INTERVIEWED BY Amelia Brown IMAGES AND VIDEO courtesy of FEAT. Sock Co.
Cape Town-based creative Chelsey Wilson – the designer and co-founder of local sock brand FEAT. Sock Co., known for its bright, bold, happy wearable artworks – talks inspiration, collabs and the story behind name.
I had an obsession with socks from a young age. My mom would buy me cute, new socks while I was at school and I couldn’t help putting them on as soon as I got home. Designing socks allows me to marry my sock obsession with my love for colour, pattern and storytelling. I love to use these mini, knitted, moving canvases to tell fun stories.
Where did the name come from?
FEAT. is short for ‘feature’ because the aim of the business has always been to design socks that stand out and become the feature of an outfit.
What is one of your all-time bestselling designs?
The best-seller by far has probably been our ‘Night Camping‘ design. I’ve had to reproduce it a number of times because the demand for it has been great ever since it first came out in 2016.
Tell us about some of your collabs?
Collabs are really fun! I’ve collaborated with illustrators and artists in South Africa and other parts of the world and it’s always interesting to see how other creatives choose to fill the sock “canvas”.
I loved collaborating with local artist Olivié Keck (@oliviekeck) on socks in 2018 so much that we’ve recently done a collab on two prints for fabric face masks by FEAT. Olivié really knows how to create eye-catching works and her colour pairings are always fun and interesting.
Some other collaborations I’ve done so far: bold patterned socks designed by Cape Town-based creative illustration and design studio Hello Mister Frank (@hellomisterfrank); wildlife socks by Belgian illustrator Perle Mécontice (@mecontice); and abstract patterns by British illustrator Jake Hollings (@jake.hollings), to name a few.
Your range now includes masks and tights. Are you going to expand the product offering?
I always have new ideas bubbling around in my head, but, from a business perspective, I need to be smart about striking a balance between what people need (and want) and my never-ending desire to create new things.
Socks have worked so well because everybody wears socks at some point, so why not make them fun?! I think this is also why the face masks have worked so well, because in these strange times we’re in, they’ve become a necessity. And if there’s ever a time where we’ve needed our spirits lifted, it’s now. So making face masks that are colourful and cute has been a win! That said, I do have some more ideas up my sleeve – but I’ll keep them a secret for now.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
People often ask me this question and I find it so tricky to answer – if I say I get my inspiration from “all over” it seems vague, but it’s honestly the truth. I stare at my dog and dream of a sock design. I go for a walk on the beach and some more ideas hop around in my head.
I really like capturing beautiful everyday things and I’ve always had a love for animals, so they feature on my socks a lot. Interesting colour combinations also really grab my attention, and I’ll often then find a way to interpret those colour combinations into a recognisable picture that people find warm and familiar, whether it’s a cute cat or a camping scene.
What does your production process entail?
I have incredible suppliers who make my job really simple. I work with two knitting mills in Cape Town, and once I’ve sent them my designs, the rest is in their capable hands. They digitise my designs so beautifully and manage the computerised machines that knit up these mini artworks.
Tell us about your workshops.
For just over a year, I hosted (and often facilitated, too) creative workshops in my studio in Muizenberg. We did everything from painting and clay spoon-pulling, to knitting and embroidery. I started this mainly because I love crafting myself and wanted to share some of my favourites with others, and it was fun having all that creative energy in my studio.
I recently moved my whole operation back home though, so I no longer have my own space to host workshops in but I would love to do more pop-up workshops in the future, when it’s safe enough to do so. The lockdown has had me dabbling in many more crafts myself which I would love to share with others.
Is there anything on the horizon for FEAT.Sock Co. you can share with us?
Nothing specific just yet, but working with fabric printing for my fabric face masks over the lockdown has ignited some new ideas and things I’d love to explore in bold printed fabric, so watch this space!
Watch the charming video of FEAT.Sock Co.’s story, narrated by Chelsey and illustrated and animated by Greg Bakker.