NEW YORK — The thong sandal trend may be a thorn in legwear’s side, but it’s no longer a fashion snag for Karyn Cortani.
The 36-year-old Cortani recently founded Tohos, a new patented pantyhose with a full sheer foot and a mitten-like split toe suitable for thong sandals and other open-toe footwear designs.
“In the Seventies, I used to dig through my sister’s closet and try on all these ‘Charlie’s Angels’-type dresses and big, platform thong sandals,” said the Palmdale, Calif.-based Cortani. “I always wanted to wear pantyhose with those sandals, but had to scrunch it up between my toes. It looks funny when women wear hosiery with sandals.”
Cortani’s background isn’t typical of a budding legwear entrepreneur. Before graduating from college with a degree in human communications, she drove a cement mixer, was a bartender and fixed and resold cars she would purchase at police vehicle auctions.
“That’s when my entrepreneurial spirit started and I got my first taste of working for myself,” she said.
The idea for Tohos stems from Cortani’s legwear dilemma at a recent wedding. She was planning to wear black rhinestone thong sandals, but didn’t want to dress down her outfit with bare legs.
“I have tried toeless hosiery, but they look silly, because if I wear black hosiery, I have white toes sticking out,” she said.
So, Cortani took a pair of regular pantyhose to her seamstress to cut and sew a V-shape into the toe-cap — similar to oriental Tabi socks, which are like mittens for the feet.
“I tried them on there, and eight or nine women said, ‘You better get a patent on that,’” she said.
Subsequent inquiries by equally frustrated women prompted Cortani to find a manufacturer and start in the legwear business.
“It was very tough, I didn’t know anything about the hosiery and patent business,” she said. “I went through three mills, which either couldn’t do it or whose product wasn’t satisfactory. A friend of mine who used to work at DuPont suggested Bossong Hosiery.”
Asheboro, N.C.-based Bossong Hosiery Mills Inc., which is a private label manufacturer, agreed to manufacture Tohos.
“It is a unique product and our industry is looking for newness and some novelty items to get people interested in hosiery,” said Matthew Owens, vice president of sales at Bossong.
Owens said the company projects first-year sales to reach $500,000.
Tohos’ 10-denier style with a control-top pantyhose, a cotton crotch and a no-roll waistband, has a retail price of $12. Distribution is aimed for department and specialty stores. The company also has a Web site at legsource.com.
The whimsical flat packaging features an illustration of a Vargas girl lying on her back with her hand under her hips and her feet — with split toe — in the air. The brand’s logo is a graffiti-like shape of a foot plastered with the brand name.
“Tohos is a name that everybody remembered,” said Cortani. “[The name] should tell what the product does in a word, and I figured that toe and hose makes Tohos.”