Behind the brand: ChattyFeet Socks
Fun socks with cool illustrated faces are the work of playful brand ChattyFeet.
Making incredibly soft socks with witty names to make you smile and bring a little fun into your day, the creators Gil and Humberto met whilst studying Communication Design at Central Saint Martins in London.
After graduating, they both worked in London for many years for digital design companies before starting their own business. Here they reveal the challenges of setting up a business, essential tips to get started and what they’ve learned so far..
How & when did the concept for ChattyFeet come about? What was the inspiration behind it? Why socks?
The idea came at a really memorable friend’s gathering many years ago. We were entertained by the idea that socks could talk like puppets – but on feet rather than hands – and played around with this idea throughout the party. We thought it would be funny to make sock characters and the next time we met, we agreed to try to make this idea into a real thing. And the rest is history. We believe good ideas come when you are with people that you feel comfortable with, so where would we feel more comfortable than at a party with our friends?!
We like silly things that encourage people to play because life gets too serious at times.
Setting up a business requires a certain level of investment – how did you get started?
We tried to invest the minimum possible for our first collection so that we could test it out and find out if other people thought it was as funny as we did! We decided that 4 designs in two sizes was an achievable goal and these first four characters were designed by us and our friends.
The largest investment was spending our own time on ChattyFeet. When we started developing the business we were both working full-time and had to meet during the evenings and at weekends to progress our idea. For our second collection, we used Kickstarter to get funding, where we managed to raise 7.5k with our campaign and could get started on developing the range of characters.
If you are a small company like us, working with distributors who have a designated sales force is a good idea too; they helped us to sell ChattyFeet outside the UK.
What were the main challenges when you were starting out and how did you overcome them?
One of the most challenging things was finding a producer. Some manufacturers are not particularly keen to work with new brands because order sizes can be relatively small to start with. It takes time to build trust and, after we explored every option we could by looking online, we decided to travel to meet the producer, which was a very good move.
When you launch an online shop it takes time before you get a steady flow of sales so we decided to work with more established brands like Notonthehighstreet. ChattyFeet continues to sell successfully on this platform and it really helped us to grow.
Can you tell us more about the production process behind making the socks?
After the illustration for each character is complete, we choose colours for the fabric from a catalogue similar to the Pantone Colour Books. We send the colour and design specifications to our producer who will prepare a sample for us. We review it and send feedback if needed. Once we are happy with the sample, we give the go-ahead for production.
Where do you get your ideas?
We like silly things that encourage people to play because life gets too serious at times. We love to see people making parodies; such as Reggie Watts’ accents, the amazing inventions by Dominic Wilcox or when someone decides to break the Guinness record for the highest number of people dressed as Penguins..!
What was your first collection? Do you still sell it?
Describe a typical day in the office?
No day is the same. In the morning, it’s usually all about sales; contacting potential buyers, distributors and agents. Our socks love adventures so we take them with us everywhere we go, as you can see on our Instagram feed. As you can expect, there is admin work to be done too: checking payments, making sure all goes according to plan with our producers, sending invoices and handling customer support inquiries. The best part of the day is when we have time to discuss new ideas and how to make the world a more chatty place!
How do you source and select your artists and illustrators? Are they local or international?
We review portfolios online and also meet artists in person at events. The last event we visited was ‘Pictoplasma’ in Berlin where we saw some fantastic work by illustrators and animators. We like to work with designers all around the globe because we think it’s important to celebrate different cultures and styles. We discovered Muxxi‘s beautiful designs, through online platform Behance and worked with her to produce a collection of four different colorful and fun socks.
What do you look for in a potential collaborator? Are there particular creative styles you like more than others?
The main thing we look for is simplicity. Due to the nature of working with a wearable product, we are looking for people who express themselves with a simple visual language, as this translates well into a fabric design. We make an effort to find original work that will get people excited.
The collection is gaining popularity, with editions like the Kate Middle-Toe landing you publicity in leading fashion magazines! How do you market / promote your products?
One thing we do is send samples to people we think would like ChattyFeet. We once sent Kate Middle-Toe to British Vogue and they Instagrammed it, which was amazing! We are always on the look-out for new blogger collaborations and also use online advertising on Google, Twitter and Facebook.
What are your hopes and future plans for the brand? Might you move into other products like gloves for example?
We are discussing new products at the moment and also about to launch our gift boxes for artists and action film lovers (above). Each set includes four themed characters and we think these box-sets will make a fantastic gift for your friends and family. The most fun part of running our own business is coming up with new ideas and we hope to continue doing more of this in the future.
If you could give advice to aspiring entrepreneurs what would it be?
1. Discover what you are really passionate about. Without passion there will be no energy for the long journey of bringing your idea to life.
2. Define an achievable goal. For us, the first goal was to come up with four characters. Being lean creates focus – you concentrate on the parts that you can’t release your product without.
3. Spend time thinking about which activities you should do yourself and which ones require help from others. Getting specialist help where needed will save you time and make your business more efficient.