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LONDON — There aren’t too many two-floor stores devoted exclusively to legwear, but the Tabio shop on Kings Road is shaking up the London legwear scene with its colorful array of tights and socks.
The Japanese company Kutsufhitaya opened Tabio last spring, its first location outside of Japan.
The two-story, 2,200-square-foot shop has a serene environment, with traditional Far Eastern touches, such as a Japanese garden in the basements. With its location on King’s Road, known for its quirky, specialty stores, Tabio attracts plenty of stars and celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson and Minnie Driver.
Every pair of socks and tights is laid out individually in the boutique, which was created by Graf, a Japanese design team. Tabio generally stocks about 1,500 designs, with 18 different colors for socks and more than 40 for tights. Prices range from $6.32 for a plain, crochet sock to $67 for cashmere offerings. The firm’s largest business is in tights, which come in 30 to 210 denier, and start at $12.
The firm dates back to 1968, when founder Naomafa Ochi started a roadside business specializing in socks that were practical and fashionable. Tabio hopes to see legwear worn as a fashion statement across Europe, in the same way as it is in Japan, where knee-high and ankle socks are proudly paraded by young women. The company now has 221 doors in Japan and plans to open 30 more stores across Western Europe, beginning with five in London, as well as Paris, Milan and Rome.
In Japan, the stores are called Kutsufhitaya, which simply means sock store.
“Only the U.K. branch takes the name Tabio, which is a Japanese play-on-words meaning both ‘travel’ and ‘split-toe sock,’” a company spokesman said.