Eight of Toronto’s most prolific street artists have partnered with up-and-coming sock company Huely Socks and created wearable art. Called Series 02: Street Art, Huely Socks’ newest collection is a fusion of art, fashion and textiles. Creativity mingles with comfort to produce a unique line of hand-stitched socks that are exclusively Canadian.
Huely Socks launched in 2013 as the first sock company in the world to produce artist-designed blind box socks. Each pair of socks is packaged in an unmarked box, which means that the consumer has no idea what the socks will look like until they are opened. From wild teal blue with yellow chickens to geometric shapes, each pair is committed to showcasing Toronto’s street artists. Series 02 includes the design work of SPUD1, a graffiti artist who famously took on Mayor Rob Ford when Ford waged a war-on-graffiti. The series also features the work of artists Darryl Graham, Lazerhorse, Paul Byron, Uber5000, Justin Pape, Anser and Poser. In total, Series 02 features 16 unique sock designs.
The first launch of Huely Socks was called Series 01: Founder Series and was a trial run of the design process. This time around, says Huely Socks Founder Nate Kogan, the collection highlights the artistic accomplishments of the eight street artists.
“We wanted something more thematic,” Kogan says. “We felt that those eight selected artists were very complimentary to our theme. They’re iconic, many people know their work and know who they are as artists.”
From graffiti artists to painters to graphic artists, Huely Socks displays a wide variety of artistic mediums from some of Toronto’s best artists. It also offers artists a chance to showcase their work by simulating the designs onto hard goods.
Darryl Graham is a Toronto-based art director and freelance illustrator. He was selected as one of the eight to collaborate with Huely Socks. Occasionally, he will paint a canvas and hang it in a Toronto alleyway. He then takes a photo of his work and posts it to his social media pages. The idea is to come up with creative ways to promote his work, instead of relying on the chance that somebody will see it.
“From what I’ve observed, I think many graffiti artists look for other avenues, not just painting walls; I don’t think that’s all they do,” Graham says. “They want to be in galleries; they want to be on soft and hard goods; they want people looking at them and recognizing their work, just like any other artist.” Street artists do not have the assurance that their art will be preserved because the spaces that they occupy are public. “There is something temporary about street art because if you’re putting it on someone else’s wall, you never know if another artist is going to come along and take it over,” Graham says. “There’s something permanent about hard and soft goods that isn’t there with graffiti.”
Huely Socks has given street artists the opportunity to showcase their work using a more permanent platform. It’s also a chance for artists to be paid for their work, instead of continuously freelancing. “We pay the artists for their design work,” Kogan says. “We hire them on and we do a lot of collaboration work together; we’re hand in hand partners right until the end.” One major difference in Huely Socks’ collection is the design process itself.
“We don’t print our socks we stitch them,” Kogan says. “Stitching takes a lot of work and we’re trying to make art for your feet, so that’s where we stand out.” Darryl Graham adds that one of the most challenging aspects of the collaboration was transferring his art from canvas to fabric. “It was limiting because you have to work with stitches which is essentially like working with pixels and you get hammered down to a very limited amount.” This restriction meant that the planning process to produce the sock collection was extra delicate.
Huely Socks is unique in the sense that an everyday wardrobe staple has become both a functional fashion item and a piece of art. Because of the nature of the designs, using socks ensures that a burst of flare is added to the everyday outfit, using a minimalist platform, Nate Kogan says. “What we wanted to do is allow people to surrender a part of their everyday wardrobe to artists. Each pair needs to be worn with the confidence and trust that what you’re wearing is art.”
While patterned socks remain popular at retail stores, Huely Socks is gaining grounds because of their commitment to the artist and the Canadian landscape. “I think there’s a definite demographic of people who look for that specialized article of clothing,” Darryl Graham says. “These are limited edition and an amazing way to show off our street artists work. Anyway that we can highlight Canadian street art is amazing and well-needed.”