Story by Alex Taylor
There is an egalitarian nature about socks. “They exist in a domain of ‘fashion’ that is incredibly neutral. Everyone can wear, appreciate and afford a pair of socks. It's fashion — without being inaccessible or elitist,” according to Strathcona Stockings designer Ryley O’Byrne. “I love being a part of this very fun and unserious domain of ‘fashion.’” The idea of starting a socks company came to fruition out of necessity. She realized there was an opening in the market for printed socks after she searched for them herself and came up empty. The Canadian native’s love for pattern and her desire for having beautifully printed socks came together in what was initially a hobby project, and is now known as Strathcona Stockings.
With formal art schooling at Emily Carr in Vancouver and Central Saint Martins in London, O’Byrne then did a lot of research and development. “And with the help of a dear family friend, I gained access to a textile studio and started experimenting with different methods of printing,” she explains. “When I finally printed my first pair of stockings, I knew I had done something right.”
The inspiration for her designs becomes obvious once you discover the setting of her childhood. O’Byrne grew up on the Sunshine Coast in Canada in a “beautiful little town on the beach.” A “student” of unschooling (an educational philosophy not based in compulsory school), she spent a lot of time exploring the forest and beaches surrounding her home and “working on weird little projects.” One of her favorite stockings that she has designed, the Seafoam Floral, serve as the fusion between her beach and forest inspiration. They also happen to be the very first stockings that she designed.
“Everything is very instinctual. I obviously work with a lot of botanical and natural imagery — fruits, flowers, birds, etc. But I am also interested in more traditional textile patterns. I also just make things that I want to wear. I love color and a lot of what I do is just playing around with palettes and textures.” Strathcona Black Bird stockings feature a collage of vintage bird prints, which pop against the black fabric. The Pink Mary Jane stockings have cannabis leaves against a pink fabric, for a preppy-stoner vibe.
Learn more about the designer in our Q & A below:
What are you inspired by?O’Byrne: Being out in the world. I find that if I stay at home or in the studio for too long, I have a harder time being creative. I need to be outside, interacting with the world and other people. That is what inspires me.
What’s your favorite way to pair the stockings?O: I where them with everything. Pants and loafers. As knee-highs with shorts and runners. In boots with dresses.
What is your ideal Saturday?O: Waking up in a good comfortable bed. Having someone bring me a coffee. (Ha.) Reading. Brunch. Going for a walk. Looking at beautiful things. Seeing the world.
Proudest moment with Strathcona?O: When I printed my very first pair of stockings!