#legendchats: Brian Ching, founder of Playful Socks, Hong Kong
By: Rachel Read
February 3, 2021
How much attention do you normally pay to what socks you’re wearing? If the answer is “not a lot”, then allow us to introduce you to the brand that might just change your mind – Playful Socks.
Founded in 2018, this proudly homegrown company is dedicating to injecting some fun into our footwear – and we’ve fallen head over heels for their eye-catching colour combos and uniquely quirky designs, including many based around iconic Hong Kong symbols like trams, egg tarts, and mahjong tiles.
We sat down for a chat with founder Brian Ching to discover why he started Playful Socks, what inspires their designs, how their recent collaboration with Goods Of Desire (G.O.D.) came about, and what’s in the pipeline for 2021.
What inspired you to start Playful Socks? Why socks?
I started Playful Socks when I was working in the consulting industry. In an office environment, you’re expected to wear business attire and since normal business wear is quite boring and has to be worn for long periods of time, I wanted to create some fashionable clothing that could subtly inject new elements to business outfits. Hence, I decided to use socks as my canvas, designing unique patterns with the aim of injecting playfulness into our everyday lives.
Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?
Our designs are inspired by our surroundings and the culture around us. For example, with our first series “Hong Kong Foodies”, I noticed that many travellers visit Hong Kong especially for the food, and love eating the dim sum, egg tarts and milk tea here; Hong Kong food not only tastes unique but also represents the city’s culture as an icon of Hong Kong. So we designed socks featuring those food items to promote our beloved Hong Kong culture to the world.
We also get inspiration from trying out different colour combinations and listening to customer feedback. We believe that designing socks everybody loves is the easiest way to spread playfulness and give everyone a reason to smile!
How long does it take to make a pair of socks, from the initial idea to the finished product?
It normally takes around two to three months to complete a pair from socks, from brainstorming ideas and creating designs to receiving the final product. To ensure the high quality of our socks, we create our patterns using pixel art to accurately represent how the sock design will actually look once it has been produced. Once we have the design, we liaise with our vendors to create samples for us to check. Usually, the majority of time is spent going back and forth with our vendors to nail down all the product details and requirements.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in starting and running your business?
The biggest challenge in starting and running Playful Socks has been maintaining a steady sales performance throughout the year under the pandemic. Keeping a healthy cashflow for the business has been challenging, so it’s been important for us to identify the different sock categories that have performed well over the year and market them appropriately.
You recently collaborated with G.O.D. – how did that come about? What’s different about the G.O.D. designs compared to your usual range?
Our collaboration with G.O.D. started as we wanted more people to recognise Playful Socks as a local sock design brand in Hong Kong. G.O.D. is the perfect channel for our brand as we both share the same philosophy in creating unique and stylish products that represent Hong Kong. We thought that instead of G.O.D. just selling our usual designs, it would be great if we could collaborate to create an exclusive series for them.
Our G.O.D. designs have more of an “Old Hong Kong” vibe, with greater cultural significance attached to them, while our normal Playful Socks designs aren’t limited to just Hong Kong themes, but anything we think is playful and fun. Our designs are also usually patterned with smaller motifs, while the G.O.D. designs are bolder with Hong Kong colours. It was a fabulous experience to launch the new G.O.D. series with them.
What’s your personal favourite sock design you’ve created? Are there any designs you thought up that didn’t quite work once you translated them into socks?
My personal favourite would be our “Milk Tea” socks because it’s one of my favourite drinks in Hong Kong. When we were designing the “Milk Tea” socks, we deliberately emphasised that signature “creaminess” by featuring a hint of white inside the tea.
There are many designs that didn’t work out the way we wanted. For example, we designed some socks based on char siu rice; however, due to the limitations of pixel art, the samples didn’t reach our expectations. We ended up scrapping this idea and learnt that we needed to create our sock patterns using pixel art to reduce the discrepancy between our designs and the final product.
What are some of your other favourite homegrown Hong Kong businesses?
There are many Hong Kong brands that I admire, but my favourite homegrown businesses are G.O.D. and Giordano. I’m always inspired by the creativity of the designs and products in G.O.D., while Giordano showcases the importance of balancing creative designs, quality and price.
What’s next in the pipeline for Playful Socks?
We have many ideas to expand Playful Socks all over the world – we’ll keep coming up with more fun designs, and try to expand to other countries in Asia and also North America.
Around Chinese New Year, we’ll be launching a new collaboration with Hong Kong singer-songwriter Jonathan Wong. We hosted a competition on Instagram last year, where people created sock designs inspired by Jonathan’s songs.
This has been one of my personal highlights so far in the Playful Socks journey and we were thrilled to see so many great design ideas from everyone who entered. The winning four designs will be coming out soon as a limited-edition “PlayfulJon” collection, so please stay tuned!
Learn more at playful-socks.com