Swedish accessories brand Happy Socks opened its first flagship in Seven Dials, London in 2014. Here, Mikael Söderlindh, founder of Happy Socks, chairman of Stutterheim and founder of The Cords & Co, talks to Retail Focus about his role, the Happy Socks customer and the brand's expansion plans in China.
RF. What’s your background?
MS. I was working in the advertising industry for 10 years and running an event company in Sweden, when I started various real estate projects in Bali. It was here that I and my long-time friend Viktor Tell got the idea to create a brand named Happy Socks and make nicely tailored socks and design pieces.
RF. What led you to launch Happy Socks?
MS. Both Viktor Tell and I really appreciated socks, but could not find the styles that we wanted to wear – socks seemed to be a forgotten item and given no love. And to be honest, we also wanted to do something happier with our lives, and put everything into this. We love travelling and envisioned to create a global company. Today, we’ve created a colorful design and lifestyle brand with flagship stores in Tokyo, New York and Los Angeles; we’re doing what we’ve always dreamed of.
RF. Tell us about your role as co-founder and what a typical day is like.
MS. I start my day with a long distance run, this is my routine where I sort out my day-to-day schedule and process my to-do list. I have so much energy, and I channel this when running. The rest of the day is a build-your-own-world kind of thing. I frequently travel as most of my businesses are global. Only Happy Socks is retailed in more than 90 countries and on every continent. But if I’m in Stockholm I’ll be sure to check in on the different offices and teams, and stop by the six floor high Happy House, our new headquarters that we covered with our iconic big dot-pattern when we moved in on 1 January 2017. It’s the very first ‘sock house’ in the world!
RF Who is the Happy Socks customer?
MS. They’re colourful enjoyers of life. None of the usual boxes fit here. The Happy Socks consumers are of all backgrounds, ethnicities, ages and genders. They’re enjoying life to the fullest, they’re confident, expressive and young at heart. To summarise, they’re colourful people.
RF Why did you chose Seven Dials for the location of your first store?
MS. We’re always looking for interesting and original locations for our concept stores. Seven Dials is a fashion forward area with an atmospheric setting, that we felt was right for our playful universe.
RF. How would you describe the in-store experience at Happy Socks?
MS. We wanted our socks and underwear to be showcased as the true design pieces they are, and that’s where we started working with studios that had a blanc canvas and white gallery feeling. Obviously, our Happy Socks styles stand for the colorful and expressive part. Our stores are also the place where the consumer gets the chance to experience our colorful world with all the unexpected details and tactile features. Our goal is to bringing happiness and colour to every corner of the world!
RF. How involved did you get in the design of the store?
MS. Viktor and I are still very involved in the process. We support the retail department with finding suitable locations that feels on-brand and true to the concept, and we had a lot of fun when we developed the design guidelines for our concept stores. We still try to be the last checkpoint before we cut the ribbon to a new store.
RF. Do you have plans to launch more stores across London and the UK?
MS. Time will tell but London and especially the UK is a great market, and we love it there! If we come across a suitable location, and we’re very optimistic in on our retail search, and I’d definitely be glad to look into the possibilities.
RF. Tell us about your plans to open 100 pop-up stores in China this year.
MS. We’re entering the Chinese market with high energy and in full speed. The stores we open are both pop-up stores and stand-alone concept stores. We joined forces with Shanghai Fashion Week and the response has been massive. We’re definitely filling a sought after gap in the market with our endless variety of models and original designs of high-quality socks and underwear, and see no reason to slow down our rollout plan.
RF. What’s next for Happy Socks?
MS. We’re launching our new sub-brand Hysteria By Happy Socks this fall, the world’s first lifestyle sock brand for modern, fashion-conscious women with a strong, contemporary aesthetic. We’re also teaming up with British pop legends The Beatles on limited edition Yellow Submarine socks. Each pair commemorates the iconic animated film that Viktor’s dad actually was part of creating back in 1968. We’re opening up a new concept store in the Marais in Paris this summer, while entering new and yet unexplored markets, and we’re opening a new Happy Socks office in New York.