Sitting down with Happy Socks founders, Viktor Tell and Michael Soderlindh, it’s impossible not to let your eyes be drawn to their ankles, wanting to catch a glimpse of what kinds of patterns and colours this fashionable pair from Sweden have chosen for our interview – given their brand’s philosophy is to pick your socks according to your mood. Incidentally, it’s bright spots for Tell and faded stripes for Soderlindh.
This boutique company, conceived by Tell in 2008, seeks to bring a little bit of joy to the everyday with their fun take on the business sock. “My group of friends used to wear colourful socks, so I saw how they could cheer you up when you were feeling down and from that observation Happy Socks was born,” says Tell.
With his former career as an illustrator and graphic designer a useful tool, Tell set about creating bold designs with geometrical shapes and colour combinations. He now designs two collections per year and tries hard to stay on top of trends.
“Through all the travel we do, you perceive stuff that you’ve already thought about, which really sticks in your head.” And the most popular designs worldwide – if you’re wondering – are “stripes, spots and faded diamonds”.
For Soderlindh, who is unashamedly the business mind, his work is about strengthening the brand, be it for wholesalers or stand-alone stores. In four quick years, the growth of the brand has been phenomenal. Happy Socks is sold in 50 countries with five stand-alone stores (Sweden, Japan, Europe and New York, opening later this year).
“We always wanted to go global,” says Soderlindh. “Sweden is a small country of only eight million people, so to create a niche product, like socks, would be too small. So it was always going to be a global brand.”
During the four years, the competitive market has changed dramatically. In 2008 there were very few colourful socks brands. Now there are scores. To stay relevant and on top of the game, Happy Socks have worked hard to maintain their product’s superior quality, changing manufacturers and materials to fine-tune their socks.
From the beginning, they insisted on using a superior fine-comb cotton, which is silk in touch but with all the qualities of cotton – durable, washable and breathable. The way they see it, there are three main parameters of sock quality: durability, touch and colour-endurance.
The boys are happy to tell me the mix is now perfect, with the socks made in Turkey and the tights in Italy. But it doesn’t mean they won’t tweak things in the future. “Small changes make big improvements, so we’ve learnt a lot over time,” says Tell.
With a simple brand philosophy to “make people happy”, Happy Socks has collaborated with other key brands and artists to spread their message. Last year, enfant terrible photographer, Terry Richardson, shot their campaign featuring a who’s who of upcoming talent. They’ve also collaborated with designer Giles Deacon, brands Globe-Trotter, The Standard hotels and retailers Barneys, Opening Ceremony and Colette.
But despite all the accolades and hometown fame in Sweden, as Tell explains, the sweetest success of all is that “people smile when they see our product”. Insert smiley emoticon here.