You can’t mention designer socks without mentioning Happy Socks, the brand that started the trend of flashy, outrageous socks. On Thursday, it celebrated its 10th anniversary with a blowout party in Chelsea. The unisex company has collaborated with celebrities like Snoop Dogg and LGBTQ+ charities like the Elton John AIDs Foundation, but its most recent addition is a line of vibrant and queer Keith Haring socks.
We sat down with Happy Socks co-founders Viktor Tell and Mikael Söderlindh at their party to talk about their seminal idea: that happiness, and Happy Socks, are for everybody.
OUT: How did Happy Socks start?
Viktor Tell: Ten years ago, we noticed that no one was giving love to socks. They're this forgotten item that everyone wears every day, but no one was giving them attention. We love design and color, so we were like, 'Okay, what can we do with this sock to make it brighter and more fun?' That’s why we started Happy Socks.
Mikael Söderlindh: The reason is that we saw an opportunity to create a segment that did not exist. There was an opportunity in front of us.
VT: The selfish thing is that we really wanted to make something global because we wanted to travel the world.
That’s a good excuse!
MS: We love colorful socks because they are a conversation piece — they differentiate you. That, and we couldn’t find socks we liked. In Sweden, socks are very important because you take your shoes off when you go into somebody’s house. You have happy socks if you have a pair of nice socks on. That’s how Viktor came up with the name and the company was born.
VT: I remember it very clearly, it was a Sunday when everyone had been out partying all weekend, and you’re kind of moody, but we were sitting there and for some reason, everyone had put on their colorful socks to lighten up their day a little bit. Happy socks.
Got it. I know your most recent collaboration was with Keith Haring. How did that come about?
VT: Of course, we’ve always been big fans of his art and free-love and his viewpoint. It just worked so well with us. We met the people who are taking care of his art, his foundation, and together had a conversation to see if we could make this happen. They agreed and they were lovely to work with. It was so amazing to go through all the artwork that exists from him. We like that he said art should be for everyone.
Keith Haring has had a renaissance lately with a lot of designers are using his art. What about it spoke to you guys?
VT: Maybe we’re in a time where we need to be a little bit more revolutionary. The world is pretty grim, you know? He was really outspoken and free and expressing his love — we need more of that. I think people want to have more of that.
A few years ago, you worked with the Elton John AIDs Foundation.
VT: Yeah, with Giles Deacon and Elton John.
Why did you decide to work with them?
VT: Many of our collaborations come from left and right. We just take ideas, and this particular one came from people in the UK that knew him. It was a woman that worked press for us, I remember, they made the introduction. Then we met and it just felt right. All of our collaborations have to feel right.
What can we expect from Happy Socks this year?
MS: I think what's very important for us is to ensure we continue doing what we've done today. One of our big successes is retail, so we want to keep opening shops. I think shops are like modern candy stores. People don’t buy candy nowadays, so now they can go into a sock store and buy some color, some happiness, some joy. It’s like a piece of candy for people.
VT: Also, on the product side, we want to go deeper and be better with all the products. We have so many different segments now, the latest is swimwear. It’s a new market, so it’s going to be interesting to see all these ideas develop as their own small mini-brands.
Yeah, I was noticing those. What’s different about making swim trunks as opposed to socks?
VT: Socks are a small piece that you wear for yourself, and underwear’s also such a hidden thing. Swimwear is pretty much out in the open. We noticed our loving fans were using our underwear also as swimwear. We were like, 'Why not?' We noticed that our brand stands for happiness and colorful design, so even though it’s called Happy Socks, it doesn’t have to be about socks. It can be about other things, and we’re down to explore what that could be.
A lot of your collaborations have been in support of the LGBTQ+ community. Was this intentional or just a natural extension of the brand?
MS: Happy Socks started as a unisex brand. All our socks are for everybody. We don’t differentiate, that’s how we are as people. We work with colorful people like us.
VT: Happiness is for everyone — we don’t want to differentiate.