The past few months have occasioned few moments of joy for shoppers or brands.
But revolutionary knitwear manufacturer FutureStitch is attempting to bring some levity to a season defined by heavy headlines.
Founded by former Stance CEO, Taylor Shupe, in 2018, the “sock manufacturing mecca” is expanding both operations and product lines.
This week, FutureStitch launched its own in-house line, BooSocki, a tongue-in-cheek brand tailor-made for bored millennial and Gen Z shoppers.
The brand was inspired by viral memes, Shupe said, which have become the most shareable content of the modern era—especially during quarantine. “We’ve watched society fall into a place of emotional and economic depression,” he said. “We wanted to create products with topical content that were highly shareable that could get consumers to engage more with each other.”
The idea, he explained, is that shoppers will send the socks—adorned with Tiger King motifs, bawdy jokes and other pop culture references—to their friends across the country and the world as a means of staying connected while providing some much-needed laughs.
“It comes in a holographic bag that’s been heat-sealed to make it look like it’s a letter,” Shupe said. “It’s so fun to open.”
Each pair of socks is mailed with a card with an order number. If a consumer received them as a gift, they can type that number into a portal on the site to find out who “Boo’d” them, Shupe said.
Shupe teamed up with comedian Rob Dyrdek to develop the content for the products. New SKUs will launch weekly, he said, in one size each for men and women. Shupe hopes to see the socks in stores of all kinds, from stationery stores to supermarkets.
“You can get pretty wild and irreverent with it,” he said. “We’re trying to create something to lift people’s spirits.”
While Shupe is hoping to bring the laughs with BooSocki, he’s also working diligently behind the scenes to launch a vertical manufacturing facility in the U.S. FutureStitch’s 500-person factory is in Zhejiang, China, and in light of retail’s recent struggles, the impetus to replicate the model closer to home is strong.
The brand has six knitting machines at its U.S. base in San Clemente, Calif., and is looking to begin manufacturing premium sock lines there in the coming months. Shupe said the manufacturer is also looking to build out a facility in Cody, Wyo., the same town where Kanye West is reportedly building a Yeezy sample lab.
“I think local-for-local manufacturing makes a lot of sense, and consumers are willing to vote with their wallets,” he said, adding that the long-term goal is to have analogous operations in the U.S. and China, making socks for different markets.
Shupe said the current state of affairs—along with longstanding tariff tensions between the U.S. and China—have contributed to many retail brands’ interest in diversifying away from the country.
“A lot of work has been sent to Turkey, Bangladesh and Pakistan, but there’s been a lot more interest stateside as well,” he said. “It allows you to respond to the market much quicker and carry lower inventory levels, and that response is incredibly important.”
Savvy Gen Z and millennial consumers are also more eager than ever to purchase products that they believe are produced fairly, both from a social and environmental standpoint. “I think that interest is something that could provide a rising tide for U.S. manufacturing,” he said.