most important moments in life.
That’s why most of the things I do, are for special occasions. As red carpets, shows, vacations or intimacy.
Who would you like to see posing with their Proteo lingerie?
DEFINITELY LIL NAS X, and as a fictional character. It would have to be James Bond, he is the “ultimate man’s man”. So he is powerful enough to show the boys they’re capable of wearing lingerie too and save the world while doing it.
What are your future plans?
Actually with these past collections I think i’ve gotten to understand what the client really wants, and also I’m confident enough to make whatever I want. So we’re really going for what lingerie stands for. Top parts included. Our next collection is so thoroughly crafted people will really gag. Also, theres a future “art + wearable” piece coming. You’ll be able to display it in your living room and wear it as well.
More of Proteo here: