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Q&A: Almond Rocks - Kyle Zhang

1:We love your fun Almond Rocks designs. We know you have a background in street art and stencilling, what made you move to sock design?

After returning to China in 2010, I found that the domestic fashion trend has slowly joined the international market, especially the clothing category, and also hatched a number of independent brands with unique characteristics. But there is a very big gap in the small piece’s marketplace such as socks. So, I think this was a very good entry point for me, and I especially like to collect socks. I hope that my designs can be recognised and liked by everyone.

2: And, where do you find inspiration for your designs?

Interesting things in life, news, craft activities, other artists, and more.

3:Would you be able to describe Travel with Almond Rocks? We’d also love to know what made you think of the idea of. It’s a very smart marketing tool. 

‘Travel with Almond Rocks’. People from around the world could receive a free pair of socks if they provided an address for us to send them to. The conditions were that these people had to share a photo of themselves wearing these socks upon receiving. 

I am very passionate about traveling. Different people, different travel destinations, and different travel locations have formed interesting stories, which have given me a lot of design inspiration. Different socks have become objects that I express differently. 

4:What advice would you give to a young emerging designer?

Stick to yourself, don't give up, and often the growth of designer brands is a long-lasting battle.

5:You’ve spent some time in the UK. How would you describe UK style?

Yuppie, the gentleman’s appearance contains a different kind of free romance.

6:What’s your biggest achievement with the brand so far?

In 2019, I cooperated with David Hockney's IP to design peripheral products, but unfortunately, I did not meet him.

7:Is there a particular designer or brand that you admire?

Chinese brand JNBY. Refinement and Ultimate

8:How would you describe your own personal style?

From the early pure British style, I have slowly transformed my own unique style, if I must define myself, it’s the geek style

9:There are many fun sock brands on the market. How does Almond Rocks differentiate itself from your competitors? 

Relatively advanced design and consistent quality.

I think the design is to attract consumption, and quality is the guarantee of brand vitality.

Our socks are currently in version 4.0. We have made 3 major process upgrades in the past 9 years. We have reviewed and revised ourselves from our customers' feedback and market changes. We prefer to increase costs and differentiate ourselves from competitors. We are currently focusing on quality. 

10:What’s next for Almond Rocks?

We will open the first physical experience store in Shanghai in 2020, and will launch some vending machines, and trying to intervene in the new retail model.

11: In the first 4 years of the start-up period, it must have been tough. How do you get through this difficult period and achieve a profitable sock brand? Willing to share some entrepreneurial experiences?

The biggest problem encountered in the early stage of the venture was the production of socks. Because there is not a lot of money to make a reasonable stock, we could only minimise the quantity in order to save development costs, but the order quantity of the socks factory was particularly large. We had to work with more than a dozen factories, until finally we found a small factory willing to help us produce. But the contradiction was. . . . . limitations of the craftsmanship and materials. After solving the problem of the product, we encountered sales and promotion problems. It happened that our own professional circle was just our precise crowd. Through some designer platforms, we gradually opened up the initial sales.

12: When you see more and more Chinese celebrities wearing Almond Rocks socks, what do you think of as a founder?

I am very happy and feel that my design has been recognised, but this is not enough. I hope that more ordinary people and non-designers can wear our socks.