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Birds of a feather: Hot shoe brand crosses the country and finds the perfect partner to make their socks.

By now it’s no secret that the shoe brand Allbirds is soaring. Not surprisingly, the company was keen to use its popularity and grow into other related categories. And what’s a more natural extension for a shoe brand than socks?

Enter Justin Cleveland, Allbirds’ Senior Director of Materials & Apparel Development, who was brought aboard to launch the sock line. He had already logged a number of years for another company in the sock space and knew the Southeast was home to a number of textile mills.

Justin Cleveland, Allbirds

“From the first meeting with Harriss & Covington, I knew there was something special about these guys.”

– Justin Cleveland, Senior Director of Materials & Apparel Development, Allbirds

“I knew about a few factories in North Carolina,” Justin said, “so I got on a plane, flew into Greensboro, made appointments with a bunch of people and did tons of miles visiting factories, from the really small to the really big.

“From the first meeting with Harriss & Covington, I knew there was something special about these guys. It was a like-minded business, similar in size and goals, and I always look for that. If you’re not matched up there, it won’t work. A huge company has different goals than ours, and one that is too small may not have the expertise or be able to stretch or change direction or go really fast when you need to.”

Allbirds

Those first meetings in December 2018 ticked a lot of the boxes Allbirds deem important before they partner with a supplier.

For me, one of the biggest things is do we like them,” Justin said. “At the end of the day, if they don’t like us they aren’t going to do their best work for us, and if we don’t like them you don’t want to be there doing the work that needs to be done.

“But you walk into their place and they have some of the nicest people, legit human beings who are good people that are really welcoming. And you know they take good care of their people. When you have employees who have been there 20 years, 30 years, you know they are doing things right.”

Allbirds

With those basics covered, it came down to skill sets, and Justin didn’t hesitate to test the limits. “You’d think it was a 20-year-old relationship with the number of samples I asked for,” Justin laughed. “But there is an understanding there. Yes, we do sell a lot of shoes, but we are just launching the sock line.”

That willingness to work with a new customer with the same enthusiasm and commitment as if they were a long-time partner was a deciding factor for Allbirds, Justin said. “There were times when I think they wanted to throw me out the window. But we have to deal with how a product looks and feels down to the last milligram. And they always care. I mean, the design team is very particular, too, like us.

“But it was amazing to see them work. We would have a conversation and that same day a sample would be on the way. It just shows the type of leadership at Harriss & Covington. They push through and always come through for us.”

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We have a diverse bank of single cylinder and double cylinder jacquard knitting equipment. Our core focus is single cylinder, and our machines span 108n to 200n with the vast majority being 144n. Our double cylinder machines are 144n. Over the past several years, Harriss & Covington has made significant investments in state-of-the-art knitting machines with toe closure. Nearly all our equipment is selective terry capable, allowing us to add targeted cushioning in select zones for specific applications and activities.

John Ramsey, Smartwool

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Combining electric heat and steam applications ensures the very best layout dimensions as specified by our customers. Every sock — children to men’s extra large sizes — is inspected post-boarding for proper size, fit, about dimensions, shade consistency and any detectable defect.

John Ramsey, Smartwool

“The spirit of innovative thinking is on both sides. We go to them, they come to us. We couldn’t have asked for a better partner for us and our business. They have allowed us to innovate and that is how we stay ahead of a very competitive marketplace.”

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John Ramsey, Smartwool

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John Ramsey, Smartwool®

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John Ramsey, Smartwool

“The spirit of innovative thinking is on both sides. We go to them, they come to us. We couldn’t have asked for a better partner for us and our business. They have allowed us to innovate and that is how we stay ahead of a very competitive marketplace.”

John Ramsey, Smartwool®

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