When Ahmad Afiz Danial Mohd Khairuddin says “I like socks”, it is an absolute understatement. Through his travels, he has amassed an impressive collection and, while studying economics in the UK, he began sharing pictures of his socks online. “Socks are my passion, and I share them with people on social media so people can see and that I’m ‘the socks guy’,” he quips.
Socks were a unique way for Afiz to express himself and his personal collection includes colourful, artistic and even mismatched pairs. “In 2014, I started an internship at a pension fund and, as an intern, I needed to really shine. So, how I started to put myself in the spotlight was to wear fancy socks, especially whenever I met clients or bankers. It was a great conversation starter. They would say, ‘Hey, nice socks! Where did you get them?’ and most of the time, I’d say that I bought them in the UK or overseas,” he explains.
As more people asked about his socks, Afiz began to see a gap in the market. “Wherever I go, I have different socks, colourful socks. And then when I returned to Malaysia after I graduated, I saw an opportunity in the market. Here, it’s hard to find quality socks and very good designs … So, that’s how I started thinking about Tale Socks. If I wait for someone else to do it, then I’m not sure when it’s going to happen,” he says.
The business did not materialise overnight. Afiz began his research while maintaining his day job as a corporate strategist, and launched Tale Socks only towards the end of last year. “Whenever I had free time, I would learn how to design and how to use specific software. It all started from nothing. All I had was my patience and passion for socks,” he says.
He also researched potential competitors in Malaysia, how many socks manufacturers there were and had an in-depth look at the designs available.
One of his concerns was with the material. “I’m very, very particular about dimensions and things like that. We use premium combed cotton, which makes us different from other cotton socks. Sometimes, when you wear cotton socks for too long, you would start to feel the sweat, because of the humidity. So it took me six to eight months just to get the right material for the Malaysian weather.”
To make his socks unique, Afiz decided on a Malaysian spin for his designs — from durians and rambutan to batik patterns and the KL skyline, he came up with a vibrant range that features local elements. “It’s a really, really hard process and it took me almost a year to complete everything, because I have a day job. When you start something new, it’s really challenging to motivate yourself and say this can be done. I want to show the world that we need Malaysian socks … So, there was a lot of trial and error and draft designs,” he says.
Afiz explains the name of his business: “When I went to see the Grand Canyon, I wore socks that had the picture of a desert on it with cactus. Wherever I go, I try my best to match the setting. So, that’s the whole idea behind Tale Socks. The socks tell stories, start conversations and you share your experience with people.”
He launched his brand last year by selling his wares at a Riuh bazaar and the response was promising. “We also did not know what to expect because it’s a bit different, but we got really good response from the public. They were asking for more designs, ladies’ sizes and ankle socks,” he says. Tale Socks continued to sell its fun designs via pop-ups and social media.
At the start of this year, Afiz was contacted by Netflix to have Tale Socks featured in the promotional photos for The Ghost Bride series in Taiwan. Chinese-Canadian actor Ludi Lin, Taiwanese actor and musician Kuang Tian and Taiwanese actor and model Wu Kang-ren are photographed in Malaysian designer wear, including Tale Socks.
After this exciting development came the Covid-19 lockdown, which posed a range of challenges for Afiz. His plan for 2020 was to promote Tale Socks by having it featured on runways, for example. “The business took a hit for a while, but we tried to stay calm. We started actively posting online such as doing more online marketing,” he says. Tale Socks’ website was launched two months ago and brought with it another surprise. “The first customer who bought socks from the website was YB Khairy Jamaluddin. And it was five minutes after we launched. After a month, he sent me photos of him wearing the socks, and he told me that he was going to repeat the order,” Afiz says. He quickly regained confidence in his brand and focused on looking ahead.
Customers can look forward to six new designs to be released over the coming months. Afiz hints that there will be more batik designs, Malaysian traditional instruments and games, as well as a black-and-white series. He also hopes to collaborate with local artists to create more unusual designs.
He says, “You want to put yourself out there, to be different, so why wear plain socks? There are people who go down to the details. They really care about their appearance, and so I’m catering for that group of people, who don’t see socks as just socks.”
This article first appeared on Oct 12, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.