Wear and care is back in fashion

Years after borrowing a darning egg from my grandmother, last Saturday, I decided to darn all the holly socks that I’d been putting aside for the last two or three years. This same evening, by chance, I came across Socko on Twitter.

Socko is a brand of ethical socks made with surplus yarn established by Emma Mathews a year ago. The socks are made in the UK and sold with a darning kit so that their owners can extend their life for as long as possible.

“Darning serves a practical purpose and can be hugely creative too”, says Emma.

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Socko socks are made with yarn that would otherwise go to waste. How do you source this yarn?

The yarn is sourced from surplus and redundant stock of professional yarns from mills around the UK. We work with a wonderful person named David who is the middleman between the large scale producers with excess stock and us. We initially went direct to the mills but really needed someone with established relationships. David opened the door for us and of course, in turn, we’re supporting his business.

When you decided to create your business, was the idea to make socks right from the start?

Some people think we’ve limited ourselves by calling the business ‘Socko’ but we always set out to be single-minded with our ambition. In sustainability terms most items of clothing can be bought second-hand. That leaves socks and underwear. There are already many fantastic UK underwear brands like Lara Intimates and Miss Crofton, but there appeared to us to be a gap in the market for sustainable socks made in the UK.

Your socks are sold with a darning kit. Are you confident people are ready to darn their socks to save the planet?

I am! But even if they’re not, it’s about spreading the message and raising awareness. There’s so much that we can learn from the way that things were done in the past. The concept of fast fashion is a very very new, and hopefully a short-lived, one. We’re on a mission to extend the active life of clothing by re-teaching the lost art of darning.

How can we convince people to darn their clothes?

By choosing to mend something that is broken (not just clothing) you are investing time and care and, knowingly or not, creating a stronger bond with that item. Loved clothes last so if we’re only buying the things we need, that we can trace the origin of, and mending or reinforcing them once they start to show wear, we’re reducing the impact on the plant. We call this process Wear and Care. It’s also worth mentioning that mending is a hugely therapeutic activity.

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Is darning having a come back?

If our workshop attendance is anything to go by, I would say that darning is absolutely having a comeback. It’s a life skill. The thing that we love about it is that it serves a practical purpose but the trend for visible mending and celebrating the journey that that item has been on goes to show that it can be a hugely creative activity too.

Socko is an ethical business. Your website says that ‘every Socko decision is made with the aim of doing the right thing for people and the planet’. What does that mean in practice?

I’ve previously worked for global brands where you’re a tiny cog in a massive engine that’s already running at full speed. Your input is valuable but not change-making. With Socko there are the big things that we communicate with our product and there are the business processes that go on behind the scenes. A few examples being that we know everyone in the process by name and can ensure that everyone is paid a fair UK living wage, that our packaging is made from recycled coffee cups and that we travel by train to all of our meetings and events.

You’ve launched Socko a year ago. How is the business doing? Do you manage to draw an income from it?

Business is going well thank you. It’s been a steep learning curve this past year. I hadn’t anticipated quite how seasonal a product socks are. I’m glad the weather’s finally brought us back to sock season! I still have a side hustle to supplement the income from Socko but it’s been hugely rewarding to tip the balance and have my other job as the side hustle as opposed to Socko. Of course the hope is to go full-time at some point but the focus is on organic growth so that opportunity will come when the time is right.

You can visit Socko’s website here.