Made By Elves
Deep in the heart of central Taiwan, at the point where the island’s fertile coastal plain meets the mountains, lies the quiet town of Shetou. Small, laidback, and surrounded by majestic green rice fields and tranquil guava orchards, the town has long been the centre of Taiwan’s hosiery industry. Roughly one third of Shetou’s inhabitants are, or have been, involved in the sock business. Among the town’s numerous sock-makers Elfsox stands out for its hard-won prestigious reputation and the hospitable character of the Changs, the family that owns and runs the company.
Mr Chang, the owner of Elfsox, has been involved in making hosiery for most of his adult life. Having learnt the trade in a large, state-owned sock factory as a young man, he and his brother seized the opportunity to establish their own firm as soon as they had enough experience and capital to do so. In the 34 years since that time, Mr Chang and his team have produced tens of thousands of pairs of socks and built strong, long-term relationships with their customers. It’s this focus on the long-run, mutual respect, and a sense of pride in the quality of their products that immediately told us everything we needed to know in our search for a supplier; Elfsox was the perfect partner for SOXKS, not least because of the fact that this would allow us to credibly claim that our socks were made by elves.
Eva Chang, Mr Chang’s daughter, has been working closely with her father to learn the ropes (or threads) and will eventually take on the management of Elfsox when Mr Chang retires. Eva’s initial enthusiasm for the SOXKS philosophy and her open-minded approach to our designs, no matter how crazy, played a crucial part in getting the SOXKS project off the ground.
Sock Master Chang at work with his machines.
A Proud Tradition
As a repository of sock knowledge, Shetou is quite a remarkable place. Many of the people working on our SOXKS had made thousands of pairs of socks before SOXKS founders Matt and Arthur were even twinkles in their fathers’ eyes. Fashions change, new materials come and go, and customers flit from market to market, but Shetou has always managed to steer a steady course. A brief tally of the combined years of hard-won experience that have gone into each and every pair of SOXKS brings the total to a very humbling 168 years. Here are just some of the remarkable characters who make our SOXKS so special.
Sock Master Chang
Mr Chang is better known in his hometown of Shetou, central Taiwan, as Sock Master Chang. He's been making socks of all designs and sizes ever since he finished school as a teenager. While our Pink Elephants certainly put him through his paces, his patience and over 30 years of hosiery experience helped turn the SOXKS dream into reality. Mr Chang keeps a watchful eye on his 18 sock machines, making sure that every pair of SOXKS is knit to both his and our exacting standards. A characteristically modest man, Sock Master Chang dismisses claims by his colleagues in the hosiery world that he's the most skillful sock-maker in Taiwan, insisting he's only the second best. When we asked him who, in that case, was better, he replied with a revealing grin that he didn't know. "I have yet to meet that man," he said.
Mrs Hsiao and Mr Chang, in front of the embroidery machines.
Not everyone in Shetou is surnamed Chang, but close family and clan ties within the sock industry mean that many of the people involved in making our SOXKS are. Only a few doors down from the Elfsox office, Mr Chang and his wife Mrs Hsiao have been doing top-notch embroidery work for 19 years. Using the best, most advanced Japanese machines, and Pearl Yacht rayon threads, also imported from Japan, they and their team ensure that one sock in every pair of SOXKS is embroidered with a colourful version of our humming bird logo; a signature, as it were, of both our brand and Shetou’s craftsmanship skills.
Mrs Chiu at work in her living room, hand-linking the toes on our Daydreamer SOXKS.
Mrs Chiu is responsible for hand-linking, (otherwise known as hand-stitching) the toes on each and every pair of SOXKS. With just over 30 years of experience, Mrs Chiu's crafts(wo)manship means that SOXKS wearers have the most comfortable threads in town. Indeed, as one of only six people in Taiwan still capable of carrying out this job we're both proud and lucky to have her help, as most of the world's hosiery manufacturers have long since cut costs (and comfort) by using machines instead. Working from home allows Mrs Chiu to fit the work into her personal schedule and listen to her favourite music.
Mrs Chang fits one of our Pink Elephants SOXKS onto a steel setting board.
Not many people know that socks have to be cooked in a steam oven. This is the hottest, most time-consuming, and most labour-intensive part of the manufacturing process, and is necessary in order to set the shape of our SOXKS. Mrs Chang (yep, you guessed it!), her husband Mr Liu, and their team of 8 colleagues have been setting Elfsox’s socks for some 25 years now, and the speed and precision with which they perform their task is remarkable. The unset socks are placed over steel setting boards before being baked in the steam oven for half an hour at 150 degrees, after which they are removed and sent for packaging. There’s not much better than a freshly baked pair of SOXKS.
Mrs Lai unbuttons the canvas bags before inserting our SOXKS.
Once our SOXKS have been knit, embroidered, set, and the toes linked, only one final task remains; packing. This part of the process is overseen by the Elfsox matriarch, Mrs Lai, who just happens to be Mr Chang’s wife and Eva’s mother. Our unique packaging requires a lot more time and effort than any other sock brand and Mrs Lai and her team’s 30 years of experience help dealing with our humming bird buttons and the laundry bags that accompany every pair of SOXKS. With Mrs Lai at the helm, we know our SOXKS are in safe hands.
Anyone who wants to get in touch with Eva and the Elfsox team can do so by checking out their website at www.elfsox.com.