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Vance Veal runs the day-to-day operations at the Emi-G mill. Locklear’s parents laid off all but their most vital workers, they kept him on the payroll. Veal, 48, has worked in sock mills since he was 18.
His grandparents, mother and brothers worked in the mills, too.
Gina’s younger sister, Emily, recalled the girls going to the mill after school, where they helped their parents sort socks into dozens or played in the bins.
Named after the two daughters, Emi-G Knitting bought the Locklears a house, bought Terry a vintage Corvette and paid for the girls’ college educations.
She produces two lines: Zkano, an online brand she started in 2008, and Little River Sock Mill, which was started in 2013 and is sold in stores like Margaret O’Leary in Manhattan.
Zkano’s “crews” and “no shows” are a youthful riot of stripes and colors, while the Little River socks are more refined (the fall line was based on Southern quilt patterns). Going organic (the cotton comes from a farm in Lubbock, Tex., the dyes from North Carolina) has given Gina a marketing niche.
Last year, Emi-G downsized its work force from 45 to 30.
And Zkano and Little River don’t yet sell enough to sustain the mill alone.Gina notices socks everywhere she goes, and in winter wears two pairs, one during daytime, another to bed. Locklear looks on as Rhonda Whitmire inspects socks. Locklear handles it herself — in addition to ordering yarn, designing both lines, doing social media marketing, processing credit card orders and lying awake nights with worry.Her office décor is entirely hosiery-related: spools of candy-colored yarn on a shelf, mateless samples pinned to corkboards. When she’s at the mill, her focus is on the knitting machines and whether they are aiding or conspiring against her. Above them, a halo of metalwork holds the yarn being fed into their bellies.They knew how hard it was to compete and how much money it would take to start a brand. Most of all, they didn’t want their oldest daughter to do something she’d soon regret or tire of.“But it’s been everything except any of that,” her father said.Her mother added: “She absolutely loves what she does.