While working together at LivingSocial in 2011, Ricky Choi admired Phil Moldavski’s style — minus his ratty white socks. Choi helped Moldavski spiff up, and both decided there was a market for hip foot coverings. After a Kickstarter campaign that raised $120,000 earlier this year, the D.C.-based friends launched Nice Laundry (nicelaundry.com) on Aug. 12, selling men’s socks in bundles of six pairs for $39 or 18 for $99.
Did you know anything about sock manufacturing before this venture?
Ricky Choi: We knew very little. So I went to Korea and basically lived inside a factory for a week, playing with the machines, putting in different kinds of yarn and really learning about what makes a good sock.
How involved are you in the sock-making process?
RC: We do everything in-house, from building the website to doing the marketing. We also design the socks, including the sourcing of the fabrics and yarns.
How do you come up with the sock designs?
Phil Moldavski: We want everything to feel like a candy store. Candy itself is colorful, just like our socks. Then you can keep everything else you wear clean and minimalist.
RC: It’s art and science. Like many things out there, it’s how do you understand what’s popular as far as numbers and trendy, how do you also push the boundaries from an artistic standpoint? We have 18 different patterns — dots, stripes, a camouflage pattern, an Aztec pattern, a solid and one more pattern that has two stripes on it. The socks really span the range of conservative to very fashion-forward.
Which socks do you guys rock?
PM: My feet have gotten a bit wilder as time goes on. I started by being a really big fan of things like stripes and polka dots, and then I’ve moved on now to the wilder stuff like camo.
RC: After you’ve been a long-time colorful-sock wearer, your tastes start to get crazier and crazier.
Can you picture your socks’ bright colors and busy patterns in Congress or the White House?
RC: I think socks are almost the new necktie. They’re a way to display colors very differently, express personality. We’ve even seen George Bush Sr. in his crazy socks. They aren’t something you wear like a shirt on display for everyone. When you catch someone’s socks, it’s a moment of serendipity: They cross their legs or walk by, and you see that pop of color.
PM: Socks feel like that cool tattoo that only I know about, that I feel great about, that, once in a while, someone else gets to experience.
It seems almost a shame to wear these socks with a closed-toe shoe.
RC: We may investigate making a flip-flop sock later!
Are D.C. men dressing less conservatively?
RC: Socks and other accessories are fairly transcendent. Whereas you may only find one kind of jacket on H Street [NE] and nowhere else in D.C., you see things like colorful socks from Capitol Hill to H Street. D.C. doesn’t get nearly enough credit for being a fashion-forward city. We love being here.