"GETTING INTIMATE WITH RAW STUDIO DESIGNS AND BUSTER´S DESIGNER ED VELASQUEZ"
by Drew Rowsome. MyGayToronto.com - Issue #52. 20 November 2017
"Jockstraps are my most popular selling, most comfortable, most everything," says Ed Velasquez, the designer of the underwear lines Raw Studio and Buster. "Believe it or not, second to that would be my push up jock and Cockring or, how to put this, sort of push-up bras for your junk. Everything is up and out but they're comfortable, they don't leave lines. You can go commando and still have a little bit of support and it just feels like you're more of yourself."
Velasquez explains that, "There are two looks. Raw Studio is for the gay man of any age who has their sexuality under control, they know who they are. They're confident and they want products that make them feel that way. And make them look good. Buster is more of a sports casual, not so fetishy, not so sexually charged. More practical, more cotton-based, something you can wear on a daily basis. Raw Studio is racy and sexy, Buster is comfort casual."
Comfort is crucial for Velasquez. "I'm usually inspired by the fabric. Predominantly I use European fabrics, micro-fibres, laser-cut out fabrics. It's about the tactile quality. I figure if it's something that close to your body, it really should feel nice. Once I have it, I start playing around and trying different things. I try to design something that is comfortable to wear and feels good when it's on. Especially some of the kinky wear, you want it to fit a certain way and have that look but at the same time there's nothing worse than wearing something that feels uncomfortable. It's owning that piece and that piece owning you. When I'm creating the first design, the prototype, I'm the first person wearing it. Do I like it? I run it through the test of wearing it all day long. If it feels great and comfortable, it has my approval. If it doesn't perform the way I want it to perform, I scrap it and start all over again. I am my own best customer."
So Velasquez is always walking around in something brand new and kinky? "Yes," he laughs. "That's never been a problem." He's particularly proud of "the strapless ones, I started calling them "the sock" many years ago, there's a pouch that holds everything in. It's designed in a way that it's comfortable, you can move around and not pop out, do sports and everything. It holds everything together. It's actually an amazing design when you don't want underwear lines or you're wearing something semi-see-through and still want a little bit of support."
Does he have a personal favourite among his designs? "I'm more of a jockstrap sort of guy because of comfort, breathability, freedom of motion, and support. And they're hot." Looking and feeling good are almost as important as comfort and Velasquez gets an extra kick out of his product. "I don't know how to say this without painting myself like a total perv. I find it extremely alluring to know that someone values my designs enough to buy them. And it's hot to know that people are walking around wearing something that I've made and designed and possibly even touched. For me that's a bit of a turn-on."
Though a one-man underwear entrepreneur, Velasquez's designs are easy to find. "JockstrapCentral.com is the main sales outlet but I also sell out of The Men's Room on Church Street and their Montreal store. I finally have a website where people will be able to find me directly which is rawstudiodesigns.com. There will be a lot of new products. Jockstrap Central, who've become good friends over the years, have a specific target market, so I've been designing predominantly with them in mind. With my own website it's more of a free-for-all and an expanding, the same stuff I've been covering but also one-of-a-kind pieces and catering to a different sort of demographic. With Raw Studio and also Buster, I'm trying to cover both sides of a coin because I don't think any man is completely one or the other. We gay men do like our underwear and we do tend to show them off more."
Velasquez's career in fashion was not his initial ambition. "I started as a graphic designer studying at the Ontario College of Art and Design. After working at Canadian Musician magazine for two years, I realized that my heart wasn't in it. Only after a men's wear manufacturing company hired me to design their catalogue while their designer was on maternity leave, long story short, they asked me to design some product that turned out to be their number one seller and the owner said, 'You really have something there. Why don't you explore it? We'd love to have you do some work.' That planted a little seed in my head and I started taking night courses on sewing and pattern making at George Brown because I didn't know anything about that. I started tinkering around and a really good friend of mine was part-owner of Priape, many years ago, and I asked him to take a look at some things I was working on. When I showed him, he placed an order on the spot and I was in business. That's how I started."
And the business grew quickly, but in a controlled manner. "I started manufacturing myself but it's grown to the point where I have a manufacturer right here in Toronto," says Velasquez. "I try to keep all the work local in Canada because I can keep control of the actual production and quality which is very important. I could do it cheaper outside of the country but for me it's not about quantity. I'd rather make a smaller amount of product and have a higher turnover of different kinds of products."
There will always be new products, ideas, and sexy tactile fabrics to be tried out. "I'm constantly creating," says Velasquez. "The problem is that I have to learn to stop designing. After I finish one I start another one and unfortunately, as we all know, I have to make more than just one. I still love producing, making them, I try to make as many as I can. Obviously I can't fill entire orders but that's why I have other sewers. But I'm still at the machine, cause that's actually my moment of zoning out, my zen moment." Zen moments enhanced by having his inspiration embraced by a new design that exudes sexiness, keeps everything forward but is, above all, comfortable.