From Hannah, Pals creator: It’s the 25th anniversary of the Paul Frank. I hope with these socks you can relive your gleeful childhood ‘90s ’00s nostalgia while introducing these characters to the newest generation. This collab has been a year in the making! I am SO excited to finally show you four limited edition amazingly fun pairs featuring Julius the monkey and 4 of his classic besties: Clancy the giraffe, Sam the grub, Skurvy the pirate skull and Bob the dog. Each pair shows what interests these two friendly characters are friends BECAUSE they don’t match. They like to keep life fun and interesting. The world of Paul Frank is such a perfect fit to join the Pals family.
When I saw that Paul Frank was following @palssocks on Instagram, that in itself seemed like a life’s dream fulfilled. Do something cool enough that the iconic Paul Frank takes notice. But when I went to message Paul and confess to geeking out, there was already a message waiting from him about collaborating. I literally screamed!! Because to me, to be able to do a Pals collab with the iconic Paul Frank is a bucket list dream actualized. As a budding young designer, it was super inspiring to me to see Paul’s brand grow, that he and his team could sustain a powerhouse global creative business with his unique, wacky and colorful characters. I would be so excited to see his offerings in Delia*s or PacSun, and I bought quite a few pieces. Still have some. For Pals to be able to do a collab with such a personal favorite made me feel so proud of the brand I have built and the strength in our mission and designs.
So without further adieu, read on to see our lil interview with THE Paul Frank.
Why did you want to collaborate with Pals out of all the sock manufacturers in the world?
I’ve always been a big fan of socks, even before I became a designer. I would always want unique socks that had stripes or fun colors. Stuff like that made me want to be a designer, made me want to have my own brand. So that was a big inspiration, just the idea of socks in the first place. When I saw Pals on Instagram, I thought, “this is great, a smaller, independent company. It would be great to call them up and see if we should work together.” All too often, everything’s so mass produced. It’s hard to get things going without a lot of red tape. Pals, they’re nothing but fun. There’s not a dry moment, everything they put out is fun. Every post is like, “What? Glow in the dark now!” It always gets funner with Pals.
What is it about the Pals ethos that resonates with you?
It’s just, they’re fun. I didn’t even realize they don’t match at first. The whole slogan, “we don’t match,” I didn’t think about that. Maybe because I’ve always worn mismatching socks.
Tell us what you are most excited about the Pals + Paul Frank collaboration.
I’m most excited that they were able to take my characters and use them in a way that fits their brand. I got to work directly with Pals’ designers and come up with something that was more of a co-brand, not just a licensed product. It’s not often we get to do that, you know. This is a true collaboration. I like that. The artwork’s not totally on model, let’s say. Certain liberties were taken, little additives, little things added like pickles and hotdogs and things that weren’t just from our style guide. They were created just for Pals with Pals.
Another thing I’m excited about is that there’s a lot of Paul Frank fans who, even if they’re grown up now, they’ll still want to wear something fun. Socks are such a great accessory that way. You can be Mr. or Mrs. businessperson and you can still have fun wearing socks under your work clothes.
Do you have a favorite pair from this collection?
I call it the “picnic sock,” the one with my character Bob, the brace face dog. Bob doesn’t get a lot of attention, I don’t think, so its fun using a character other than Julius sometimes.
We can’t wait to introduce Pals youngest fans to this iconic Paul Frank crew. Could you tell us about your inspiration or genesis behind creating some of the characters that they will get to meet?
If you look at a lot of my characters, the majority came about organically.
Bob came to life one day when I went to speak at an elementary school. I brought my easel, a big pad of paper, and with a bunch of kids, I said, “What do you want to draw?” And they’re like “let’s draw a dog.” And I’m all, “should he have braces?” And they’re like, “yeah!” They were going crazy. And then I’m all, “what should we call him?” and some kid yelled out, “Bob.” So, now we have this character, Bob who just came about from that one hour visit to an elementary school.
In your opinion, how does the Paul Frank Brand make the world a friendlier place?
I think it’s a combination of humor, sarcasm, irreverence, and the positive things that people associate with my brand, along with the fun colors that we use, and it brings them happiness when they look at it. I never set out to make it a friendlier place but if my designs make people happy and that makes them friendlier to one another, then I’m all for it!
Pals wants the next generation to grow up in a friendly world, having all different kinds of friends and open to trying new things. Do you have any words of advice to help inspire kids to embrace what makes them and others different?
Well, everyone’s different. Not everyone’s the “cool guy” in school, or the “cool girl” in school. Some of us are shy or some are overly excited about things. Sometimes we’re optimistic and sometimes we’re pessimistic. Everyone’s got a different personality and we all bring something. There’s room for everybody. We need everybody. How boring is it when we’re too similar?
Do you feel you were always a creative person growing up?
I didn’t really think I was creative growing up. I always thought that I was unique, and I always wanted unique things. I remember there was a coloring contest every year and my teacher handed out this picture of a tiger’s face. While all the other kids colored their tigers orange, I turned mine into a black panther. I was that kid. I wasn’t special. I wasn’t the cool kid, but I always was at least different.
When did you realize that designing was what you wanted to do in life?
When I started to make wallets, it seemed like everybody wanted one. People were like, “Oh, you can make wallets? I want one,” and then their friends would want one too. From that, I knew that I was onto something. After wallets, I started designing other accessories like handbags, guitar straps, and eventually clothing items like t-shirts – not myself, but, as a company.
I remember when we got our first socks made. It was a big deal. In those days, we could only make socks with a limited number of thread colors. Because my characters are so colorful, I was limited in the type of socks that I really wanted to make. Cut to 26 years later, I’m excited to meet Pals and see that we can pretty much do any colors we want. That wasn’t possible back in the 90s.
What challenges, such as design challenges as you just mentioned or logistical challenges, did you face in the early days of building your brand?
See, that’s the thing, certain challenges weren’t as challenging to me because I knew how to do things. I was resourceful. For example, when it came time to design our own trade show display, I knew how to build things and I had friends who built things. I knew who to ask for help. My uncle helped me make a table for our booth. I had another friend who helped build the shelves.
I knew I didn’t want the standard setup of just a table and tablecloth. I wanted something more branded. I wanted our booth to look like a house because my logo was a house. So, there was our first big challenge right there. Again, we have different friends, who have different skills, and you bring those friends together.
I think being resourceful limited the challenges that we had, and we were lucky that the things that we designed were so appealing visually. We were able to find people who wanted to be involved financially, who wanted to buy in or loan us capital for production. The universe just opens up when you’re on a good path. Something, somebody up there is looking down. I think the challenges are fewer the more resourceful you are.
In your opinion, what contributed to the Paul Frank brand becoming so iconic and successful?
We made cool stuff. We make stuff that resonates with people because it’s sincere, it’s colorful, it’s fun, it’s funny, it’s irreverent. It’s a lot of good things that draw you to it and some of those things are things we may not even have words for. We made stuff that we would want to use and it turned out that a lot of other people did too.
You just celebrated your brand’s 25th anniversary! What motivates you to keep on imagining and creating after so all these years?
I’m always having more fun ideas. I just live in a creative space in my head, where I just want to keep creating stuff. I’m always encouraged by how every time I make something fun, and I put it on the website, it sells out. Then I’m re-inspired. I have a surplus of things that I would like to make but haven’t had time to make them yet. I guess that’s what keeps me going, I just keep imagining the next fun thing.
What is your favorite thing about being Paul Frank?
Seeing people wear and enjoy my designs. I really get a kick out of being out somewhere and seeing someone with one of my t-shirts on or hearing about somebody who’s art and creativity that admire enjoying my designs. Like when we had our store in New York, David Bowie came in and he bought some sock monkeys for his daughter. That’s super cool to me because I was listening to David Bowie as I was making stuff.
I remember, another time, I was getting boba tea and the girl behind the cash register has my hat on and there’s no way I’m going to tell her that it’s me, but she had no idea and I think that’s really funny. I love it. It’s fun that people still like and want the things that come out of my head. I’m really lucky.