Like many guys, Nice Laundry co-founders Ricky Choi and Phil Moldavski had terrible relationships with their sock drawers, where fresh meant choosing between boring colors or spending a fortune on designer socks. So the duo created a platform to make it easy for everyone to refresh their sock drawers with just a few clicks. Their socks are only sold in packs, six pairs for $49, while their most popular pack offers 18 pairs for $99.
Built on a foundation of selling the experience of building the perfect sock drawer, Choi and Moldavski are on a mission to make a “low emotion” category like socks and transform it into a classification that can do some good while refreshing a necessary wardrobe basic. We recently had the opportunity to chat with Choi on how the brand got started, why they recycle old socks and what to expect going forward.
Choi: I went to schools that had students wear uniforms. Naturally, the game we all played was “let’s find the craziest, funkiest socks” and wear them with our uniform. Then these socks would be destroyed from how much we wore them. Every year I would refresh my sock drawer. If you want to do that these days, it would cost a few hundred dollars to create a new drawer full of socks. You know, guys these days buy a very efficient manner when it comes to low emotion categories like socks. So two years ago we founded this concept of selling an experience of a fresh start with our sock drawer makeover.
Q: Why did you decide to enter the hosiery market and subscription service model as both are exploding right now?
Choi: Accessories categories at the moment are usually built off of novelty, like socks with moustaches on them. That’s not our customer. Our customer is driven by utility and efficiency. We’re not going to send you socks every month, you don’t need new socks every month. So, every quarter, new socks (a total of 24 pairs of socks every year) will be sent to the customer to start to build out a perfect socks drawer. We target as deeply as your weather climate, where you live and your style. Ideally, after that initial year is over, the customer will start to send pairs of socks back for recycling; ultimately creating a sock drawer on autopilot.
Q: How does the recycling program work?
Choi: Most of the socks that we get we are able to salvage. We grade every sock that comes in, and the ones that we can save, we sanitize and send them to needy areas throughout the U.S. The socks that don’t pass inspection get shredded and turned into reusable fibers, typically like insulation and similar materials.
Q: How are you marketing the brand? Has social media been a big part?
Choi: We worked at LivingSocial together, so we have a background steeped in social. We know how to speak to our customer and we do this through Instagram. Socks don’t have a lot of narrative to them, so Instagram – which is purely visual — makes sense for us to tell our story. Word of mouth also has made a huge impact in our growth. Guys have been sharing their experiences of their sock drawer makeovers and this is sparking interest.
Q: Where do you see the biggest growth potential for this business model?
Choi: We are growing categorically. We have plans to grow into other categories other than socks in the near future. We also have tons of opportunity to do collaborations and wholesale. We’ve passed on previous wholesale opportunities because we want to control the experience of the brand as long as possible. At some point we would be interested in a retail partner that would share a similar mindset as us. It’s not going to be a traditional department store. An example would be The Container Store. They would be a great fit for our brand because they share a similar mindset. They want people to redo their closets, while we want people to redo their sock drawer. So, in the next 12 to 24 months, we will be investigating wholesale or distribution partnerships.