Men's underwear designer has set her sights high

LIFTING UP and pushing out is not just a function of the bra. Boxer shorts are now providing the same service for men - and selling well as a fashion item for nightclubs and health clubs.

Mefisto Duotone underwear has been designed and produced by 26-year-old Susana Ortubia, who this week is a London regional finalist for a Shell Livewire award, which recognises the young entrepreneur of the year. If she proceeds into the national finals in June, Ms Ortubia stands a chance of winning a £5,000 prize.

But Ms Ortubia says the practical advice, plus the business contacts, have been much more important. Her Livewire support worker helped to obtain venture capital from the Prince's Trust for young entrepreneurs, Midland Bank and the London Enterprise Agency. "Livewire has been wonderful, supporting me at every step of the business,' says Ms Ortubia. "They have been my best selling point. They put me in touch with the right people. I most probably could not have done it without them."

The Mefisto range, launched only last November, is already profitable, and Ms Ortubia expects this season to boost sales significantly. Her products are sold, at £25 a time, by four up-market retailers in London and in the other European capitals. She is also in discussions with leading chain stores after favourable publicity.

Ms Ortubia moved to Britain five years ago from Majorca, where she and her parents worked in the fashion industry. After arriving in Britain, she researched the domestic men's clothing industry and became convinced there was a gap in the underwear market. "Boxer shorts have been very boring, apart from rabbit patterns or something," she says.

The emphasis of the Mefisto product is comfort with shape, including padding, which, Ms Ortubia says, adds little in volume but does rearrange. "Padding gives a bit of strength, and is used in women's underwear a lot. People may think they will get volume, but they don't - they will have to keep using socks for that.

"Women have got the Wonderbra. Men are very vain but won't recognise it. This also gives lift, keeps everything together, and looks very flattering. It attracts young customers, up to 40, who have an interest in fitness and good bodies. It is popular in the gay market, where men take care of themselves so are perfect customers. All men with good bodies are good customers. The underwear is very comfortable, so people can work out in it in the gym."

Since the Livewire competition rewards and encourages initiative, other finalists also have original ideas.

Richard Godwin, the 24-year-old proprietor of Red House Recording Studios in Stoke, is broadening the market for recordings by undercutting competitors by 60 per cent. He is attracting Indian classical musicians whose work was not previously sold in Britain, amateur dramatic societies, which are selling tapes of their performances, and budding performers who for the first time can afford to send demonstration tapes to record companies, agents and television producers.

Sandy Ogilvie, UK director of Livewire, says the scheme has proved its worth many times over since it was established in 1982. "Livewire is there to encourage young people to start their own businesses, and consider that as a career choice when they start their careers, not as a last-ditch stand when facing unemployment. We will help them to produce business plans, and offer specialist help.

"Young people don't have the experience, or sometimes the maturity, that older people do, and we have tailor-made programmes and materials available to them to reduce the risks they are undertaking. It helps them make good decisions based on sound facts."

q Livewire is open to young entrepreneurs aged between 16 and 25. Telephone: 0191 261 5584.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Test Analyst - UAT - Credit Risk

£280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little