Interview: Gail and Lonny Richards


Organic Threads is a rarity in our current times. The company was founded in 1994 in North Carolina and specializes in just one humble product - socks. Unbothered by the concept of fashion as a whole, founders Gail and Lonny Richards opted to focus on simply providing a truly natural and organic sock option for the market. Each pair is woven from Foxfibre® Colorganic® cotton which follows a meticulous farming practice that not only creates a wonderfully characteristic cotton, but is also mindfully beneficial to the earth it comes from.

It’s been roughly 30 years that Organic Threads has been quietly manufacturing their renowned socks for a worldwide audience, shining a valuable light on the value of organic farming and domestic manufacturing. 

Recently we caught wind that the company may be coming to a close, so we reached out to Gail and Lonny to have a brief but meaningful chat about the story of Organic Threads.



Tell us about you and Lonny. How did you guys meet?

Lonny and I met in the summer of 1970 after I had just graduated from high school. He was in the army at the time and stationed at the Pentagon. A mutual friend introduced us and we’ve been together for over 50 years now.

How did Organic Threads come about? The ethos of the product has resonated with many mindful consumers worldwide and we are curious what inspired you to create the brand.

I was laid off from my job as a purchaser of wind turbine components and had always wanted to do a home business that would employ both myself and Lonny. He was employed by a wind energy business in the Altamont Pass in California and one day while he was driving to work, he heard a program on NPR about organic cotton and Sally Fox. Lonny told me of this information and I contacted my brother in law in NC who was in the sock business. He said he would put me in touch with one of his knitters & off we went!



The story of Organic Threads and Fox Fibre cottons feels very special and spotlights sustainability in a meaningful manner, especially considering how many individuals are involved in the development process from farm to product. Over your 30 years in business, have you ever considered making products other than socks? 

I considered manufacturing underwear at one point and was even approached by a lady in Toronto, Canada who designed and manufactured her own line. She wanted to bring her products to the U.S. and they fit well with the socks, so we worked with her for 5 to 6 years until the prices were no longer reasonable. We also sold organic cotton knitted washcloths that were made in Wisconsin from a home business, but the company has since retired.

"Many products are imported today because of the difficulty with finding domestic manufacturers.

One of the charming appeals of Organic Threads is your old school approach. Many current brands are obsessed with technology and analytics as a means to grow their business, however your company seems to have sustained through word of mouth and providing a genuinely amazing product. Do you feel like theres more potential for Organic Threads to grow at the moment, or are you satisfied with the current pace of things. 

Yes, we don't use computers in our business at home. I have a typewriter with a memory chip so that repetitive lines (as in addresses) can be printed. We also use a fax machine and an old UPS shipping record book that some drivers are puzzled by! Thankfully Lonny's brother Rod takes care of all our computer needs. 

We’re confident there is a lot of potential for growth and expansion for Organic Threads. The business needs new, young blood though since we would like to retire.



Japanese customers seem to have really resonated with Organic Threads. What are your thoughts about the brand's populatrity overseas, and online shopping in general? 

Japan was the first major country to buy our socks in large quantities; the customers there happened to be very tuned in with natural products & sustainable agriculture. There are also numerous Japanese companies who have been very supportive of FoxFibre® and appreciate that there are no synthetic dyes used. 

Ever since the COVID pandemic began, we’ve noticed more customers appearing online, especially in Canada from provinces like British Columbia and Toronto. On the other hand, some of the environmental stores carrying our product closed during the last few years, so it feels things have balanced out so to speak with more online retailers buying our socks than physical brick & mortar stores.

Do you have any advice for young professionals who are passionate about working in sustainable farming and fashion practices? 

I would only say that a person interested in an organic cotton business needs to find a product to focus on producing that is not readily available on the market today. Many products are imported today because of the difficulty with finding domestic manufacturers. It’s difficult to find U.S. manufacturing these days, but there are still a few companies producing yarns, fabrics and whatever goods you can make from them.



As our world rapidly changes, it’s important to reflect on the past and how it informs the present. It’s incredibly easy to consume fast fashion these days, and so companies like Organic Threads positively remind us to be mindful about the importance and value of nature and domestic manufacturing. Though they only really produce one kind of product, they do so with integrity and a holistic spirit which we appreciate deeply.

We’d like to thank Gail and Lonny for their time, and are grateful to help share their story and legacy as a quiet leader of the organic apparel industry.

Editor: Jason Liang  |  Photography: Kengo Watanabe  |  Special Thanks: Gain Co. Ltd. and Wild Eagle Inc.

View more of Organic Threads' product here.