Cyclist and designer Sean Sakinofsky has more than 33,000 personal Instagram followers, topping many pro riders. He earned those followers with a concerted effort as he launched Sako7 socks and apparel. Riders worldwide now rock his flamboyant socks, from pro athletes to those who just appreciate the style.
Former POC director of cycling Peter Appleton has come on board now, and Sako7 operates out of Canada with global distribution. But it wasn't always that way. Sakinofsky launched Sako7 in South Africa, working through the night, sleeping during the day, and cramming his ride time into short, intense efforts every day.
"I knew with the first two designs that my style would not sell in South Africa. I had no choice but to find markets elsewhere," Sakinofsky said, explaining his off-hours schedule. "I spent the first eight months sleeping between 4-6am and 2-4pm, and every waking moment on social media."
Okay, so not every waking moment was spent on social media. He also went out and hammered five days a week. "Only 90min a day, but I would ride at 90 percent of my FTP so would have about 130 TSS on average every day," Sakinofsky said, adding that after eight months of this schedule he got chronic fatigue. "So I had to tone it down."
He may have backed off a bit on the bike intensity, but he kept pushing on Instagram, where his splashy designs played well and rode the #sockdoping wave. Other similar brands include The Athletic,Handlebar Mustache, Tenspeed Hero, and Panache, among others.
Sako7 socks aren't cheap
Sako7 certainly isn't the only brand selling flashy socks, nor is it the most cost-effective option out there. Sakinofsky lists a few reasons why Sako7 socks go for $21 (£16) a pair. For reference, The Athletic sells for $20/pair, Panache for $16 and Tenspeed Hero for $15.
"We choose human rights, environmental sustainability and fair trade practices over the alternative," Sakinofsky said.
Appleton also brought over his knowledge of yarn and fabric suppliers from his days at POC. Sakinofsky said the brand chooses expensive yarns that don't bleed and retain their color through washing, and manufacturing partners that can execute tricky designs.
"Our designs are more difficult to produce than simple stripes. We invented the Pro Solitude 26 months ago and almost every manufacturer told us it isn't possible," he said. "The samples they gave us were atrocious, so we found the best (and most expensive) and they customized their machines to make our socks."
"Just like many people ask why one wine costs $100 and another $10, we choose to take the high-quality route in every decision we make," he said. "Our end product, we believe, is the best possible product we can put out and the best possible in class."
Beyond the mechanics of building the socks, the mechanics of building the brand has similarly been a high-tech endeavor, and high-cost in terms of time.
"Our Instagram followers are from over 100 countries and we love each and every one of them," Sakinofsky said, and the the company makes an effort to "connect with them individually when they hashtag us, whether a comment, emoji or thumbs up."
While socks may make the kit, as Sakinofsky likes to say, social media has made the brand.