The fashion business likes a ‘category’. The more categories the more product and the more money, hopefully. If only it was that easy.
Designers and brands like to enter a category, be it jeans, underwear or sunglasses, usually partnering with a manufacturing expert in that field, and expand their businesses one category at a time. Take Tom Ford for example, he is just about to go into underwear after mastering jeans, sunglasses, beauty and trainers, in no particular order.
Left - N/A Necessary Anywhere socks available at Oki-Ni & Harvey Nichols
Underwear is one of the biggest money spinners for brands. People will pay a premium for somebody else’s name on their waistband - not really sure why - and entire brands like Calvin Klein and Versace are built on their underwear categories. They can charge a premium for something that is cheap to make.
And while the underwear category has matured into a reliable cash cow for many, the sock business seems so much trickier. There aren’t many designers or brands who have owned the category. With the exception of Paul Smith, designers produce the odd sock for collections, but don’t fully enter or develop the category. It wasn't that long ago that Burberry pulled out of the category and they make everything.
It’s interesting how people are willing to spend on underwear, but not on socks. We do have quality sock brands such as the German Falke and the British Panterella and Corgi, but there seems to be a ceiling on the pricing. People think socks should be cheap and when brands like Vetements and Gucci do socks at high prices - think nearing three figures - they seem like one of the most frivolouss purchases you can make and are usually a one-off show piece rather than entering the category.
The branded sock market seems to fall into two categories: sports and colourful office-type socks. There’s definitely a gap for something in between. So, it was at the recent CIFF fashion trade show in Copenhagen that I found N/A from New York.
When I searched ’N/A New York’ I got plenty of Narcotics Anonymous meetings, but it actually stands for ‘Necessary Anywhere’ and is influenced by the ‘everyday grind’. To the British that's walking (thought Americans didn't do that anyway!). They believe it’s vital to get up every day with the aspiration to move ourselves forward.
Founded in 2015 by Nick Lewis with six socks, these premium knit socks marry innovative textures with classic colours and patterns. When people pay for socks they usually go for something colourful and playful, N/A seems to have produced a cool sock which marries sports and fashion. They’re about £15, which, while more than your average three pack, aren’t extortionate. They fit somewhere between your smart socks and your sports socks and could, potentially, signal a new category within this difficult category.
In this golden age of saturation, what do we really need? Christmas is now all centred about want rather than need, so I've chosen all the frivolous things I'd like to see under my ChicGeek tree. Santa, baby...
Left - Hashtag Collective - £250
A Scented Candle - "One that looks as good as it smells".
Left - Fornasetti - Malachite Scented Candle - £125
Socks - "These aren't boring, they're proper luxe and they're made by Corgi in Wales".
Below - Kingsman - Cable-Knit Cashmere Socks - £125
Cushion - "I'd probably wish for more than one of these as it may look a little sad on its own".
Left - House of Hackney - Artemis - £148
Pen - "These pastel pens are an attractive refresh of a classic design".
Left - Caran d’Ache + Paul Smith - Blue Ballpoint Pen - £35
Bike - "Real men have a basket on their bike".
Below - Martone - Greenwich Grey Men’s Bike - £995
Watch - "The non-obvious smartwatch in a handsome and traditional men's watch style".
Left - Fossil - Q Founder - £259
Fail-Safe Tool - "Stick this on your keys and I guarantee you'll love having it with you. Most used? The toothpick".
Left - Victorinox - Swiss Champ Knife - £65
Pyjamas - "I couldn't get a picture of the blue and white toile de jouy ones that Derek Rose have for SS16, but let's just say they're worth the wait".
Below - Derek Rose Toile du Jouy Pyjamas SS16
"And of course the gift of style..."
Left - TheChicGeek's Fashion, Grooming & Style Guide For Men - £16.99
"Smell as good, if not better, than the Christmas tree".
Left - Tom Ford - Italian Cypress - £142
"If this matches your bathroom, then you need a new bathroom, but you'll definitely know which one is yours! The travel carrier/charger is a great addition".
Left - Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Amethyst - £249.99