Blake Mycoskie founded Toms Shoes in 2006 based on the idea of giving away much of his product for free in order to help children in need.
This story first appeared in the August 9, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Next month, Mycoskie will measure the success of his enterprise when the company delivers its one-millionth pair of shoes to a child in Argentina. He said it’s just the beginning.
The principle is simple: For each pair of shoes that Toms sells, one pair is given to a child in need in a developing country. The company’s distribution now reaches 28 nations and product is sold in 22 countries, with little overlap between the philanthropic and commercial markets.
“I don’t want it to be about us reaching a milestone,” said Mycoskie, who got the idea for Toms when he was traveling in Argentina. “This is our way of saying thank you to the million people who’ve purchased Toms.”
The shoes are made of uncomplicated fibers and are constructed from straightforward designs. It’s precisely this simplicity with which Mycoskie credits the company’s success.
“From a design perspective, we keep it very simple,” he said. “We don’t try to be all things to all people.”
The footwear is constructed of cotton and canvas, and some of half-hemp and half-recycled plastic bottles, in a variety of colors and patterns. It retails for $44 to $95 at Neiman Marcus, Whole Foods and tomsshoes.com. Mycoskie sought to broaden the brand’s reach through fashion and charitable collaborations, with Polo Ralph Lauren’s Rugby and Charlize Theron, and limited edition launches with Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman.
Mycoskie said there is “a demand for more fashion,” and the company released its fourth design, a women’s espadrille wedge, this year.
“I’m trying to encourage everyone to think about how they can incorporate giving into their business model,” he said. “It feels good, but it’s also good for business, for building morale, which is equally important.”