Former LivingSocial employees kick off sock company

One day last year, Phil Moldavski took a walk on the wild side: He logged onto Zappos.com and bought the funkiest socks he could find — a pair with multicolored arrows for about $20.

“I went off the deep end,” said Moldavski, 25, who worked in LivingSocial’s marketing department at the time. “It was kind of a game-changing experience. I wore them to work and couldn’t believe how many compliments I got.”

One co-worker impressed by Moldavski’s socks: Ricky Choi, 26, a self-proclaimed “sock guy” who has a drawer full of 150 pairs.

The two decided to join forces. Both quit their jobs at LivingSocial last summer, and spent three months learning coding in San Francisco. Then they got to work in Choi’s Logan Circle apartment, designing socks in different patterns (stripes, camouflage, polka dots) and colors (orange, purple, tan). In all, they have invested a few thousand dollars in the venture.

“We were literally just creating the socks we always wished we had,” said Moldavski, who majored in finance and marketing at Georgetown University.


(Courtesy of Nice Laundry)

Last Wednesday, Nice Laundry made its debut on crowdfunding Web site KickStarter. Once the company secures $30,000 in pre-orders — each six-pack of socks costs $39 — Moldavski and Choi will begin mass producing their merchandise at a factory in South Korea.

(By the end of the first day, the company had raised more than $15,000.)

“Since we’re launching a brand from the ground-up, we just want to make sure people get behind this idea from the beginning,” Moldavski said.

Novelty men’s socks have gained popularity in recent years with the rise of companies such as Happy Socks. Even Rob Kardashian, the brother of socialite Kim Kardashian, has entered into the business with his new line of Arthur George socks, which are sold at Nieman Marcus for $30 a pair.

The biggest appeal of Nice Laundry, Moldavski said, is its price. Socks cost about $6.50 a pop, much lower than the $12 to $40 they generally sell for at department and specialty stores.

Plus, he said, the company’s six packs offers a one-stop shop for men who want to update their entire sock drawer without much thought.

“It doesn’t make sense to buy just one pair,” he said. "Like, I’m a guy. Why do I need to spend time on that stuff?”

The company will send customers prepaid shipping labels with each order, asking them to send in old socks that will be recycled into textiles and home insulation.

“I think it’s time that small businesses like ours begin thinking about social consciousness from the beginning — not just once they get to be [big],” Moldavski said.

Will bright, bold socks catch on in Washington, where many are wary of deviating from the city’s uniform of dark suits and conservative ties?

Of course, the co-founders say.

“I think a city like D.C. is the perfect place for crazy, colorful socks,” Moldavski said. “It’s like having that cool, hidden tattoo that makes you really happy but isn’t seen by everybody.”

Abha Bhattarai covers local banking, retail and hospitality for The Washington Post’s Capital Business section. She has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.
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