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Alumni Success Story

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Reinventing the Sock Market

It was 1970, and Ellie Gordon—a 1968 AU graduate in studio art and art history, and a recent MFA in painting from Columbia University—wasn’t quite sure what to do next. “At that time, there wasn’t as much opportunity for an artist, especially a woman artist,” says Gordon.

But the tide turned for Gordon that summer while vacationing on Cape Cod with her husband and sister and brother-in-law. “There were these artists who were making tie-dyed shirts with appliqués on them,” she recalls. “They told us they had gone cross-country and back with the money they made selling these T-shirts. We were really impressed and inspired, and thought that maybe we could do something like that.”

The four of them began brainstorming and they hit on an idea. “Socks, at the time, had a lot of room for improvement. The colors were bad, the fibers weren’t natural.”

And so Hot Sox—a very fun, very funky, very rock-and-roll sock company, as Gordon describes it—was born. The venture began as a part-time cottage industry, with the founders working out of their apartments and supplying unique socks to local boutiques. But thanks in large part to their rainbow-striped toe sock, which debuted in the mid- ’70s, the business quickly outgrew its home-grown, smallscale production. Hot Sox expanded into a global company, virtually inventing the fashion hosiery market and feeding such fashion behemoths as Gap, Banana Republic, and Ralph Lauren.

Gordon and her partners sold the company last year. Now she is focusing on a new project: E. G. Coaching, her consulting and coaching company. “I basically work with women entrepreneurs—talking to them about business strategy, leadership development, and executive coaching,” she says. “It turns out I’m just as passionate about growing and developing other entrepreneurs as I was about running my own company.”