Socks line gets toehold in fashion market
Running a successful fashion line takes a lot of hard work and dedication.
A few celebrity endorsements don’t hurt either.
Bermudian Gemma Shane launched Pum Pum Socks with Jamaican stylist Savannah Baker last November.
Their frilly footwear collection has been spotted on popular singers Lana Del Rey, Rita Ora and Rihanna. Celebrities Sean Paul and Sizzla are also supporters of the brand.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great opportunities come our way,” Ms Shane said. “We did a collaboration with adidas on one of their shoots, so it was all socks and sandals. The models wore Pum Pum Socks along with their adidas sliders. That came about through knowing some of the right people in England. Savannah is a stylist and therefore pretty well connected and I know a lot of people in the industry, so we’ve got a lot of attention so far.”
They chose the name Pum Pum specifically because it’s slang for vagina.
“We aim to take back the word as a non-derogatory expression that can be fun and tongue-in-cheek,” Ms Shane said. “We aim to empower women and our goal is to build a world where female attributes are not referred to in derogatory ways.”
The women showed their collection at London Fashion Weekend during the spring.
“One of our biggest moments came when Rihanna took a photo of herself wearing our socks and posted it on her Instagram page,” Ms Shane said. “It happened really late at night and once I found out I couldn’t get to sleep, I was too excited.
“She went to one of our stockists and bought them for herself, so it was lucky for us to get that little push.”
A meeting with a fashion buyer eight years ago got Ms Shane interested in a career in fashion. She studied fashion management at Nottingham Trent University and worked as an intern at Li&Fung, a clothing manufacturing supply company. Somehow, she managed to land herself an internship at ‘Vogue’ magazine.
“I was walking along the street in New York and there was a shop there and I saw a little boy screaming and crying outside the store and the door was open. I went inside to see what happened and another girl off the street had done the same,” Ms Shane explained.
“We looked after the boy not knowing what had happened for ten minutes before his grandmother came to the store and said, ‘We’ve been robbed. My husband has just run down the street to chase after the guy’. So it was a really dramatic experience and both myself and the other girl had to go and give a statement to the police.
“That other woman [Sophia Perra] just happened to be Anna Wintour’s former assistant. She’s now a fashion editor for ‘Town&Country’ magazine.”
The two bonded over the shared experience. Ms Perra offered to introduce Ms Shane to some of her contacts at ‘Vogue’.
“When you do something good, good comes back to you,” Ms Shane said. “I took a chance and did the right thing and this opportunity just opened up for me. I was 23 years old at the time. After that I had an interview with one of the people at ‘Vogue’ and we got on really well. I started working with the general womenswear department and then I was moved into a more specific area.
“At the time there were a lot of people working in womenswear, so I was given the opportunity to help out in the menswear area. There were just three of us on that team, so I had more responsibility. We would have to pull outfits for shoots with different celebrities like Jude Law, Tim Tebow and Justin Timberlake.
“I would also do research on the latest menswear trends and help with run-throughs, working under head editor Michael Philouze.”
The six-month internship was stressful at times but it taught her a lot about time management and how to handle the pressures of the business.
“I also learnt how to treat everyone as a person,” she said. “We’d see lots of celebrities in the office and Anna Wintour would be around, but no matter how well known or popular they are they just want to be treated like regular people.
“I realised they’re all just human — they are someone’s daughter, son, brother or sister. Overall it was a really awesome experience. It’s one of the world’s most influential magazines, but at the end of the day you still have to focus on getting your work done. That means doing things that aren’t so glamorous, like running around with bags upon bags of clothes in your high heels.”
Ms Shane returned to Britain for her final year of university. She was one of two students at her school awarded a research grant that included an all-expenses paid trip to China. While there, she got to interview the editor of ‘Vogue China’ and Asian designer Vega Zaishi Wang.
She started the partnership with Ms Baker not long after graduating.
“Savannah and I are both island girls,” Ms Shane said. “We’ve known each other for a while, but reconnected after she posted on Facebook that she was looking for someone to help with a shoot she was doing. I was free so I offered to help.
“We’re pretty much ying and yang and complement each other’s skills so well. She’s a stylist and is very creative and visual. I studied fashion management so I was good at more of the business side of fashion and how to make the clothes, market them and sell them.”
Their socks are inspired by dance hall culture, back-up dancers and the Harajuku culture in Japan
Pum Pum Socks will have its Bermuda launch at Urban Cottage tonight, starting at 5pm. The company has collaborated with graphic designer and photographer Avarie Graham, and videographer Lara Smith, whose short film for the brand will be shown at the event.
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