“I’m obsessed with socks. I even wear them to bed,”says Jason Simmons via his website deadsoxy.com. Jason is the Founder and CEO of DeadSoxy and just so happens to be up for a COSIGN Award, for “Designer of the Year.” We caught up with Jason via email, to pick his brain and to get the DeadSoxy story first-hand. Check out the interview below to read why we #COSIGN Jason Simmons and DeadSoxy.
Where are you from and how did you begin your career?
I’m originally from a small farm town in the Mississippi Delta. Clarksdale, Mississippi, is known as the birthplace of the blues music, and in all honesty, it’s about as far from “style and fashion” as you can get. The closest I came to design and apparel was wrestling with my brothers in a trailer of cotton while my dad’s tractor towed us to the gin. On the farm, “fashion” meant function, durability, and value: A pair of jeans that would last more than one season and boots that didn’t give you blisters. I bring that same function and value based thinking to my design today.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I don’t think I knew what I wanted to do growing up and for most of my life really. At the risk of sounding corny, I consider myself blessed to be doing what I was called to do. It just took me 30+ years to figure it out. I realized that I was really into design, clothes, and fit pretty late to the game. Of course, there were other things that garnered my attention growing up. Spending almost all of my time outside, I was interested in doing something with wildlife or farming like my family still does to this day. I have always been interested in psychology and began college at Ole Miss studying psychology. I ended up changing my major to business with an emphasis in advertising.
However, there is no doubt that I’m doing exactly what I should be doing today. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been into the fit and design of the clothes that I wore. It’s always just seemed to click for me. Now having done it for a few years, nothing makes more sense or connects the dots better. That’s why I say, I’m doing what I should be doing. At this point in my life, it just ties all of my experiences and desires into a nice little package. It just works.
Who inspires you the most in your industry?
Oh man, tough question. I am inspired all the time by people, places, design, buildings, outdoors etc. I’m inspired most in my industry by other brands that are pushing the envelope. It’s both inspires me and keeps me pushing forward as fast as possible. I enjoy and work well under pressure and with apparel being the most competitive industry in the world there is no lack of pressure.
What has been your biggest struggle in getting to where you are now in your profession?
Fear and Self-doubt play far too large of a role in my daily thought processes. Both are ingrained in everything I do but I’m happy to say that I’m aware and I can recognize and overcome them for the most part. I truly believe that we are limited only by the limits that we unconsciously set for ourselves. Fear is a hell of a force. Mine is a daily struggle to remove fear and self-doubt and to just create from my authentic point of view. I know if I can stay true to myself and create from that place, I’ll ultimately win. The struggle is real tho.
Did you have a “leap of faith” moment? If so, how did you decide to make the leap and what were the circumstances around it?
Absolutely. The sock brand concept began in late 2012 and after 2+ years of research, development, and learning everything from scratch, our 53rd sample arrived. We finally felt this was a sock that we felt people would love. I’ll never forget it, the sample came in and I knew immediately my life was about to change forever.
A quick rundown of my career: I began my career out of college like I would assume most young people do. I took the first job that was offered to me. And, unlike most others, I’m so grateful that I did. I learned so much during my 9 years there. We accomplished some really great things. I eventually became VP of Sales and a Partner. Needless to say as a Partner, I was doing quite well when I made the decision to walk away and chase my dream. I laughingly say “I made the decision” but I really had no other choice. Around year 7 with the consulting firm the little voice in head pushing me to go create got loud enough that I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I began working on a few things in my spare time and in just a few short months I found myself working a full workday at home after my real work day at the office. I did this for about 18 months until I felt it was the right time to move on and chase my dream. You know when it’s time.
What makes your brand unique compared to others in your field/industry?
Our differentiator is and will always be the product. We are a product-centric brand and that permeates everything we do. From the fabric that we develop to the width and elasticity of the arch support, we sample, test, and tweak every single aspect of our garments. We also meticulously focused on the technical design process so the fit will be the same each and every time. With basics, the difference is in the details so we obsessed over every stitch and seam until we reached “our” definition of perfect.
Over 2 years of research, development, and sampling is an extremely long time. That’s important because it would have been very easy to come out with a sock similar to what everyone else has on the market…. I’ll briefly explain: Manufacturers are notoriously focused solely on the bottom line. They want to put any new/smaller brands into existing programs or programs very similar to what they do for other brands to decrease machine downtime and maximize revenue. We wanted something very different. The sock that we wanted was new and innovative and that required a fairly significant investment on the front end for any potential manufacturing partner. To say that finding the right suppliers was difficult would be a huge understatement.
We design to solve problems. Frankly, I have no interest in creating a brand that is doing what others are doing. When I wear clothes, I feel and see little things that could be better in the technical design process. Once I’ve noticed something a few times, I start to pay attention to it. Then, I talk to others to see if their experience is similar to mine and to see what brands they love in that particular category. I sample those brands for a while to see if they got it right. If they didn’t I begin my exploration into what it would take to get it right. For instance, a dress sock that slides down your leg throughout the day was the first problem that we solved. When I asked people if they had the same problem most just blindly accepted it as part of wearing cool socks… I was shocked that the masses would accept paying $20+ for a pair of socks that didn’t stay up. So I set out to solve that problem. The same thing with our no shows launching 8/17. Why even wear a no show if it doesn’t stay on your foot?? I’m happy to say that we solved that problem too.
How does your business or brand improve the industry you’re currently in?
We hope to push the industry forward through sheer will of innovation. We aren’t going to “settle” just to release a line and over time that will put pressure on bigger brands to get it right before going to market. And if not, we’re ok with that too because we’ve sold 130,000 pairs of socks and that alone proves there is a market for smart design paired with premium fabrics.
How has social media improved your business or brand?
Social media is pivotal for the DeadSoxy brand. Other than our website this is the face of the brand. This is what people see. This is where they research. This is where they live. Social is a massive opportunity to build your community and communicate with them in your unique brand voice. Social has been a massive part of our strategy and will continue to play a big role moving forward.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
In my life, I’ve always looked forward and set milestones for myself both personally and professionally. In 5 years, I just want to be doing something that is exciting to me. I want to struggle to leave it at night and pop outta bed because I can’t wait to get back to it in the morning. If I’m surviving and living with the same sense of purpose that I do today, I’ll take that. However, I want to build DeadSoxy into a household name synonymous with American quality. If this happens we all win because we’ll have raised the bar.
What does success mean to you?
Success comes in many forms. Health, Relationships, Inner Peace, Wealth etc. However, when I relate this question to our business, first it’s really about building something that is authentic, sustainable and reaches a point where it can live without me there to guide it.
The cool thing about DeadSoxy is the products we sell will always be in demand and as the masses become more aware of what quality looks and feels like we have positioned ourselves very well to achieve “success”. There’s a lot of pressure to do more, more, more, but for us, it’s really about staying being genuine and building a company that can stand on its own.
Who does Jason #COSIGN?
Lesli Marshall – @lm_artndesign
Ben Davis – @thegentsplace
Steven Fisher – @stateandliberty
John Haji – @gentlemansbox
Jason Taylor – @seleryfulfillment
Vareel Rathod – @jhilburnco
Michealan Marie – @michealanmarie
Blake Hamilton – @the_sharpgentleman
Daniel Drenski & Sarah Reyes – @exploredinary (@dd_danieldriensky & @complicatedequation)