More Than Just A Footnote
It’s true: as an adult, all of us decode various stimuli according to our very own personal sensibilities. But don’t you miss this world of collective experiences where each and everyone is equally left in awe, regardless of individual reference systems and varying socializations? Remember entering a candy store as a kid or watching Star Wars for the first time? The sensation of speeding down a water slide or getting treated with the last pieces of dough before it goes into the cake tin?
Well, Swedish brand Happy Socks is here to remind you of that feeling - and for over a decade they’ve been doing so via colorful socks!
One of the keys to this particular success story certainly lies in the brand’s unpretentiousness. Oh, and nailing campaigns with a whole bunch of different collaborators such as David LaChapelle, Snoop Dog, and The Hoff might add to it as well. The latest coup just arrived in the form of Happy Socks’ current “Naughty or Nice“ campaign, which sees Macaulay Culkin delivering rather unorthodox season’s greetings. Time for Lodown to hook up with longtime friends Mikael Söderlindh and Viktor Tell - the two founders and creative forces behind Happy Socks - in order to learn more about their story.
When you stuck your heads together back then - was it a kinda eureka-moment?
Viktor: Absolutely - a hangover eureka-moment, to be precise. Mikael just came back from Bali, and I was a bit more on the depressed side of things in Stockholm. We first talked about doing Happy Socks and selling it in Bali on the beach. (laughs) What sounded fairly insane at first, resulted in an order of 60,000 socks four weeks later.
Mikael: At that time, it was actually pretty hard to get your hands on good quality, colorful socks. It was all synthetics, and it was very niche in basically every collection. Our idea was grounded in the fact that you basically always take your shoes off when you’re at somebody’s home - and it would actually be cool to always be wearing a different pair of colorful socks, and not just a novelty pair or two. You know, when you go out on a Friday night it would be cool to sport something colorful just in case you end up at somebody’s place.
I see, and that’s why you then branched out to colorful underwear as well!
Mikael: (laughs) Exactly. Viktor then came up with that name and it all seemed to make perfect sense.
Were you actually surprised to find out that there weren’t already at least twenty other brands... I mean, the whole idea is so brilliantly simple.
Viktor: It was really treated as an accessory-thing only. But how could “Happy Socks“ not have been registered at that point?! It felt like a brand name that had already existed since forever.
Mikael: The domain already existed though - it was a porn site that we then had to buy from a guy. It was also perfect timing to start the brand because at that point, companies and customers alike started to pay more attention to accessories.
Viktor: But it wasn’t too easy to find the right factory - basically no one believed in the concept of kids socks for a grown-up market. The whole thing was created with a global mindset right from the start.
Mikael: Right. I think when you twist your mind around an idea like that, and are actually from a country like Sweden, where the population is rather little compared to the actual size of the country, you just need to think outside the box.
Viktor: (laughs) And we also like to travel... so we took this idea to other countries - and we were literally traveling with two backpacks filled with socks and were knocking on many doors. But in the end they sold - and people were calling us again. The snowball was in motion, so to speak.
With that in mind, it seems as if Macaulay Culkin was just the perfect fit for this rather unorthodox and free-floating approach, right?
Mikael: Absolutely, especially since he hates Xmas. (laughs) That’s why he’s not looking too happy in quite a few pictures. The people in the know will easily understand why he isn’t too fond of this particular season, but the whole thing will be fun for others as well.
Viktor: We had this collab in our minds for a year already, and when he agreed, we couldn’t have been happier... he was super cool about the campaign. It would’ve been easy to be sarcastic about this Christmas aversion, but to play it rather mildly adds to the effect, I believe.
You’re about to open your first German flagship stores in Berlin and Munich. In times of everything Internet, I actually really like that you’re still waving the flag for retail...
Mikael: You might be able to operate within the digital realms only when you already have a big name - but that wasn’t the case with us. Ten years since founding and 15,000 stores are now selling our product. We soon understood that in order to really experience Happy Socks, you need to come into our house, so to speak. We experimented with pop-up shops first, and realized that this works so much better for what we have in mind.
Viktor: We believe that you need to connect to people first and make them feel familiar with your brand. And we’re in the lucky position that our very own stores don’t need to be extraordinarily big because we’re selling socks.
Mikael: We believe that retail should be an experience, and our stores basically offer you a sense of entering a candy store. It’s a positive feeling, it’s fun. It’s essential to return home with a vivid memory of it - otherwise there would be no real need to stop staring at your screen, right?