The Interview: Ryan Palmer, co-founder, London Sock Company

London Sock Company Founders

The London Sock Company was launched in 2014 by Ryan Palmer and David Pickard as a premium sockwear label. Since launch, it has received successful fundraising through the VC behind brands including Orlebar Brown, Not On The High Street and Just Eat, as well as from a number of Angel investors including David Gandy and one of the UK’s most successful luxury retailers William Asprey.

When did you launch and what was the initial response?

We soft launched (before our first production run of socks actually arrived due to a delay) to friends and family in December 2013 with an IOU…and then formally in January 2014 and it was amazing how quickly things started to happen for us. We were also selling on a market stall in London’s Leadenhall Market, which was incredible to gain face to face feedback and visibly see the reaction people were having to our brand and product. We also started receiving a lot of interest from the press and fashion industry, but above all else, it’s our customers who have been our biggest supporters and advocates. When you have new customers telling you these are the best socks they’ve ever worn and to keep up the good work, you know you’re doing something right.

Did you identify a gap in the market?

Men are increasingly becoming more style conscious. Socks are a really simple but effective detail that allows a man to add style and express their personality with anything they are wearing. Socks are most definitely moving from being a commodity product to a style accessory. Men are also extremely hard to buy for and our focus on gifting became a significant part of our strategy to differentiate us form other available sock options and solve a real problem many women experience when gift buying for men.

What differentiates your label from others?

For us it really comes down to our focus on doing one thing as well as we can, especially the quality; the quality of the yarns, the quality of the machinery, the quality of the finishing of each sock and the focus given to doing one thing extremely well, while constantly looking for ways to improve the customer experience.

Our focus has been to find the highest quality knitting techniques and workmanship for the specific styles we create. Our classic Simply Sartorial collection is knitted using a luxury cotton yarn called Scottish Lisle Cotton, with benefits including a more lustrous and reflective thread, reduced fading of colour, increased resistance to shrinking, increased thread strength and durability. We also currently produce Cashmere and Merino wool products as well launching a silk blend soon too. We are always trying to improve and challenge production norms. Our aim is to produce products that keep our customers coming back for more.

How did you find your customer base?

Initially we were finding customers through friends and family and word of mouth along and the strong press support, which really helped too. Digital marketing came soon after but really, offering an amazing experience for our customers is at the core of our marketing strategy.

Who are your current key wholesale stockists?

Current key stockists include Fortnum & Mason and Mr Porter.

What are your business achievements to date?

Key highlights since launching in December 2013 to Friends and Family and then formally in January 2014:

• Getting David Gandy involved after inventing a cocktail for him. He’s a genuinely great guy who’s become a great friend and has such a positive contribution to many areas of our business (brand direction, product development and marketing advice).

• We were invited to 10 Downing St to meet the Prime Minister and also recently met Prince Charles as part of a charitable initiative we were working on with Style for Soldiers. We were handing out our London Sock Co. Sock Monkey’s for kids of injured service men and women for Christmas and had a couple extra made for him to give to his grandchildren, which were apparently very well received.

• Celebrity support, most have come through stylists but include – Daniel Craig wearing our brand for all of his Spectre press and premieres as well as other well-dressed men including Colin Firth, Tom Hiddleston, Richard Madden, Matt Smith and a lot across the pond in the US including The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), Bradley Cooper, Ryan Reynolds, Chris Evans and Armie Hammer to name a few. Actually, had an order from Russell Brand come through just now.

So far, what has been the most major challenge you’ve experienced?

Growing a business continues to throw challenges at us all the time. There are literally too many to mention across supply chain, cash flow, stock management to name a few. The most important thing is focusing on solutions and not dwelling on problems. Learn, draw a line under and move forward.

What is the future for London Sock Company?

For now, we are focussed on making quality socks and continuing to refine all aspects of what we do. There are a lot of feet out there!

We have seen incredible growth over the past 14 months with such a positive response to the brand, which has been really humbling. We are exploring some really interesting collaborations that would pair nicely with the socks, but as far as extending our direct product range we have no immediate plans right now, but never say never…

What advice would you give to some starting up a fashion business?

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, you’ll probably regret not exploring it further. Success of most businesses though comes down to the execution more than the idea itself. As my co-founder always says, it’s reassuringly hard.

Try and get as much input and support as you can from people around you who have something offer and focus hard on building a network around you of people who can help, advice and accelerate what you are doing.

Make sure you are focused on the right things and build momentum by doing things every day that makes your situation even just a little bit better, it really does all add up. Most importantly though, trust your instinct, if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.