We chatted exclusively to Blake Mycoskie, the founder of shoe company, TOMS.
‘One for One,’ is the philosophy and business model that started the global success of TOMs shoes. The idea was simple: buy a pair of TOMS and they’ll give another pair to someone in need. But after 10 years, it is no longer ‘One for One’ but one for 50 million – the number of pairs of shoes that TOMS have sold in their decade of existence thanks to founder Blake Mycoskie.
Blake says: ‘When we started a shoe company, we knew nothing about shoes. But starting from scratch only made us work that much harder. I think this spirit of entrepreneurship, passion and building something completely unique has been a large part of of our TOMs culture and our philosophy too. We are a group of passionate people, committed to giving and keeping that at the core of everything we do.’
As well as 50 million pairs of shoes, TOMS have also restored the sight of 36000 people through their eyewear line and provided 250000 weeks of safe water to those without access. But Blake says ‘We’re just getting started.’ The vibrant entrepreneur describes TOMS as his ‘business soul mate,’ and says he is most proud of the company culture he has built: ‘We have hundreds of engaged and passionate employees and have begun to produce almost half of the shoes we give away in regions where we give them, offering local employment opportunities too.’
To celebrate the brand’s 10th birthday, TOMS have created a special anniversary print that will line all colour variations in the collection. ‘We are having a lot of fun with our upcoming collections,’ says Blake. ‘I love that we continue to innovate from a product perspective too. This Spring/Summer you’ll see a lot of variety in our textiles and materials. We’ve introduced a cool cork application to several of our most popular styles.’ There are also options beyond the famous espadrille design: ‘Our Fall collection will offer some great boots with options for customers who live in colder climates but still want to be part of giving with TOMS.’
Blake says the brand are using this 10 year milestone to look back over what they have achieved and the impact that TOMS has had to work towards the future. ‘I really look forward to continuing to evolve our work to benefit the communities we’re giving to. It’s humbling to see the progress we’ve already made but we are just one small piece and cannot succeed alone.’ TOMS have collaborated with celebrities and designers like Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen to bring awareness and variation to the brand. ‘We really love working with musicians, artists, brands and humanitarians who are seeking new ways of impacting the world in positive ways. This year already we’ve launched a project with Malala where 100% of the profits go to her foundation. We worked with a preservation organisation called Oceana to offer funds towards the protection of sea turtles. We also have a lot of exciting projects coming up including one with Charlie Theron and a really cool up-and-coming brand from Brooklyn called The Hillside.
On the surface the brand succeed at creating and selling great shoes, while beyond that their positive impact is vast. As well as the shoes they give a way and their multiple charitable projects, the brand, with Blake at the helm, have begun to steer the way that customers and entrepreneurs view businesses with a kinder objective. In their 10 years, TOMS have given shoes, sight and water to those who need it and inspiration to those seeking it.
Words by Alex Bee