Have you ever tried walking down the street holding your favourite vegetable just for a laugh? Probably not but the creators of character socks ChattyFeet, Gil and Humberto, have no qualms about injecting a bit of silliness into their lives on a daily basis.
Says Gil, ” You need to believe there is a place in this world for silliness and play.”
And their sock creations are testament to this philosophy. Why be boring with your footwear when you could instead clothe your tootsies in artists, action heroes and royalty? With names like The Toeminator, Vincent Van Toe and Frida Callus, Gil and Humberto have made sure your feet have the last laugh.
Come and meet the two designers whose crazy creative idea that was sparked over a dinner party became a fully fledged business …
Please introduce yourselves. Tell us a bit about your background, where you are based and how you’ve ended up where you are today.
We met in London while studying design in Central Saint Martins, London. We worked in digital media for many years before we had the idea for ChattyFeet. Gil loves cooking and one day invited a group of friends over. At one point he lifted his sock in the air and asked ‘what if my sock could talk like a sock puppet?’. A few days later we talked about it and decided to give it a go. We started to meet every week to progress the idea until we launched our first collection in December 2012.
It’s a coincidence … It could have been many different things. The good thing about socks is that everybody needs them. We also like the fact that socks are not always visible. People can decide when to show their ChattyFeet. After working in digital media for many years, it was nice to have a physical product like socks.
You have both designed some of the socks but have other designers too. Tell us about the creative process. Where do you get your inspiration from? Does a character or name spring to mind and you design from there?
When we started, we did a character each and asked two friends to come up with their own design. We didn’t know what would work so tried different things. Now when we come up with a character, we consider a specific audience. For example, our artist sock collection is a product designed for museums and art galleries.
I believe ChattyFeet is not your sole profession and you both have other work and interests. What is or has been the hardest or most challenging part of setting up the business and getting your sock ideas onto other people’s feet?
The most challenging part was to produce them and then to let people know about them. When you start small, not many manufacturers want to work with you so it took us a long time. After we had the product, we had to learn how to tell our story. We tried different messages. For example, ‘Did you know that your socks could talk?’; ‘ChattyFeet brings funny personalities to your toes’; ‘Our artist collection lets you wear famous artists on your toes’. Each time you try to communicate, you have to measure if people actually get it.
‘Wearing famous artists on your toes’ seemed to work well and we got plenty of media attention.
Is there a sock character you’re dying to make?
There are plenty in the pipeline but they’re top secret. All I can say is, we will soon be joined by Feet Mondrian and Stephen Toeking.
You say ChattyFeet is all about ‘serious fun’. Tell us how you like to have ‘serious fun’ in your life.
We like to have a good laugh. We think life gets too serious at times so we’re always looking for opportunities to be silly. You can do it by playing a sock puppet theatre with ChattyFeet, putting a set of googly eyes onto objects, making funny voices or walking in the street while holding your favourite vegetable. It’s not so much about what you do but more about your state of mind. You need to believe there is a place in this world for silliness and play. We think they are important elements in our lives.
It’s not very cool, but we really like…
The Royal Guard of Norway because they have decided to knight a penguin [read more about this very silly story about a penguin named Sir Nils Olav III who lives the RZSS Edinburgh Zoo at Laughing Squid].
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?
Obviously, who’d have thought socks could have personalities of their own? But also who’d have thought our Kate Middle-Toe socks would be Instagrammed by British Vogue‘ and who’d have thought our artist collection will be sold at Tate Modern?
Thanks so much Gil and Humberto for bringing silliness into our lives!