McLean Robbins is a Washington, D.C.-based luxury lifestyle writer specializing…
Let’s face it. You have less than two week’s left until Christmas, and Hanukkah starts tomorrow. You’re in full-on holiday shopping mode. So step it forward and give the stocking stuffer that every man needs, and every stylish man wants – socks, personalized to his unique fashion sense.
Founders Ricky Choi and Phil Moldavski started Nice Laundry on Kickstarter back in 2013, back when they were both working in DC at Living Social, and have since revolutionized the sock drawers of thousands of men nationwide, with a charitable bent to boot. We asked them about their signature style, business model and more in this exclusive Q&A.
1) What inspired you to found Nice Laundry?
RICKY CHOI: This actually all started with my school uniform. We had a fairly strict dress code, but the one piece we were able to have some fun with were our socks, so over the years I had amassed a collection of over 100 pairs. When I first started working with Phil at LivingSocial, I noticed he had great style but he was ruining his outfit with a pair of white gym socks.
PHIL MOLDAVSKI: So Ricky challenged me to purchase one pair of dress socks, and that’s where the issues started. I loved the socks, but they were expensive, and if I wanted to purchase enough of them to wear a pair to work everyday, it meant spending several hours and hundreds of dollars hunting down the perfect pattern. That’s when we decided to build Nice Laundry, which is a single-purchase solution for this.
2) What’s your background in the fashion market?
PHIL MOLDAVSKI: Ricky and I have never really been “fashion” guys. We appreciate investment pieces like a great vintage watch or a well-made shoe, but fashion with a “capital F” has never been apart of our vocabulary and I think that’s been a huge plus in building our brand. We don’t think there should be much guesswork in selecting a pair of socks every morning, so our designs, whether they’re considered mild or wild, are designed and built for everyday wear to outlast our competitors.
3) How do you differ from other sock companies on the market?
RICKY CHOI: Apart from our value, we’re proud to say we’re the only sock brand in the world that allows our customers to build a custom assortment of socks in realtime on our website using our “Build Your Own Box” platform. It’s something we developed with the help of customer feedback for over a year, and it’s really been worth the extra work.
4) How do you choose the patterns/styles you offer? What are your most popular types of socks?
PHIL MOLDAVSKI: We take some light direction from the seasons, but, again, a lot of our patterns are based on user feedback. We make sure to talk to a wide range of first-time and return customers who can offer us some first-hand insight into how they select their socks each day, and which patterns they gravitate toward the most.
5) Your company takes in used socks/underwear for recycling. Can you tell us a bit more about that process, and why you do it?
RICKY CHOI: For some reason, I always feel wrong when I throw away a pair of socks or underwear, even when they’re worn out. In the early stages of Nice Laundry, we found out that the U.S. is on track to produce 35 billon lbs of textile waste by 2019, so we’re doing our part in minimizing that by offering free textile recycling to all of our customers. When they send in their soft goods to be recycled, our team grades each item to determine if it can be donated. If so, then the items are sent to areas of need, but if not, the items are shredded up and turned into new products everyone can use like home insulation.
6) What’s hot now, in the sock world?
RICKY CHOI: We’ve seen a pivot toward understated patterns with quality construction, rather than over-the-top patterns you can onlywear a few times before they become tired. If you look at how frequently a guy wears a pair of socks, it’s usually 3 to 5 times per month and if he’s wearing a neon argyle pattern, his friends and co-workers are going to remember. With that in mind, we’ve aimed to provide a good base of classics for every guy’s sock drawer, along with some standout patterns you can’t find anywhere else like our 3D paisley or tricolor camouflage.
7) You’ve recently expanded to underwear and athletic socks. Will you go in to undershirts, other accessories, like ties?
PHIL MOLDAVSKI: Our underwear and athletic socks have been a huge part of completing the Nice Laundry experience, and we certainly plan to continue doing that with several new products due out in 2018.
8) Let’s talk about styling your socks with your outfit. Is it ever ok NOT to wear colorful or fun socks? How do you match socks to your outfit, or is that like matching your shoes to your purse (a total no go)?
PHIL MOLDAVSKI: As a guy who’s been put through his paces in raising my sock game over the last 4 years, I still don’t think there’s an exact playbook behind styling your socks. I do think it’s important to remember that socks can be a secret weapon. They may be hidden under your pant leg, but with the right pair, you can own the room.
9) The socks look pretty unisex. Are many women shopping with you?
PHIL MOLDAVSKI: Our customers are a healthy mix of men and women both shopping for themselves and for each other.
10) What’s next for Nice Laundry?
RICKY CHOI: We’re looking to double down and expand our model into categories that our customers have been asking for including t-shirts and underwear.
11) Is brick and mortar in the works?
RICKY CHOI: There are a lot of advantages to a direct to consumer business, but one aspect of our company that we’ll never waiver on is delivering value to the consumer. So, while we’re not ruling out a brick and mortar concept altogether, we think it’s important to think outside the traditional confines of retail to ensure the shopper comes first.