Sock Designer Finds Niche Market with Creative Idea

      February 06, 2013 08:19

      Hong Jung-mi

      Hamstrung by the huge financial cost of setting up her own clothing brand, designer Hong Jung-mi came up with the novel idea of making fun and colorful socks and selling them in a vending machine on a busy shopping street. That soon made her name.

      Hong worked at a woman's clothing company for five years after majoring in fashion design but quit to build her own brand. After much deliberation, she chose to focus on making socks which required less of an investment. Her first move was to take a menial job running errands at a local sock-knitting factory to learn the ropes for six months.

      Hong was keen to open a shop but again had to curtail her ambitions because of the expensive rent, which led her to consider launching an online store as well as a vending machine.

      "I wanted to install it in a popular place like the COEX Mall in southern Seoul, but it wasn't easy to find a spot with cheaper rent," she said. "I finally managed to set it up at the entrance of a store in Sinsa-dong, and surprisingly, I hit the jackpot. This really helped promote my brand."

      Hong's vending machine, which allows customers to choose among several designs and drops a pair of socks in a takeout coffee cup, soon became the talk of the town. She said her unique sales method and packaging are at least as much a reason for her success as her design skills.

      Due to the positive response from consumers, she now has four such vending machines, including two more in Seoul -- in Myeong-dong and Jamsil -- and one in Gwangbok-dong, in the southern port city of Busan.

      As awareness of her brand continues to improve, her online sock sales also jumped to over W100 million in 2011. Hong is famous for making limited-edition socks and not accepting repeat orders. She usually makes just 1,000 pairs of socks per batch.

      She said she named her brand "i hate monday" and opted to use stickers bearing short message in the packaging in hope of connecting with customers.

      "When you think of going to work on Monday, you often start to get nervous from Sunday evening onwards. So I decided to make something fun, creative and unique to help make people feel a bit more comfortable on their way to work," she said.

      She also makes odd pairs that don't match, such as ones bearing different colors and patterns. Hong said she wants to expand her business into more fashion items such as bags and knitwear.

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