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Wardrobe: Sock It to Me

William Kissel

When Chicago artist Gary Berger discovered Ovadafut’s fanciful men’s hosiery in a specialty store, he envisioned the colorful, patterned socks in a montage on his studio walls. Unfortunately, the store’s limited supply could not satisfy his whim, so he flew to New York, where he met with Vivek Nagrani, Ovadafut’s 33-year-old, Indian-born, American-raised owner, who allowed the artist to select an assortment from the showroom. “Things like that happen all the time,” says Nagrani, who once was offered $100 to replace a favorite pair of Ovadafut socks that were no longer available. (Production of each Ovadafut design is limited to no more than 340 pairs per color.)

“When I started, everyone considered them to be novelty socks that few men would wear because of the bright colors and wild patterns,” says Nagrani, who launched the company in 2000 with designs that reflected his interest in contemporary art. “Now they are considered fashion socks, and there are avid collectors.” One design, Le Puzzle, ended up on the shelves of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s store in Los Angeles.

“I call them ‘Vivek culties,’ ” says Steve Benson, owner of S. Benson & Co., a luxury men’s store in Sacramento, Calif., that sold more than 500 pairs of Ovadafut socks last year. “I have customers who have to be called when new designs come in—they’ll buy a dozen pair at a time,” he says, adding that the $25-to-$30 socks are “an inexpensive fashion risk for a more conservative man.” The company name itself, a pun describing how socks are worn, should serve as a clue to those who favor basic black or white hosiery.

“No one was making a fine pair of socks that went equally well with suits or jeans,” explains Nagrani, who uses color combinations that coordinate well with most wardrobes. For example, his sock designs that combine pale yellow with beige and brown go well with khakis, and those that mix salmon pink with gray tones complement black or charcoal trousers. “Everything is designed to blend, because I don’t want a man to like the socks but not know how to wear them,” he says.

Nagrani, a former toy designer, learned the finer points of style and quality from his maternal grandfather, who owned a chain of luxury men’s shops in India. Nagrani applied that knowledge in forming partnerships with two of the world’s best hosiery knitters: DeBert of Italy, which makes socks for Armani and Paul Smith, and Desmazieres-Drino, a family-owned French firm that has been in business since 1815. Both manufacturers understand the delicate balance between luxury and durability, and Nagrani spent three years working closely with them to find the optimum fiber combination and needle count, which is similar to thread count. Most quality dress hosiery is woven with 200-plus needles per inch, which creates a fine hand but sacrifices durability. Ovadafut’s French-made collection uses 14-gauge, 144-needle combed cotton, nylon, and Lycra, while the Italian collection employs 10-gauge, 166-needle mercerized cotton and nylon. Ovadafut’s socks are further distinguished by reinforced heels and toes and an extra-wide stretch band for durability and comfort, and they are made to survive a minimum of 60 washings. Currently in development is a premium collection of $125 socks made from Tibetan cashmere blended with wool and nylon. The socks are intended to withstand a dozen washings—an important consideration if you decide to use them to adorn your feet instead of your walls.

Ovadafut, 212.684.4333, www.ovadafut.com

Photo by Jim Fets
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