Why this Chicago startup is making socks out of panda food

April 8, 2016

Watch out, Hanes. If this Chicago startup has its way, shoppers looking to restock their sock and underwear drawers will be on the prowl for comfy alternatives that aren’t made out of cotton.

Its fabric of choice? Bamboo.

Meet

, an e-commerce/subscription box hybrid that wants to introduce the world to the potential of apparel and products made entirely out of panda food. According to the company’s co-founders Aaron Robinson and Zac Pollack, bamboo carries with it some exceptional appeal for the people who wear it.

“It’s incredibly soft, it breathes very well, and it has a lot of properties around fighting odors and bacteria that cause problems," Robinson said. "It’s also good for the environment — especially when compared to something like cotton — because it takes a lot less water to grow and uses less chemicals.”

Pollack and Robinson (pictured left) said the business started strictly as a subscription box service for bamboo socks, modeled off the striking success of companies like Dollar Shave Club. However, as organic interest around bamboo products began to grow, Pollack and Robinson realized there was opportunity to expand their breadth of offerings. 

“The thought process was: we’re getting a lot of people to our website not because we’re selling a subscription but because we’re selling a very cool bamboo product,” Pollack said. “Maybe we’re losing sales because they don’t want to commit to a subscription, and they just want a typical e-commerce transaction where they buy a pack of socks and it get delivered to their door.”

As a result of that thinking, the company’s e-commerce platform today offers socks, shirts, sweatshirts, and underwear for men and women, all made from bamboo and all for individual sale. That’s in addition to their subscription sock boxes, which they still offer, and gift packages that bundle together bamboo shirts, socks and underwear in one box.

The company launched in 2013, and Robinson and Pollack said about 1,400 consumers have signed up for their subscription boxes, which are available for shipping across the U.S.

Eventually, Robinson and Pollack want to be the online storefront for the whole gamut of bamboo products, from apparel to sheets and sunglasses. In the meantime, they’re taking things one step at a time.

“Right now, we’re focused on making sure we can sell really high-quality, sustainable goods to people who are looking for them,” Robinson said.

Photos courtesy of Chicago Chic/Bamboo Supply Co.  

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