With their colourful and quirky designs, it’s no wonder brand Happy Socks is a global phenomenon. Socks are no longer a muted clothing accessory; they have become staple pieces that breathe life into any outfit.
Whether you are dressing for the office, the gym, a night out or the beach, it’s highly likely you will be wearing a pair of socks.
Although most people still prefer traditional socks that come in single colours of white, red, black and green, bright colours and busy patterns are fashionable.
Happy Socks are the leaders in the market at the moment, offering a variety of designs and colours.
Happy Socks founders Viktor Tell and Mikael Soderlindh
From the beginning, the global founders of the Swedish brand, Viktor Tell and Mikael Soderlindh, wanted to create a brand that would spread and inspire happiness throughout the world. They tell me this when I meet them in Woodstock for our interview.
They were recently in the country to launch their “Local Hero” special edition, their biggest collaboration so far, where they worked with creatives, bloggers and artists from 15 countries to design socks inspired by their work.
Like their product, they are easy-going and their personalities are infectious.
“After eight years in the business, we are now sold in 90 countries worldwide, and with this collaboration, we really wanted to express our gratitude,” says Tell, Happy Socks creative director.
“We enjoy every country that we visit and we see the creative expressions all around, and we wanted to take that into our company, because it is not only based in Stockholm, but we are a global thing,” says Tell.
“We wanted to see what the local creatives could do with our blank canvas of cotton socks. We gave them carte blanche to create whatever they wanted. That is what we have always done with international collaborations;”
“Not only did they want to engage with us because we have a nice product to work with, but we gave a huge opportunity to the local market and brands, and some would have never had the opportunity to be exposed to so many countries,” he says.
Happy Socks x Falko One
South African graffiti artist Falko One was the chosen local hero.
Soderlindh and Tell are long-time friends who worked together before starting the business.
“We are a bit of a ying and a yang, which is part of our success. Soderlindh is the driving force of the business, while I am on the creative side.
“We came up with the business because we enjoyed wearing socks and we saw that no one gave love to the accessory no one really focused on it. What was available at the market at the time was mostly cheap socks with poor designs,” says Tell.
“We also started the business because we love to travel. We have almost 200 days of travelling a year, so that gives us a lot of inspiration from meeting people from around the world it’s super fun.
“I get inspiration from all over and we try not to follow trends. We see socks as more of a design item than a fashion item,which means that we can go the wrong way and it doesn’t have to be too precise. Our hunch has turned out good so far,” Tell says.
Soderlindh adds: “Tell has a huge ability when it comes to designs and patterns and working with illustrations. I think that the big difference with our product is how we put colour together, and that has been one secret of our success. Our designs always stand out in the socks department. A couple of years back we had booming competitors, but now we beat them when it comes to really strong designs,” he says.
The brand have now added underwear to their range – colourful briefs for men and women.
“We felt that we wanted to spread happiness and design from our socks, so why not underwear as well? It was a natural development of our brand socks and underwear go well together,” says Tell.
“The name ‘Happy Socks’ is self-explanatory, we want you to be happy when you wear Happy Socks. We want to brighten up your day almost every morning.
“When you put on our underwear and socks, we want the moment to feel good and make you stay with a smile on your face for the rest of your day. Ever since day one we have been met with a smile when we talk about our brand, and that is what we want to keep,” says Tell.
“I am still so impressed when we travel the world and I see a person wearing our socks, it’s really crazy. Whether we are in Tokyo, Cape Town or New York, whenever we see someone walking down the street wearing our brand, it’s a fun and proud moment,” he says.
“Our customer is hard to put in a box,” says Soderlindh.
“This person is either a 25-year-old fashionista, a businessman, it’s a grandma buying presents for her grandkids, it’s a teenager. It’s such a wide variety of people and we would rather say that our target group is a colourful person who loves design,” he says.
Their advice for future entrepreneurs who would like to start a similar business venture?
Tell says: “I would have never been able to start the business alone.
“I think you should find someone to do it with. The great part of our success is that we have been focusing on the same goal but we have done it in two different directions. Find a partner that has another take on what you want to to,” he says.
Soderlindh adds: “Tell and I work with several start-ups today. One step is that you need to fully commit to a start-up. Rule number one, you should not do it on the side. If you want to do something, quit your job, take a loan and start it.
“You need to take a risk for it to be successful because if you don’t take the risk, you are not forcing yourself to succeed,” Soderlindh says.
“And of course you need to make sure that the business idea that you have is going to be profitable business. You don’t start something because you are passionate about it. It helps, being in the business with the right partner.
“South Africa is a very colourful country and we think that is why Happy Socks is relatively successful here.
“We’re not going to tell anyone what colour or design to wear you need to find your own way of wearing our socks in the designs that catches your eye,” Soderlindh adds.
This piece was first published in the Cape Argus on January 24 2017.
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