Plastic, see-through squirt bottles of various colors of fabric dye line a plastic sheet like so many soldiers ready to unfurl a barrage of rainbow-hued artillery. The sheet is draped over a simple foldout table in an upstairs sunroom of a Stuart neighborhood duplex, where there are more windows than wall and shimmering natural light plays over splattered drops of the colorful dye.
Citrus yellow, crushed-berry blue, eye-popping orange — these colors will soon penetrate pristine white bamboo socks as Prashant Dault creates another batch of his custom-dyed creations.
Dault, a 19-year-old university studies major at Western Michigan University, is the sole employee, owner and founder of a company called Bambüz. He sells his socks, also called Bambüz, online and in local retail shops.
Although he started Bambüz in July 2016, he began doing his colorful handiwork long before. Dault has been dyeing socks since he was 8, learning the art of hand-dyeing from his mother, Maria, who owned Seeded Earth, a shop in their hometown of Lawrence. It was there that the young Dault first began selling his hand-dyed cotton socks, to which he gave the ambitious name Presto Magic Socks.
Hand-dyeing socks was a hobby that brought him a little extra cash, but last year, when he turned 19, Dault decided it was time to turn his hobby into a viable business and Bambüz was born.
Although his socks may look tie-dyed, Dault prefers to call them “hand-dyed” because of tie-dye’s association with 1960s hippie culture. Dault wants his socks to appeal to all types of people.
“’Oh, it’s like tie-dye,’ (people say). ‘I want to have a tie-dye party.’ No, I get that a lot, and that is not what I am trying to do. I am trying to build something unique but also modern,” Dault says.
Bambüz’s designs have a distinctive rippling pattern with soft edges between the colors that remind one of looking at color underwater. However, Bambüz’s colors are dynamic and bright, with names like Peacock and Majestic.
It’s not just the designs that make the socks different. Dault uses socks made from bamboo because, he says, the material is softer than cotton, wicks moisture to help keep sweat away from the feet, is naturally odor-resistant and is sustainable, since bamboo can grow up to one foot per hour.
“It kind of feels like you’re not wearing any socks at all,” he says. “They are super soft and not restrictive (compared to cotton socks), so they really allow you to breathe.”
The creative process
Dault grabs a pair of white socks from a box. He deftly laces rubber bands around one sock — in and out, in and out, to form a spiral — while the sock’s mate waits its turn. Snap! Dault tends to break a lot of rubber bands during this step. He shrugs. “I barely feel them anymore.”
Once the origami-like folding is done, Dault places the sock on the plastic sheet and begins squirting dye onto sections created by the rubber bands and lightly pushes down on the dyed section to ensure all white areas are covered. Now the sock will rest for a day, soaking in its new colors. When all of the dyed socks are ready, Dault will unravel them and wash them three times to remove excess dye. Once the socks are dry, he’ll ship them to customers or deliver them to local stores.
When Dault launched his online store in July 2016, he said he made only one sale in the first month. While he knew that building a website wouldn’t immediately mean business, he hoped to make an “emotional appeal” to customers by emphasizing the socks’ value and his passion and hand-dyeing creativity, he says.
“You have to work really hard and make the customer feel like they are not just buying another pair of socks,” Dault says. ‘You have to make them feel like they are buying a part of the work and long hours you’ve put into creating the business and creating the product.”
The socks sell for $10–$14. Last year they generated nearly $12,000 in sales. Dault credits social media “shares” and word of mouth with building the popularity of his socks. He once bought a Facebook ad for $15 and was surprised to earn $500 in sales as a result.
In addition, Bambüz sales got a boost from a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign. People who pledged a certain amount of money were rewarded with a certain number and type of Bambüz socks. Dault says the campaign was “a loss and a gain” — he lost money because Kickstarter takes 10 percent of pledges, but he gained recognition.
Dault said placing his socks in local retail stores has also helped the company’s sales grow. Bambüz can be found locally in specialty food stores and a gallery shop.
Dault is currently working in a space at his sister’s home. As his sock enterprise grows, he hopes to move Bambüz into a bigger space, not only to increase awareness of Bambüz as a business, but also to increase productivity and sales.
Another key to Bambüz’s growth, says Dault, is his ability to network and bounce creative ideas back and forth with other people and companies. “It feels really good when you are around like-minded people, workplace and environment to create and come up with other ideas.”