Tag Archives: Korea

Jay’s Asia Trip

2016-08-Blog-Jay-Trip-Building

In addition to our liaison Sharon, who travels to our factories in South Korea all the time, we like to have a Sock It to Me employee go to Asia every other year to connect with our manufacturers and check in on operations. This year, Jay got to go!

Jay spent 10 days traveling, 5 in South Korea and 5 in China, to meet the folks he’s been conversing with via email for the last year. Jay is our Pre-Production and Quality Assurance expert. When new items come in, he’s the one who makes sure they meet our high standards. So, it made perfect sense that he should visit the factories where our socks and undies are made.

Sock-KnitterJay’s first stop was Seoul, South Korea where our socks are manufactured. He was witness to the entire sock creation process from spools of thread on the wall to socks ready to head out the door.

Hefty machines are programed with our designs and loaded with the appropriate color threads (you can see the purples and tan that go into our Sloth Sock being fed into this machine). The threads are spun back and forth until a sock tube is created.

2016-08-Blog-Jay-Trip-Sock-ProcessThe sock tube is spit out, inside-out and stacked on the machine. The pile of inside-out socks are taken to be turned right-side-out, one-by-one on wire frames. Once the socks have the proper side facing out, they get their toe seam added—an important step in differentiating the sock from a leg warmer.

After they become a complete sock, they are placed on the crazy-looking sock forms shown here to be boarded, steamed and flattened into the sock shape we know and love. After they have acquired their appropriate silhouette, our Sock It to Me tags are fastened to each pair and they are packaged to make their trip to the USA.

Next, Jay traveled to China. He got to watch a giant machine knit the fabric that gets turned into our underwear.

2016-08-Blog-Jay-Trip-Underwear-ProcessThread is guided into the machine from multiple spools. The entire top of the machine is surrounded by tiny, circling fans. The fans serve two purposes: 1. They keep the machines cool, 2. They keep flying debris out of the fabric during the knitting process.

Once it is knit, the fabric is printed or dyed (we use an “all-over-roller-print for most of our designs) and laid out to rest so all creases and stretched portions become uniform before the cutting process. The prepared fabric is stacked up and cut into pieces that will get sewn into underwear. The elastic bands, though, are created on an entirely separate machine.

All of these machines are programed with our specific patterns to create our wacky designs and logo infused waist bands.

We have high standards across the board: for our products and for the people who produce them. Jay was also visiting these factories to ensure that they are meeting the expectations of the social compliance standards that we’ve established. We use third party auditors such as BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) and Intertek: Workplace Conditions Assessment to set our expectations for compliance. These include:

Emergency Preparedness
No overtime without compensation
Freedom of association and collective bargaining
Occupational health and safety
And many more

Sock It to Me will continue to build relationships with our manufacturers, oversee what these factories are producing for us, and make sure they’re doing it in a socially compliant way.

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2016-08-Blog-Jay-Trip-FoodJay spent 3+ hours a day in a car traveling from facility to facility and only got one day off while he was there. He spent it with our liaison Sharon and David, the manager and son of the owner of the very first factory Sock It to Me started producing socks with. They went to Gyeongbokgung Palace and the National Folk Museum of Korea that lays within. Afterward, they went to the show Cookin’ Nanta which Jay describes as a cross between Stomp and Chopped. Cookin’ Nanta is the longest-running show in Korean history and has been staged in 18 countries around the world. We can’t wait for it to come back to America!

They went out to some really amazing meals (like the sushi boat pictured), but Jay says his favorite was eating at the first factory he visited.

They have a kitchen where the chef makes different home-cooked style meals for their employees. They have a new menu every day, comprised of healthy food made with a lot of care. The owner of the factory eats there daily along with most factory employees from every level. Jay says it was such a communal, social, heart-warming experience, it makes sense that most people eat there every day.

Here are some more amazing behind-the-scene photos of Jay’s trip:

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2016-08-Blog-Jay-Trip-Knitcom

2016-08-Blog-Jay-Trip-Sock-Knit-Closeup

 

This is how we do it, do it

The life of a sock design is very intriguing. Most people don’t realize that it can often take a full 90 days to bring the concept to the shelf. It may be long, but we feel it is the only way we can add our stamp of approval, with quality one of our utmost priorities. After all, we want you to love the socks you wear, and be proud of what you stand upon, from fit to finish.

Thinking the process is pretty interesting stuff, we thought you’d enjoy taking in the general timeline… which begins with a design, like the Grand Prize winning “Love Luma” submitted in last year’s Global Design-A-Sock Contest:

As we look at producing the sock, we have to first decide if we need to make any adjustments to the design to accommodate the thread alignment and how it could affect stretch and quality. Sometimes they are fine as they are; if not, we hire a designer to recreate the design for us (explaining why we ask for simple designs and limit colors used in our design contest).

Continue reading This is how we do it, do it

Asia Trip

Hi guys, I’ve been back from my Asia trip for a couple weeks now and am finally getting around to write about my experience.  I love to travel, so to do it for work was a great excuse.  I spent almost three weeks in South Korea, China and Taiwan, doing some sock research and exploring new product ideas.  (I even got a chance to sneak in a dinner with my aunt and cousins that live in Seoul.)  I visited manufacturers that made athletic socks, baby socks, toe socks, tights, and leg warmers, constantly asking myself, what do people want? I took lots of pictures, got lots of samples, and got all of the creative juices flowing.  The only problem now? What direction to choose first! (Thanks for all of your feedback on Facebook!)

The trip started out with 6 days in Seoul, South Korea.* I stayed at a nice, central hotel on the 31st floor (see video below) and nearly every morning started with a business-related meeting.

My great friend and business partner was my chaperon while there.  Here is a picture of myself with him and his family:

One of the most important stops in my tour was of the facilities we currently use. I was surprised to see that the actual sock machines don’t need much man power.  In a room with approximately 30 machines, only one person is needed to keep everything running smoothly.  Surprising, huh?  Once the machines are threaded they automatically start pumping out sock tubes. I witnessed this with all the sock manufacturers that I met along my tour.  Here is a video I took at our current manufacturer that captures the making of our very own Men’s Mustache sock:

Pretty cool huh?  I was in awe.  This type of behind-the-scenes, how-it’s-made stuff fascinates me.  While the socks are machine-made as tubes, a team of sweet women (shown towards the end of the video) then seam the toe closed. From there, the socks are put on a foot form and sent through a steamer to get the wrinkles out.  Next they are labeled, packed into boxes and loaded into a container.  From there they are trucked from Seoul to Busan, South Korea’s port, and loaded onto a container ship.  After an 11-day journey over the ocean, they finally land at the Port of Portland, right here in Oregon.  As the last piece of the puzzle, the truck then delivers the socks to our warehouse/SITM HQ, and we all gather to unload the boxes, one at a time.  This is a lot of work, because every 20-ft container holds 60,000 pairs of socks, and each 40-ft container holds 120,000 pairs of socks—and we get several of each, every year!

Jay looking studly as he waits for the container

To finish out the tour of our manufacturer, the CEO treated us to what seemed like a 12-course meal.  Below is a video clip I took of him eating this really interesting dish that was explained to me as tasting like rotten fish.  I did try it (but didn’t like it), and it indeed had a very strong, pungent taste, almost like it was fermented. Mmmm yummy?  This video captures the making of the perfect bite and eating it in “one shot”.

After visiting two other sock manufactures in Korea, I headed to China for the second part of the trip.  While there, I visited several more manufacturers and was really struck in particular by Andy, the female owner of a lingerie company who is almost the exact same age as me (32).  The whole experience was awe-inspiring; from the variety of the product (very detailed items using multiple types of fabric and embellishments) to the way Andy provides for her employees.

As I toured through Andy’s showroom, I saw lingerie items of all kinds, plus tutus and costumes (leprechaun, sailor, and Little Bo Peep) made from a variety of beautiful fabrics and embellishments.  When we headed to the workroom, the staff was busy sewing the latest orders; some items with black frills, others with pink lace.  As I watched the 30 or so people sitting behind sewing machines working on different products—with the sun streaming in through big, ceiling-reaching windows—it looked like an enjoyable place to work, where all of the workers are well-treated, like family.

In fact, Andy provides furnished, dorm-style housing for her staff, because many of her workers come from small towns far away and must live on-site.  She also provides a cafeteria that serves three meals a day, and their lunch break is an hour and a half long. By the looks of it, basketball is a big lunchtime activity, as I noticed a group of men outside playing the day I visited. Andy says that providing all these provision is common amongst manufacturers and to keep employees she must cover them otherwise they’ll go elsewhere.

It was all very different from the way we do things in the U.S., and different I think from how we think they’re done in China.  I’m glad I’m able to shed some positive light on the subject with my firsthand experience. Before I left, I was a bit nervous about what I might see, with the sweatshop stories circulating in the States.  But Andy’s operation and the manufacturers I visited throughout my trip were not the least bit scary.  It certainly isn’t glamorous work for those who at the sewing machines, but I liken it to similar jobs here in the U.S. like fast food—jobs that aren’t necessarily the best jobs in the world, but they’re honest work with honest pay.

After the tour of the facilities, Andy took me to the wholesale market where she sources all of her fabrics.  AMAZING.  There were buildings as big as malls with floor-to-ceiling lace—antique lace, multi-color lace, wide lace, thin lace, lace with sequence, and so on.  Then there were fabric stores with the same kind of set up, with rolls and rolls in every kind of knit you could imagine.  It was impressive, to say the least.

After our long day, Andy invited me to dinner with her father at her colleagues’ house.  They treated me to the traditional Chinese Hot Pot.  It was delish! I enjoyed my time very much, and it was really interesting to see how Andy balanced her personal life while running her business.  It’s a different game altogether when spouses and kids are added to the equation.

Hot Pot!
Andy and friends

My last stop was Taiwan.  I was there to meet a manufacturer who made our extra-long leg warmers.  Coincidentally enough, the head person there was also female.  Her name is Samina.  Most impressive was the fact that her home (which houses her 2 children, mother and father) was directly under her offices… and next door to her sample-making machines and packaging partner.  It was like a little sock compound!  The coolest part about her set up was that she could run downstairs at any time to see her darling little kids.  Here is a picture of her too-cute son:

Samina’s darling baby boy

After Taiwan—home.  I was wiped.  But all in all, it was a great trip.  I was humbled by the extreme generosity and hospitality I received from all I visited.  I’m also glad to have amassed so much new information and grateful to have had the opportunity to see the whole manufacturing process, while building upon old relationships—and making new ones.  Plus I got to visit some unique countries.  I didn’t even get a chance to mention all of the fun markets and crazy foods that I ingested.  But that will all come in another post.  So check back for another blog on that!

Thanks for your interest and if you have any questions, please ask.

Carrie

*Don’t worry; despite the recent scuffles between the 2 Koreas, I was fine.  The people of South Korea were definitely aware of the threat, but things seemed to carry on as normal.  My father (who never worries) even called before I left to express his concern.  I had gone on to China by the time the threat was the highest on that Monday.