One of the wonderful facets I have noticed living in London is the sock game. Especially for men in the city who usually are in a grey or blue suit, you can always rely on their socks to be full of personality. Previously, I was a white ankle socks lady and this was because it reduced the timing of searching for the right matching pair. In addition, if any went mysteriously missing in the washing machine or dryer, replacing the lost item would be easy-peezy. However, after living in London for a few years, I have caught the bug and wanted to up my sock game in an ethical and sustainable manner. So when I bumped into SOLOSOCKS™ on Instagram, I had to find out more about it straight from the founder of Uru.Design Alexander Morabbi Wulsch and the head of communications Adam Kuskner. They kindly shared their time with us at Trusted Clothes to answer a few questions conscious consumers would be curious to have answered about a new world where you don’t need to sacrifice style, or pair socks any more nor stack up socks that are missing a pair.
How do you think Danish culture and history, and in the wider scope Scandinavian functional minimalist lifestyle has contributed to the sustainable aspect of the brand URU Design?
I personally believe that sustainability has become a central part of Danish culture. Notions of participation, dialogue, collaboration, societal responsibility and wealth distribution – all the themes around which the modern sustainability movement is built – come relatively naturally to Danes. What distinguishes Denmark from almost all its European peers, however, is the proactive approach of successive governments to sustainability issues. Denmark was the first in the continent to establish an official environment ministry. Organic cotton is too becoming more popular in Denmark, with any new Danish brands making the sustainable switch to organic cotton. We at URU Design are based in Copenhagen, which in various respects is a role model for many of the world’s big cities when it comes to sustainable town development. To lead a green and sustainable lifestyle can be many different things. In Denmark, a lot of people strive to create a better environment by developing new and greener ways of living. I think it was natural for a company like URU Design to sprout in Denmark.
How does your company proactively ensure transparency and compliance within its supply chain?
From the outset, we have been working with certified producers and manufacturers only. Our current producer in Istanbul holds more than 6 internationally renowned certificates like GOTS, ISO, OE, OEKO-TEX and OHSAS. We are constantly working on creating a close and transparent relationship with our partners in Turkey. For 2017 we have planned to document the process and standards of production to give a “behind the scenes” peek at our manufacturing process. The most important things that we look at in suppliers is that they develop products that are appropriate for human health, provide a healthy work environment by taking all the necessary precautions, prevent contamination by being attentive to the use of resources, protect natural life and ecological values, and adopt the happiness of both our customers and employees as principle.
Why was it important for the materials sourced for the creation of solo socks to be only organic combed cotton?
Some of the benefits of organic cotton clothing include better health for consumers and farmers, environmental conservation, and cost savings for farmers. These benefits have created a boom in the organic cotton clothing industry in the past few years. Parents are increasingly purchasing organic cotton baby clothes, diapers, and baby blankets. In Denmark, both young and old consumers and men, as well as women, are switching to various products made from organic cotton such as jeans, pajamas, shirts, t-shirts, towels, bedding, mattresses, pillows, blankets, sheets, duvet covers, socks, bath robes, underwear, bras, bags, and other clothes made of organic cotton fabric and yarn. We chose combed organic cotton since it is the most comfortable cotton. Our socks are made of 80% combed organic cotton, 17% polyamide and 2% elastane. The reasons for the last two is that our socks need to be diabetes friendly. This is not possible with pure organic cotton socks.
We have furthermore discussed the possibilities of using new environmental friendly materials for future collections and products. Hemp for instance, has a much lower water-usage than cotton does and we have even looked into fabric made of coffee beans which is a fairly new component in the textile industry. We strive to choose the most comfortable material that at the same time make least impact on the global and local environment.
From the use of recyclable cardboard packaging to organic cotton material, why is sustainability and innovation a natural fit in the fashion industry and one you chose for the URU Design?
As a Danish design company, we feel obligated represent the green profile of our country. Copenhagen was in fact ranked the world’s greenest city of 2016 (by ‘Dual Citizen Inc.’). We believe that sustainable, organic fashion is trending in Scandinavia right now, and on the rise in the rest of the world. People are becoming more environmentally conscious worldwide due the increasingly debated climate change and we wish to participate for the betterment of this issue. Today, a lot of choices are influenced by questions of sustainability; are you taking the car, bike or train? Are you buying a plastic bag for your groceries or are you bringing your own? Would you buy regular socks or SOLOSOCKS™? This is something people consider when making an active choice in fashion. URU Design is a part of this choice and by making innovative solutions that haven’t been seen before, it is a name to remember. There are countless of strong brands in fashion that people go for, and as a smaller company, URU Design needs to stand out and offer people explicit unique products that represent sustainability and innovation.
In making the decisions to manufacture outside of Denmark, there was a lot of due diligence and risk management done on the factory in Istanbul. In fact, the website informs the consumer of the several European certifications (certified according to various European standards (ISO 9001, IS0 14001, and OHSAS 18001, Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series). Why is this information important for you to share with your consumers – and do you expect they are aware of each of these standards?
We do not expect all of our consumers to be aware of these certifications, however we believe that many consumers are familiar with the certifications as a big part of them belongs to the segment that is engaged with sustainability and environmental issues. But we are fore mostly aware of our brand value and how we reach the community. By putting this information on the website, we attempt to create awareness of fair labor circumstances and again inviting people to take an active choice to this matter.
Danish Design is about creating aesthetic products based on Scandinavian values such as functionality, simplicity, and minimalism. The designs appear to be unisex, is this intentional and if so, why?
In fashion, there is a rigorous distinction between men’s and women’s style. This follows a lot of opportunities but also limitations. At URU Design we try to stand out as much as possible by making innovative solutions in the field of fashion. Many would argue that making a product in unisex style reduce the range for design – but we only saw opportunities in creating more innovative designs. It was indeed a challenge to fit designs for both men and women, yet this is exactly what we were looking for. We intentionally went around the norms of creating sex-determined products to explore and utilize simple designs that are attractive to both genders. This is one of the approaches we use to stand out from other design companies.
Innovation means functional products that make life easier and more enjoyable. Beyond the odd number of socks, can you provide some examples of how your company exudes this?
Our main objective is to invent and develop solutions applicable to everyday life. We draw a lot of inspiration from our own life as well as the Scandinavian lifestyle philosophy. The main concept about SOLOSOCKS™ is of course the idea of not having to pair socks with one another. It solves a lot of problems we struggle with, but don’t prioritize to solve. Another innovative feature about the socks is the re-usable box they come in. The box folds out to be a sock-holder which fits right into a drawer. This is both a sustainable concept of re-using the packaging material and furthermore a simple method of keeping your socks collected in one place.
Since we are a young company we “only” have one product available. But we have many ideas on the blueprint. We are right now talking to developers about making other types of underwear that is both more comfortable to wear and even better for the skin. I won’t reveal too much, but I can say that it has to do with boxer shorts, bras and alternative stitching.
Quality is a matter of using the best possible environmentally friendly and sustainable material with social responsibility. How does head office, and the factory, embody these in action?
We quality check all our products and stay in close contact with our manufactures. This is a big part of the everyday work at the office in Denmark.
URU Design understands that one must not only question what material the product is made of but also where it’s made, how it’s made, by who, and under which circumstances. What has that journey been like for you and your team?
When we had to decide on the production of SOLOSOCKS™, we were discussing and researching many circumstances. The team agreed on two things: the production should be of high quality and should harm as few as possible. Production in poor countries such as China, Belarus and India, are commonly tied with cruel circumstances for the workers in the garment industry. We reached the perception that Turkey both had the highest quality cotton and very acceptable labor rules in our opinion. After a trip around Turkey to visit different manufactures we found the perfect one. The yarn is bought locally and we do all we can to make sure that all parties are happy in the end.
How do you remain committed to your CSR principles throughout your supply chain?
SOLOSOCKS™ are made of GOTS-certified cotton from Turkey, the country with the best organic cotton in the world. The yarn is bought locally in Turkey and produced by our organic certified manufacturer in Istanbul. That means that we source the yarn and cotton from areas close the production. To reduce our carbon footprint, we then ship all our socks to southern Germany where we have our distribution center. We decided that there was no point in driving/shipping our products all the way to Denmark, since our customers are from all around the world, but mostly in Europe. The distribution center is therefore located in Germany for both environmental and logistical reasons.
SOLOSOCKS™ are a time saver, money saver, and style saver. A killer combo that would please any consumer. What’s the collaboration like with the designers to produce them?
SOLOSOCKS™ are designed by our lovely in-house designer Anna Sofie Weinell. She is a gifted fashion designer by education and an amazing person. She draws inspiration from many different sources and somehow always manages to implement it in her designs. All designs are of course approved by the SOLOSOCKS™ management but many of the decisions, and a lot of freedom, is given to our Designer. We are always open to receiving designs from other designers since we use all the inspiration we can get.
URU (You Are You) – where individuality is reality – In the current climate which emphasizes a globalized market, how have you stood out from global or regional trends to give something truly unique?
SOLOSOCKS™ are made of organic combed cotton and are delivered in a unique quality packaging that turns into a storage box, designed to fit into your drawer space. Our idea is unique, and we don’t have any competitors or copycats just yet. Our principal idea, at URU Design, is to combine Danish design with innovative ideas and organic quality. Today, there are not many companies delivering all three elements in one product. All URU products will be high-end Danish Design based on unique innovative ideas using sustainable materials. SOLOSOCKS™ is the first product in a range that reach far beyond just socks.
So there you have it folks a fantastic option for people wanting distinctive Danish minimalist design to give your feet the luxury they deserve. Uru.Design in its mission and production of SOLOSOCKS™ is always putting its best foot forward and encouraging the fashion industry to do the same by setting an example that assessing a chronic waste problem and creating a sustainable striking product is possible with transparent relationship with its suppliers and its consumers.