Head Over Heels: The Smart, Botanically Inspired Socks of Strathcona Stockings

PHOTO BY RYAN BENOIT

I’m always on the lookout for socks that speak to who I truly am. Socks that sing my heart song. Maybe it’s because Ryan and I live in a warm climate and we don’t get to wear them as much as we did back East — where some of our most vivid memories involved everyone in their socks come holiday time?

So, when I stumbled onto the socks of Strathcona Stockings via the excellent style blog Nomadic D, something inside me did a little cartwheel. These socks are an extravaganza of botanical patterns: pineapples, orchids and birds of paradise against leopard print; antique drawings of citrus and peaches run amok on a coral background; and antique roses growing among lizards, snakes and beetles. Pure genius. Not since my Papaver somniferum hat fiasco have I been this gung-ho about an obsessive floral.

peachfruit-pack

‘Citrus and Peach’

youtube-jungle-pack

‘Youtube Jungle’

‘Purple Swamp’

Ryley O'Byrne

Artist and Strathcona Stockings designer Ryley O’Byrne.

The work of artist Ryley O’Byrne, Strathcona Stockings is based in British Columbia. She says her prints — stay tuned for lemons in spring! — tend to blossom spontaneously.

“I don’t do much academic research — it’s mainly about feeling and aesthetic,” Ryley tells us via email. “I will walk through the garden and pick flowers to draw or shoot. I will find the nicest pineapple at the market. In the case of the Fruit Punch print, I was inspired to create that one after making lunch and cutting into a particularly perfect avocado…”

Ryley divides her time between Vancouver and Roberts Creek on the Sunshine Coast, where she grew up surrounded by plants. “My family home is pretty idyllic,” she says. “With a large garden, forest on one side and the ocean on the other. A lot of my youth was spent walking in the woods or on the beach and hanging out with my mom in her garden. Now I have to work a little harder to keep that balance. But I try.”

06-ssstrathconastockings

‘Fruit Punch’

mushroom-pack

‘Magic Mushroom’

11-mashup

Strathcona-stockings-ryanbenoitphoto-thehorticult-RMB_0287

Trying on the ‘Powder Blue Desert Flower’ stockings in our garden.

These silky, opaque unisex socks are specialty-printed in the United States and Canada, selling for $36 a pair on Strathcona’s online store. (Gardeners will understand the value of something beautiful brought to life with the greatest care.) The e-shop ships internationally for a song, and tights recently debuted in limited quantities.

I bought the “Powder Blue Desert Flower” socks thronged with cacti in bloom, in part because the print reminded me of the succulents that flower throughout the year in our yard. With Ryley’s styling notes in mind (“I wear them with everything. Pants and loafers, skirts, pyjamas…but really, usually tights and boots with the socks showing up over the top of the boot”) I added my new socks to a look that included a laminated tweed skirt, a DIY sleeveless trench, and suede sandals.

I think I’m just about ready to click my heels on the holiday dancefloor. —TH

Chantal-socks-thehorticult-garden