Have you ever wondered how K. Bell began and what inspired the fun and fashionable selection of socks? I was fortunate enough to convince our wonderful K. Bell founder, Karen Bell, to take a few minutes and answer some questions our readers have been dying to ask.
1) What inspired you to start K. Bell Socks?
I was always artsy crafty and was always embellishing socks at night and for fun (doesn’t everyone?)… then I began dying them in my washing machine and creating collections of fun colors with trims, that was the game changer. It was late 70’s, early 80’s and all the socks were white, I started selling them to make some extra money and that was the beginning ok K. Bell Socks.
2) Did you have a design or hosiery background before K. Bell?
Never! I went to college to become a teacher. I took a business class in college and liked it very much. When I took my first full time job, it was for an accountant and from there, worked in venture capital. Those experiences led me to how I could move my fun hobby into a business model. I was doing something I loved, the rest fell into place for me.
3) What are some memorable moments that has happened to you at K. Bell?
Many years ago WWD placed a K. Bell new fall sock on the cover of their newspaper. All the retailers saw it and wanted it. That was amazing and great for brand recognition, all retailers were reading WWD in those days, the single biggest publication in our industry. Since then, whenever K. Bell socks appear in any publication, on a celebrity or show up in a highly visible location…it is very exciting for our team! It was thrilling a few years ago when George Bush wore our flag sock onto a field where he was being honored. Because he was wheeled out in his wheelchair, the socks showed up very visibly! That is a great memory!
4) What is your favorite sock design?
I think my favorite sock design is that flag sock mentioned in the last question. I was inspired to design that during the Gulf War and that sock has remained in our top 10 selling styles ever since.
5) What is your favorite sock color to wear? Why?
I love to wear black socks, most of my shoes are black and I like to match shoes with my socks! How about you and what do you say? Should socks match shoes or socks match trousers? Shoes, trousers…??? It’s a very old dilemma…ha ha.
6) What sock design have you not done but really want to do?
I would like to do a collection incorporating all natural fabrications and using the new photography technology…I think we are getting close, so that is all I will say…the millennials are all about nature and environmentally conscious, this could be fun.
7) Have you “socked” any famous people? If so, who?
Yes and that is so much fun! I am not comfortable calling them out, however I get a thrill when someone on our team brings in a photo, spots them in an article or recently there was a scandal about a marriage breaking up and lo and behold, the culprit behind the break up was wearing our socks in People magazine! It’s all fun stuff, we are based in L. A., we have lots of fun fun fun!!
8) What was your biggest achievement as K. Bell?
Our biggest achievement as a company was being recognized years ago as one of the most recognized hosiery brands in the country by WWD. We had worked hard to build up the company for many years and when we started nobody knew the brand. We moved into a time when our sales team called our buyers and they knew the brand we were calling about. This was enormous for me personally, branding in the beginning was just the start. One more achievement for us was finding RENFRO as a hosiery partner. K. Bell had grown beyond my management expertise,and they came in as the largest hosiery company in the world, owning most of the biggest sock brands out there. They filled in all the blanks at that time. They really supported us and BINGO, the partnership was born, it was the perfect fit!
9) As a #girlboss what is one of your biggest challenges?
I never think about gender in relation to my ability to manage, but years ago and in the beginning, a banker laughed at me and suggested that I would just go back home when I failed (suggesting I bake bread). That stayed with me, only because he did not know how badly I wanted to succeed, nor did he take the time to understand my business. I knew at that time his comment was sexist and subjective, and I never went back to that bank! That really hurt my feelings. One more thing, the ongoing challenge of finding good people is always there…I learned early on that if I hired everyone who could do things better than I, everything worked! I continue to surround myself with a team that does everything better than I!! This is key and I never forget it!!
10) For all the girl bosses out there, what one piece of advice would you leave them with?
I would tell all the girl bosses (and the boy bosses too), keep doing what you love because the satisfaction really does follow. My passion for what I do has never wavered no matter how our business has evolved. I love to come into my office everyday, I believe that was always the magic for me and made all the difference.