Just how did two young(ish) Scottish sock entrepreneurs, manage to get the support of the most recognised male model in the world?
Well, like many good things, it all started with a drink…
You can be forgiven for not recognising him, but in men’s fashion, there is no-one better known than David Gandy. He epitomises that classic, British, gentlemanly style – and has a true gentlemanly personality to match.
His career in modelling wasn’t even planned. In fact it started unexpectedly when he won a TV competition while pursuing his university degree.
His entry to the fashion industry might have been accidental, but his sustained success has been hard earned. He comes from a very entrepreneurial family and it’s no coincidence that his chosen career path has become an incredibly successful global enterprise.
Given his success in business, his personal style, and of course his experience of the men’s fashion industry, it’s fair to say he makes the perfect investor and brand ambassador for us here at London Sock Company.
Above all else, he’s become a great mentor and friend to both of us, as well as to our families and London Sock Co team members.
However, our relationship only began four years ago when our online sock brand was in its infancy…
Ryan: When Dave and I first left our jobs in the City we had no experience in fashion, other than what we had observed around us. We recognised a real gap in the market to provide a great quality sock brand for the professional male. We researched and tested our ideas as much as we could, then finally when all the signs said yes, we just had to give it a go.
But where do you start? One of the first things we did, was visit Selfridges department store in London. Here they boast one of the biggest men’s accessories selections in the world.
Dave: I remember we literally spent the morning asking customers and staff lots of questions, about why they were buying one particular brand over another, or what sold the best to what type of customer. I think at one point some staff were on the verge of calling security, but the brand manager working that day was incredibly generous with her time.
Ryan: The next logical step was to test our ideas and knowledge on the industries top male stylists, to make sure we were on the right track. In part to appease the store for our borderline harassment of customers and staff, but also as we needed some new clothes anyway, we arranged a personal shopping experience in Selfridges.
Dave: This is how we met Joe Ottaway, then head of men’s personal shopping at Selfridges, who has since become a good friend of ours and an invaluable collaborator. We explained our idea to Joe and with his natural enthusiasm was keen to help. We showed him some samples from our Simply Sartorial collection, which was all we had at that point, and he absolutely loved them. He suggested a couple of people he could introduce us to – one of those being David Gandy.
Ryan: At this point we only had 15 pairs of sample socks in the entire company, so it was somewhat reluctantly that we sent out a burgundy pair to David. Joe reported back positively, apparently he loved the packaging and attention to detail. It was coming up to Christmas so we decided to send David a thank you bottle of whisky and a subscription gift card, which he activated straight away. Soon afterwards we sent an email asking for his feedback. He said he absolutely loved the brand and that he thought we were really on to something. It was kind of left at that, so we decided we needed to up the ante.
Dave: Then Joe mentioned it was David’s birthday coming up. The obvious thing was just to send him a gift box, but we realised we needed to do something a bit more personal. With about 24-hours to turn it around, we arranged for a mixologist friend (Dee Anne Quinones) to invent a cocktail for David based on his favourite drink, which we discovered was an Old Fashioned. We had the recipe printed and framed, then sent it out with some socks and a handwritten thank you note. When we dropped it off at his agency, amid the mountain of other gifts, we were resigned to the fact that he probably wouldn’t even get to see it.
The very next day we received an email from David saying he loved the gift and suggested we go for a drink. A few weeks later, a casual drink at The Donovan Bar turned into a bit of a late one to the point Dave passed out on Mr Gandy’s couch at 5am while Ryan cooked omelettes in his kitchen…
Ryan: I think what we took from the whole experience is that you’ve got to be a bit creative and personal to stand out: you can’t just send something and expect something in return. Also, if you treat someone as a celebrity they’ll treat you like a fan – it’s all about balance – and David appreciated that we were interested in him and his story, not his status. David’s got really strong business acumen and his approach is very logical.
We didn’t approach him with a sense that he was immediately going to invest, it’s just as important that we buy into him as much he buys into us. First and foremost our relationship is based on friendship and trust, and the odd night out for good measure of course.
Stay tuned to get David Gandy’s view on why he invested in our next Founder’s Journal, coming soon…
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