Walking the streets of London over the last few days, one of the features that I couldn’t miss even if I tried were the business suits – elegant for sure, flirtatious hardly!
But we’ve all got to inject our personality into the straitjackets of the proletariat. It may not have been the intended purpose for Dave Hutchison, founder of Sexy Socks, but it certainly is a sufficient draw card for the modern consumer to don a pair of these stylish artefacts.
That being said, one of the defining characteristics of Sexy Socks is ‘mission meets fashion’ where for every pair of socks bought they donate a pair to needy school kids in South Africa. It reminded me of a campaign in 2011 by Amnesty International called “Send Socks” to raise awareness for the plight of migrants traveling across South America each year facing life threatening and/or dire human rights abuses.
I connected with Dave to shine a light on the inspiration for his outrageous, naughty, sexy, natural but always local fashion statement.
1988 Born in Cape Town
2006 Matriculated from Bishops Diocesan College
2010 Graduated with a Business Science from UCT
2012 Graduated with an LLB from UCT
2014 Started articles at large corporate law firm
2014 Founded Sexy Socks
Socks are one of the most understated items of clothing but you decided to raise it to something of an artistic expression. How does this kind of subversiveness play out in your business?
Sexy Socks are cheeky. They are fun. They push the boundaries. They are designed to make someone (everyone) look twice. They show flair. They show character. They show that you are not the average dude (or gal). They aim to end the scourge of boring socks in South Africa. They aim to brighten the life of corporate South Africa. They aim to end the ankle’s status of the forgotten flesh. They will rise up and be noticed. And they will make a difference. With every pair sold, we prove that there is a viable alternative for business in South Africa. With every pair we sell, we are proving that there are enough South Africans who care about improving our society. With every pair we sell, we are making sure that one less child has cold toes in winter. And with every pair we sell, we hope to inspire one more entrepreneur to join our movement.
Your socks are not only form fitting but the bamboo fibre construction allows it to bounce back. How has resilience featured in your start-up story?
Every day, people dismiss us as a non-viable business. How can you make enough money selling socks? How can you make enough money when you are giving away a pair with every pair you sell? We started with very little capital, starting with just four lines of socks and a healthy dose of hubris. And from there we grew. Within the first three weeks, I placed an order for a further four lines of socks. And we have continued to grow. We now have about 19 lines of socks (nine for the guys, nine for the girls, and one for the babies) and we are just getting started. We have given away almost 2000 pairs of school socks, we are slowly building a name for ourselves, and we are about to launch in our first store abroad in Australia. We are local. We are green. We are social. And we are creating a new way of doing business in South Africa.
Sustainability is the new sexy but of course it doesn’t come without a price. What are your top 3 tips to encourage entrepreneurs to choose sustainability as a viable path to financial success?
- Stand up, stand out, and be prepared to try something different. Your idea doesn’t have to be extraordinary or something which no one has ever come up with before. It just needs to be different enough to catch attention. Using sustainable products/materials allows you to tap into a growing trend in the world and differentiate your product. Think carefully about your materials and the value add, and how you will be able to use them as a means to get people talking about your brand.
- Your business needs a story. People remember stories far better than any marketing pitch. Weave a story around your products and make people want to be a part of your story. Before you know it, you will have someone telling you about these amazing products that are part of this amazing story, without realising where it all started. This speaks back to point 1, but weaving sustainability into your story allows you to make a difference for the planet, while simultaneously adding an extra dimension to the appeal.
- It is very difficult to give something your all unless you are passionate about it. Choosing sustainability makes it that much easier to believe 100% in what you are doing and where the business is going.
What does a day in the life of one of your pairs of socks look like?
Get off me! I’m trying to catch some sleep in here. Its 5am – surely it’s meant to still be dark?! I never manage to get some decent darkness in when I’m placed next to bright green Sexy Potters. And Sexy Symbols – tone down the yellow, will you? That red is bright enough as you are. How is a pair of socks meant to get any rest around here? I’m just an average Sailor, trying to rest my stripes before the day ahead.
Whoa – light just went on! Must be time to get up! I hate this part of the day. If it’s my turn, I’ve got to work extra hard in those smelly gym shoes, pulling sweat away and preventing his feet smelling – that’s no easy feat! Here comes the hand … scratching … scratching … phew it’s not me today!
That relief was short lived! Light it back on and music has started – he must be back from training. There it is – the sound of the shower. And now the draw is opening! (He always seems to take a dreadfully long time to choose his socks for the day. I guess life can’t be that bad when the hardest decision you are faced with is which awesome pair of socks to wear today) Pick me, pick me! Yessss! Guessing that my navy and white stripes are the order of the day. Brown shoes? Good choice! And now we’re in the car. Time for the office.
This is always the quietest time of the day – chilling under the desk, listening to the keyboard clack away. And suddenly we are off again! Must be lunch time. Down the hall, into the elevator, and down and out the building. Fresh air! And a bit of a walk. Heading to the nearest coffee shop, no doubt, to get in a bit of the daily hustle. I wonder what today’s meeting will be about? Marketing? New store? More awesome designs? Seems to change every day.
And we’re back. Downtime for the afternoon session. I always enjoy just chilling down here – every day someone stops to point out how sexy I look! I’ve heard that everywhere we go, people steal glances at me, comment on my outrageous flair! Even when we are in meetings with clients, someone always has to point me out. It is awfully flattering.
Back in the car and racing home. So much to do, so much to do. And all so exciting! It is time to get out of these hardened leather shoes and don the sneaky slippers for the evening session. Laptop out, feet up, bring on the business!
Finally! It must be about 23.30. Hands are gripping my opening and pulling me over the feet. Callously, I’m tossed into the wash basket. Doesn’t he know how much work goes into keeping his feet smelling like that all day?! Guess he’d never know. Since I never let on all that I’ve absorbed.
Let me tell you, the struggle is real. It is hard work always being so sexy.
In what ways may artists and activists collaborate with your brand?
I am always open to interesting ideas and novel concepts when it comes to collaborations. Drop me an email, give me a call, or send me a message. Whatever your idea is, let’s meet up and discuss it further. Or you can follow us on Twitter and Instagram or on Facebook.
Keep an eye on Dave Hutchison – business maven on the up and up. That’s all from me for now, signing off from London.
Mexico: Migrants making dangerous journey through Mexico ‘desperately need socks’: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2012/01/mexico-migrants-making-dangerous-journey-through-mexico-desperately-need-socks