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Chris Edmonds: My goal is to make Kingly the best sock manufacturer

Chris Edmonds, Operations Director

You have to investigate what the end-user needs

Chris Edmonds is Kingly‘s new Operations Director. He is on a mission to make Kingly the premier sock manufacturer in Europe and beyond. With impressive 49+ years of global experience in textile manufacturing and a design-thinking mindset, Chris has built factories from the ground up and developed products for iconic brands like Marks and Spencer (M&S), Tesco, and Walmart. His true passion lies in crafting technical socks that cater to the personalized needs of end-users. Chris is set to propel Kingly – with clients in the UK, France, Spain, Germany and the USA – to new heights. We are confident that his extensive experience and innovative approach will drive significant advancements and monumental success for our company. 

Could you tell me how you gained more than 49 years of experience in the textile factory? Was there a particular event that marked your life for good?

My father was a knitter and technician. When I left school at 16, he got me an interview at the biggest sock factory in the world at that time. They interviewed me and I had to decide whether I should become a management trainee or a technician. I scored very high on the mechanical test. I joined the company as a management trainee.

I went to work at 6 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. and stayed 2 hours late at night. Within 18 months, I knew more about the machines than all the other management trainees. I worked in that company for 3 years. And became their youngest-ever company technologist. I made all the specifications. This was a company with more than 200 sock machines. At 19-20 years old I used to meet all of their top customers like Marks and Spencer and Mothercare. That is how it all started.

Watch the rest of Chris’ success story in the video below:

Was there anything specific that attracted you to Kingly as a company? 

In life, I love a challenge. I was invited to see how I could help and if I could stay in. We are manufacturing good socks. We can do better. We can do it quicker. We can do it smarter. People are working hard. We need to give our customers the ability to get their orders quicker. We also need more clarity with our customers showing them where their orders are in production. That is very possible.

The factory is good and has lots of potential. We tend to be majoring in promotional products but we can make technical products. We could do ski socks, football socks, and children’s socks. There is a lot more that Kingly can do. I am sure in a short time we will be doing that. My goal is to make Kingly the best sock manufacturer in Europe. That is why I am here.

What would it get to make Kingly the most successful sock manufacturer in Europe? 

First of all, to double the production within six months. That is what I have said I would do. I think that would be done a lot sooner. Over time we can introduce more machinery into the manufacturing unit. We can make many other different products. And the more we can offer our customers, the happier our customers can be. That is important. Customers are everything. When a customer makes an order and gives a date, we do it. It is just discipline.

What is the most rewarding part of your job as Operations Director?

To build something is a great thing. But the biggest thing for me is to teach. I have extensive experience which I have gained in 49 years and have lived in many countries. All of that experience is in my brain. And it is not a computer. You cannot just download it. My main mission is to download it to the people here. So that Kingly can gain more experience and have a much brighter future. That is the main reason for me being here. If you teach people, you also leave something of yourself behind.

You mentioned that you have developed products for major brands like Marks and Spencer. What other brands did you create textile items for?

Some of those brands were VHS, Woolworths, Mothercare, Tesco and Walmart. The socks for them are more basic. I also worked for a sock manufacturer in the UK who made very expensive, very technical socks. And that was a joy. It is a lot easier to create a sock for general wear than a sock that does something.

A lot of socks report to be technical and look technical but they don’t do what they claim. You have to study how to support the person who will wear them. That is the reason why technical socks – like thermal socks or cooling socks – are more interesting. You have to investigate just what the wearer needs that sock to do. They are different from your average everyday sock.  Even the socks that I am wearing now – because I am a diabetic – are created with no elastic on the top. Therefore, you don’t get the restriction for the blood but they still hold up.

It seems you have a more human-centric approach to developing products. 

End-user is always first. Talking about technical socks is not just about leaving aside the general socks that we are making. I aim to make the general socks much better than what we have been making them. We can look at different yarns. We can make them so that pilling is not so prevalent after 10 wears. We can make them so we can put antibacterial finishes on them. We have already started to do that at Kingly. It is just the right programming of the machinery.

Do you think that more clients would embrace sustainability when it comes to custom socks?

If we want to retain the world we live in, we have to start taking sustainability seriously. If we don’t do that, we won’t have this world. I think the message that Kingly are trying to promote to our customers is great. Rob came up with the idea of having a factory where we made socks that were sustainable, great for the environment but also great for the wearer. I think that is a great message to everybody. Look after the world and it will look after us.

Can you think of a challenge you overcame that now puts a smile on your face?

There is a city in China where they produce 50% of the socks. I had only been in China for 3 months. I was to visit a factory and I got on the train. I arrived at the city and stood outside. I realised that virtually nobody in that city had seen a foreigner. Everyone was literally in line to inspect me. A man saved me after an hour and a half. I felt like I was like an exhibit in a zoo.

You have to invest the time to learn the language, so when those things happen, it doesn’t matter. I did that. I would say that I was at least 50-60% proficient in any conversation in Chinese.

If you want a funny example, I never told any new company that I speak Chinese. I sat in a meeting and the production manager kept referring to me as “The fat Englishman” in Chinese. And he had no idea that I understood. So I let it ride all day. And at the end of the day, I said “Thank you from the fat Englishman” in Chinese. And to see his normal colour turn to the brightest red you have ever seen was fantastic.

That is an amazing story! And what do you like to do for fun, as a hobby in your spare time?

I have done many things in my spare time. I like to sports fish. I have a big piece of land where I grow my vegetables. I enjoy gardening.

Seven years ago I ran the London Marathon for charity, for diabetes, and raised about 8,000 pounds. In the past, I was a very good hockey player. I was a good cricketer. I was a good rugby player. I shot put for university veterans at 42. Among the veterans, I was 5th in the country. I started at 38 with no experience of shot putting and at one point I could lift well over 200 kilos.

I like people. I enjoy people immensely. Because for every conversation you have with every person you meet, you will learn something new. I enjoy life. Everything in life that is a challenge – I enjoy even more. And at 65 next month, I don’t intend to retire because I am a fit, strong man. Retiring is never in my mind.

Watch the highlights of our interview with Kingly’s new Operations Director on our YouTube channel. Follow us on LinkedInFacebookTwitter and Instagram for more exciting projects, client testimonials and special offers. 

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