How we design our socks

Hoe wij onze sokken ontwerpen

The question we are most frequently asked is how our design process for a new pair of socks works. This is a logical question. Where other sock companies collaborate with designers or design agencies, we involve homeless artists in the design process. This is naturally special and results in beautiful socks with a story, but it certainly also presents a challenge.

How best to approach this has also been a journey of discovery for us. We have tried various methods; some worked better than others. It was definitely a learning process.

We launch a new pair of socks every month, so eventually, we have become quite adept at this. We write below about artists, but of course, we mean both our male and female artists. Generally, a design process goes as follows:

  • Introduction - Who wants to participate?
    When we started, we visited locations where our artists stay, such as night shelters, soup buses, day activities, and of course on the streets. We met people and their stories and looked for individuals who incorporate creativity into their recovery process. Once found, it always starts with a cup of coffee to get acquainted, hear their stories, and build a connection. Very important in this step is that an artist wants to use his or her story to inspire others. As these are often very intense stories, this is a hurdle for many to overcome. Now that we are becoming more well-known, this step often also occurs through supervisors of homeless people who have discovered our sock project. They accompany someone they would like to highlight through our socks, they approach us and facilitate this meeting. This naturally saves us a lot of time.

  • Design phase - What do we want to tell?
    When the artist is interested in participating and wants to share his/her story through our socks, the design process begins. This is based on a theme. What do they want to share, and what design, colors, and thoughts fit well with that? This process can take a long time and is often very creative. During this process, doubt often arises ("Can I really do this?"), resistance ("Do I really want this?") and uncertainty ("Is it/am I good enough?"). Sometimes a process comes to a halt because the artist has more important things on their mind at that moment. You can imagine that when you are homeless, there are many things more important than designing a pair of socks. About 30% of collaborations eventually end because someone disappears, falls into a crisis, or simply is not capable of collaborating. This is a part of our process and something we take into account without judgment.

  • Sample phase - Wow, my own socks!
    If we have a piece of art that fits, that the artist is proud of and that tells his/her story well, we translate this artwork into a pair of socks. First, we create a 3D model of the socks and adjust it until it is completely to our liking. Then we have a sample made. This is often a very beautiful moment; the artists can hold their own socks and share them with their surroundings, which brings about immense pride.

  • Planning phase - When and how will we launch the socks?
    As you know, we launch a new pair of socks every month. Depending on the design, we schedule these in spring, summer, autumn, or winter so that the design fits the season. We pick a month and prepare the artist for the launch moment. We always try to make this a special occasion. Sometimes we manage to have a city councilor or even the mayor receive the first socks. Sometimes we cycle through the city together to hang socks, and sometimes we manage to involve the press so that their story is flung into the world through newspapers and TV.

  • Launch - It’s a wrap… and a very beautiful moment!
    Launching a pair of socks is only half the work. Ultimately, our goal is to offer the artist behind the socks a stage, so that people get to know his/her story and work. We give them a moment of positive attention, a moment where they are approached not from their problems but from positivity. Their entire (small) environment knows about the socks, wears them with enthusiasm, and compliments the artist on his/her work. That's how it goes, each process is again quite special. Special artists, special socks.