Rare is the creative polymath – an individual with seemingly unlimited energy and unbounded interests radiating out like an octopus’s arms – an individual centered by an innate and unquenchable desire to create, share, and connect all at once. My pal (and sometimes stairs of Silver Lake workout buddy) Maceo Keeling is that kind of impressive 20-sided die of unbridled energy, able to flip from the role of prolific writer for his site, Citizens of Culture, easily over to fashion entrepreneur as the founder of Los Angeles brand, Paisley Sockwear, in a heart beat. He also somehow finds time to produce music videos, compete in the art of fencing, and regularly hosts events catering to the LA creative set. I was able to pin him down between breaths to ask him about one of his main passions: socks.
Tell us what inspired you to start Paisley Sockwear. Why socks in particular versus other clothing or accessories?
Paisley Sockwear at its simplest was born from a simple question I was continually asked: “Maceo, where do you get all your cool socks from?” I became known in my social circles as being someone who always wore brightly colored socks. At the time, I was working at American Apparel and I got the opportunity to develop some color ways for additions to their line. During the process I uncovered my own ability to create in that medium and wanted to explore beyond what I was assigned to develop.
Once I was finished working at AA, I knew the only thing left to do was to find a partner that would allow me to realize my own designs. I didn’t want depart from the Made In USA ethos I had become accustomed to at American Apparel, so I searched far and wide for manufacturers and was eventually able to begin production with two factories based in the United States.
For me socks are one small thing that you can take risks on without having to worry about messing up your entire outfit. Socks are rarely seen, but socks can give guys that are usually very fashionably reserved the opportunity to experiment with color and fashionable expression without stepping too far into the deep end. I also love the industry side of things because socks are kind of a collector’s item, so I am not at ends with other sock designers, and there is enough for us all to make a living.
Color and pattern are trademarks of your offerings. Where do you find inspiration for your sock designs?
My inspirations come from the most interesting places. It could be from the combination of colors I notice between a little kid’s hair color and the grass behind them, or simply the hues borrowed from a stack of books on a shelf. I have a specific style called L.E.S., an abbreviation for Lower East Side in Manhattan, a place whose palette was used to paint the colors of one of my socks. But for me it’s not really about “finding inspiration”…more so about remaining open to allowing the inspiration to find me anywhere, any time. Keeping that open-minded perspective allows any sight, sound, taste or other experience to become my muse.
Okay, so then outside of fashion, where else do you seek these “muses”?
I’m very nostalgic and an energetic person, so I find a lot of inspiration and a common spirit from childhood and kids. There is a youthful curiosity I try to maintain, and that mindset really informs me about what space I should be working in. That, along with fulfilling my curiosity with research and experimentation, is what leads me to just about all my ideas. I try to seek out small failures, because I think they provide a context that helps me see the solutions.
You seem like one of those acrobats balancing spinning plates with his arms, legs and mouth. But what’s the common thread running through each of these endeavors, and how do you use them to weave throughout your work?
It’s true, I do have a lot of creative outlets! I try to approach everything I do from a variety of angles and perspectives because I believe learning from a single direction can cloud seeing truly creative solutions. I like to throw out templates or guidelines! For me it is far better to analyze the task at hand and find an approach uniquely my own, which may not seem as efficient initially, but will achieve higher quality results in the long run. That said, the common thread that runs through all my endeavors is a commitment to a learning journey, and to do my best to show people the parts of a project before it is complete.
In other words, too often we only note the finished product, but people really learn from the behind-the-scenes experiments and failures. Information these days is mostly free anyway, but information alone is not enough. It’s discipline or dedication that will make the difference between two people starting with the same knowledge. I want people to know that everything that I produce has been thought about to a high degree and labored over. It’s not magic, but exploration, refinement, practice, and plenty of failure – all are part of the creative process. Art, like science is for everyone and that is probably why I spread myself out across different mediums.
What’s keeping you busy lately…besides challenging yourself to fence or run up the Silver Lake stairs with me in the mornings?
I have a lot of hobbies, but on the work front I am really pushing sales of my socks line, Paisley Sockwear, notably a recent collaboration I did with The Essential Man. I’m also working on new music material; music has always been a passion, and I’m feeling like I have a real shot at this point to pursue it further.
Tell us two things you’re excited about right now.
1. Music is the most exciting thing I have brewing at the moment, all my stuff is at MaceoPaisley.com. I am having a ball and it is kind of a dream to be able to pursue making my living doing what I love.
2. I am also really excited about the next season of House Of Cards. I’ve already finished this season, but I think I might watch the whole thing again because I love it so much!