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    Huely Socks

    Monday, 15 December 2014 11:52

    Written by Lise Hosein

    What’s life like as a street artist? Listen to Diego Bergia talking about what it was like being a part of that community in the 1990s:

    These days, It’s a little easier to create a following with the help of the internet,  but street and graffiti artists arguably still face a more difficult time than a traditional gallery-represented painter to make a living off their work. A key to success is finding mentors and other opportunities. Enter Huely Socks. Two guys – Dan Demsky, from the entrepreneurial world and Nate Kogan, from the art world – came together this year to launch a startup of artist-designed socks. They became super popular, and now the company’s on their second series of socks in time for holiday shopping. So why is the Community Arts Reporter doing a story about socks? Because it tells the story of how a company can reach out to an underrepresented local community and bring them into the mainstream.

    Let’s start with what the socks look like. Huely Socks are vibrant; some of them look like graffiti, as if the artist has directly tagged the garment. Each one is done in a very individual style, recognizable as that of the artist who designed it. These are the sort of socks you’ll want to show off, and they’re also made with durability in mind – they’re sewn, not printed. But it’s also the process of finding and curating the artists, plus putting them through the paces of sock design, that makes this company stand out. Nate and Dan told me about the process of finding the artists and what it means to Huely to use graffiti and street artists to tell a visual story about our city:

    Next, Nate has to work one-on-one with the artists to actually make the sock. It’s more challenging than you might think – creating a two-dimensional design is pretty far from designing one that negotiates the curves of the foot. But it’s often restrictions like these that lead to remarkably creative solutions. And for Huely socks, negotiating the demands of sock design is where the collaboration comes in – as Nate tells me, communication between him and the artists has to stay very open:

    At its heart, this is a story about a company that’s creating a great product you can get behind. But it’d be wrong to underestimate the power of a mentor for a street artist. In Toronto, we’ve been pretty lucky to already have an established community – we have outfits like Magic Pony, the hugely popular store/gallery that’s given graffiti and street artists chances to have shows, publish books, and make toys from their work. And we have patrons like Anne Koyama, whose Koyama Press has helped launch the careers of more of a few struggling artists. She helped out Diego Bergia, whom you heard at the top of this story. And Lazerhorse, an illustrator working on this series of Huely Socks, talks about what Huely means to him:

    But ultimately, don’t forget the socks! They come in what’s called “blind boxes,” which means when you order a set of three pairs, you don’t know which of the series you’re going to get. But that’s part of the fun – Huely will keep track of what you buy, so every time you go back, you won’t get any repeats. You can even buy a monster box that’s full of the entire series. The box is “tagged” so it looks like it’s been sprayed by a graffiti painter and, if you’re lucky, your box of socks might come with an original art surprise.  As Dan says, it’s a chance to learn about a new artist.

    So if you want to give a gift that’s exciting to open and will elicit reaction on the street all while supporting an artist community that needs it, check out www.huely.com – one pair costs $20, but I personally prefer the 3-pair box for $55. And Nate and Dan let out a secret when they were talking to me – Series 3 is on the way, and it’s about the urban chaos and art of Tokyo.

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