Lumped together in a cluttered corner of what used to be the spare bedroom of an apartment rests a stack of papers decorated with graphics. "There are just orders we're completing - everything is made to order," says Amor Galeano, shuffling the designs with one hand like a black jack dealer would a deck of cards.
She plans on planting the designs on top of threaded poly-blend slates. The two slates are of miniature proportions, and will likely capture the melted dye of the design, once pressed between the scorching heat press that's perched underneath the window of the room-turned-Memo Apparel headquarters. "Our second bedroom is basically the sweatshop," Galeano quipped.
The outcome of this ten-minute procedure will result in a pair of socks with Chester Cheetah dancing on a bed of crunchy flaming hot cheetohs. Yes. Socks.
Socks have risen to power with a vengeance of a commercialized commodity. They were tired of being the last guy picked on the team of warp and weft, only to serve as a repellent from foul-smelling foot-fumes and play the role of Mr. Safety Net on biting, arctic nights. According to NPD Group, a market research company, for the past two years, the now 5.6 billion-dollar sock industry has fought its way up 16 percent in sales and had the largest increase within the broader apparel market.
The reason behind the recent sock boom: "Outfits are starting from the bottom up," said Guillermo Galeano, co-founder of Memo Apparel, a local streetwear brand who's known for their out-of-the-box statement socks.
From a contemporary standpoint, the dapper gentleman's request for bold striped prints and quirky polka dots on merino wool was quickly accommodated. But among the sneaker hoarding set, statement socks were few and far between. And Amor and Guillermo saw this as an opportunity they just couldn't pass up.
"There [aren't] a lot of sock vendors or tons of competition; we're one of four [brands]," confirms Amor, Gillermo's significant other and Memo business partner.
The couple first saw a demand in socks a little over a year ago while attending sneaker conventions like Sneaker Con New York and Sneaker Pimps in Miami, where people trade and consign their shoes. "Guille was really just trying to buy and sell sneakers like everyone else. It became evident that there was a market for it." Amor recalled the dearth of sock presence at the events she and Guillermo now work, "when we went to Sneaker Pimps in Puerto Rico, we were the only ones there."
With a heavy background in interior design, coming up with trippy intergalactic and geometric designs was a cinch for Amor. "Designing has always been my thing. In the beginning I took that really seriously. That's the one thing that makes your brand different because anyone could get an image and put it on a pair of socks." To satisfy the brand's courtside connoisseurs and hip hop advocates, the brand also has a generous selection of socks with 2Pac and Jordan's face plastered all over them (their best sellers), among other pop icons - even Toucan Sam, Chester Cheetah's sworn enemy.
Though the existence of brands like Odd Sox and Stance Socks sport a similar aesthetic, customization is what sets Memo's threads apart from the rest. Aside from the 152 regular designs that they sell in their online store, Amor and Guille pretty much print up anything that's thrown their way, including selfies.
Yes, distant descendants of Narcissus, you too can now show the world how much you love yourself by slapping your face on the lower half of your calves. "We thought, wouldn't it be cool if people could put whatever they wanted on a pair of socks? So we uploaded a customization option," unknowingly opening Pandora's box. "A lot of younger kids wanted a picture of their face and would send us Instagram selfies, so I was like, okay?" Amor laughed. This goes for the customized shirts, cell phone covers, and Beats Skins that also call Memo's online store home.
Unlike most sock companies dabbling in graphic prints, the duo does things much differently: "We're actually dying the fabric, instead of screen printing," says Amor. Poly-blend fabrics are ideal for maximum color absorption. "You can wash them, you can dry them, and the color won't go anywhere."
"These particular socks have been pretty good to us. Then we have you're typical Nike Elites," Amor points to a not-so-typical pair of Nike's finest covered with a Ninja Turtles design.
"They're perfect for playing basketball," Amor said and praised for their cushioned soles and sweat-wicking ability. Objectively, they're a dream come true. But Amor says to obtain the Elites at a reasonable cost can be somewhat of a challenge. "Nike is extremely selective who they wholesale to."
Still, the two-person brand makes more than ends meet out of the second bedroom of their North Miami apartment. Not only have the two amassed an Instagram following of twenty-nine thousand within only a year of conception, they also have hoards of orders clogging up their email server daily, especially during the holidays. "During December I'd say we were averaging forty orders a day," said Amor, "the holidays were crazy."
And now that the holidays have finally simmered down, Amor and Guillermo have their sights set on bigger ambitions. Amor said that the couple is "focusing on trying to wholesale with other vendors and stores. The sky's the limit; there's so many options."
For now, however, you can find the brand's merchandise on their website, memoapparel.com, Etsy, or Amazon. And Memo Apparel is slowly but surely staving off the race of trite, white tube socks with an unshakable confidence: "You may have the same sneakers as I do," bragged Amor, "but my socks look better than yours."