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My fashion life - Mikael Söderlindh

The chief executive of Swedish brand Happy Socks on Brits’ sock sophistication and why he never wears black underwear

Mikael_S__derlindh__CEO_Happy_Socks

Founded in 2008 by chief executive Söderlindh and best friend and creative director Viktor Tell, Happy Socks began life as a colourful socks brand before expanding into equally bold underwear. It is now sold in more than 70 countries has 22 stores and concessions globally. Its first UK store opened on Neal Street in London’s Seven Dials, Covent Garden in December last year.

How did the idea for Happy Socks come about?

Viktor, a few friends and myself were gathered at home on a dull Sunday afternoon when we noticed that people were wearing bright socks to brighten up a grey day. In Sweden people remove their shoes automatically when entering someone’s home, so socks therefore get more of a focus. From there on, everything moved very quickly and a few weeks later we flew to Turkey to find a factory. A few months later we had our first order of 50,000 pairs and were at our first Bread & Butter trade show in Berlin.

Where did you meet Viktor, who you work alongside?

We met many years back and became close friends when our then girlfriends dumped us at the same time. We found each other over many bottles of wine.

What is the best thing about working so closely with a friend?

You can trust the person. I like working with friends: you can have fun while working. If it works out, it is the best combination.

And the worst? 

We know each other’s bad sides as well. But this can actually turn into something good as you know when you just have to stay away.

The brand has a motto of ‘all play, no work’. What does that mean to you?

If you do what you like it’s not work - it’s play, your personal interest. You must only do things that make you happy. This is the philosophy of our brand: we will only do things that we like and enjoy with Happy Socks.

How many pairs of socks do you own?

I always have sample socks and underwear from our factories to try new production and quality. But honestly I do not have many, because I always give samples back for testing after my first try.

Do you have a favourite pair of Happy Socks?

This really depends on my mood. Socks and underwear are for me an emotional decision when I decide what style or colour to wear in the morning. At the moment, I am pretty much into two-coloured dots.

How did it feel the first time you saw a stranger in the street wearing your socks?

Every time this is a big moment; I feel happy that our vision actually spreads to people. After that first emotion, I start thinking about where they bought them. Unfortunately, I do not get to see many people in the underwear - that would be a lot more fun. [Wholesale prices range from £3.20 to £10 for socks and £5.20 to £8 for underwear.]

You recently opened your first UK store in London – tell us about this?

London is a great city and British people, compared with the rest of the world, are very sock-sophisticated. You know your sock game and what a good sock is about. So I would say that we are late with opening the store in London.

What has been your career highlight?

I have never been employed and started my first company at 20 years old, so my highlights have been employing smart and brilliant people that can help me take my visions further.

And lowest point?

When the economy crashed in 2008 and I got stuck with several land investments in Bali. I got through it by starting Happy Socks and selling socks that made me and other people happy.

What other brands do you admire?

I love brands that go through bad times and good times, that always keep rejuvenating themselves to stay relevant. One brand I think handles the market amazing is Converse: you can find its classic silhouette on a businessman during the weekend, an aspiring rock star jamming, a model at a photo shoot or a child going to school in Indonesia. 

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?

From my father: nothing is easy or comes for free. Only hard work will bring you success.

What is the most treasured item in your wardrobe?

My oldest winter boots. They’ve survived 18 winters, several travels, summers and weekends in the woods.

Are you always as happy as your socks?

As I said, socks and underwear express a daily emotion for me and I never wear black socks or underwear. So no black days in my life!

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