SOCK-TASTIC ANIMAL FUN WITH RED RUFUS
The full interview and images are on the Design Ireland website.
What does an average day look like at Red Rufus HQ?
Most days I get up early and over coffee I check through social media, then I trundle up to my studio at the very top of our house. I do all my administration and paperwork first, wearing the many hats of a small business owner. I pull the raw materials for an afternoon of making and begin preparations, keeping the embroidery machine busy in the background. Around lunchtime, I walk Rufus (my Irish Setter and my business namesake). The majority of my time is consumed with designing and making the product so after lunch I go on with the production which usually runs on through the evening.
It’s an unusual business, so how did you come to make sock animals for a living?
I’m self-taught and have honed my skills over the years making SOCKANIMALS. I can make anything and find it easy to see how things are made. My father had a factory making bags in the past, and, as a teenager I worked on the factory floor. I guess the different processes of manufacturing were just absorbed into my being from a young age!
How do your products reflect your own style?
My style is colourful, elegant, somewhat restrained and classical. That is reflected in my products which are traditional handmade toys with a whimsical, contemporary twist.
What inspires your playful animal designs?
Fabric, colour, animals, patterns and texture. I walk Rufus each day and love all the characters (including the doggie ones) we meet. Fabric is a huge love of mine, as well as ribbon, and, without colour I’d be very bored indeed. The socks also give me inspiration — I am constrained in my design by the sock itself but this “restriction” also gives me ideas.
Which piece in your collection is your current personal favourite and why?
At the moment I’m very pleased with PATCH SOCKDOG. He’s made from a large, thick, cream fisherman’s sock which has a soft feel, so Patch is a well-proportioned SockDog with jaunty ears and a long snout. I can personalise all the SOCKANIMALS but Patch wears a personalised fabric neck scarf which makes him particularly stylish.
Which of your sock animals proves most popular with your customers?
The SOCKDOGS are still the most popular RED RUFUS products, closely followed by the SockSheep. At Christmas the SockReindeer and Stockings are in demand. All the SockAnimals have their champions — some people love the SockPigs while the smaller SockRabbit rattle makes a great present for a new baby. The wild animals are also popular, especially Edward SockElephant who wears his heart on his trunk. Each of my animals is a favourite with someone though which is super!
What do you enjoy most about running your own business?
I get huge pleasure from making it all work. The accounts, social media, ordering, designing and making, styling images, networking… the challenges keep me motivated. I love making, and sewing is relaxing to me, so I’m definitely in the right business. My customer feedback makes me feel very proud and makes me love what I do even more.
Were there any positive or crucial turning points in your career?
It’s hard for me to think of what I do as a “career” because I just took something I enjoyed doing and brought it out into the world. Before that my career was as an executive assistant in London where I worked in politics, the hotel industry and finance. I’ve lived in five different countries while bringing up my three children — landing in Ireland in 2007. Red Rufus has grown organically and it’s been a journey for me. One of the turning points for Red Rufus was doing Showcase in 2013. This positive experience helped me to grow my business, increase sales and gain confidence.
If you weren’t running Red Rufus what would you be doing?
I love big events and I’m very practical, so I think event organising — meeting different people and making them feel at home. I’d love to organise wonderful, creative parties. Maybe I’d be a good tour-guide — I love history and seem able to retain facts. Mostly I just like people and meeting and greeting. That is why I enjoy doing the big retail and trade shows with Red Rufus.
If budget and time were no obstacle what would you most like to create?
Cashmere SockAnimals and it’s going to happen!
In conversation with Christine Sanne, founder and MD of Red Rufus.