Since I’m 1,9m tall, my pants have never reached all the way down to my shoes,” says Sibusiso. “I’ve always felt the need to compensate for the space between my shoes and my pants. I did this by wearing very colourful socks.”
It’s always fascinating to discover the things that inspire an entrepreneur, however crazy. When Sibusiso was growing up his mother used to tell him to wash his socks inside out, something that used to irritate him. Yet it instilled in him an attention to detail that led to him becoming more conscious of what socks he was wearing, how he wore them and with what.
He established Skinny Sbu Socks in 2013, and at 23 became the youngest sock-maker in the world. By then he’d collected 70 pairs of socks, mostly by international brands. “I returned home after purchasing 13 pairs of socks one day and my mother suggested I start selling them – I had so many!” says Sibusiso. He began repackaging and reselling socks. After a few celebrities at SA Fashion Week started tweeting about his colourful socks he wore to a show, he saw a gap in the market and he moved from sock collector to building an international luxury sock brand.
Sibusiso quickly realized that for the brand to succeed he had to distinguish himself through design, craftsmanship and artistry. He was also adamant that the brand had to be 100% South African. “I had an option of manufacturing my socks in China at next to nothing,” he says. “But I chose to do it locally at a greater price because I want to contribute to the growth of our own economy. Every night I go to bed a happy man, knowing that my business feeds over 60 families.”
Two years ago South African men didn’t want anything to do with brightly-coloured socks. Tito Mboweni was the only guy that wore red and orange socks at that time.”
Skinny Sbu Socks only make 250 pairs of each design, following in the footsteps of a few other global sock brands in the luxury market.
“Our market is a world traveler who has an apartment in New York, does business in Johannesburg, eats lunch in Cape Town, shops in Lagos, posts to Instagram and juggles between his successful business and saving the world,” says Sibusiso.