John Whitledge

Toms has hired John Whitledge as creative director.

The give-back brand — founded in 2006 by Blake Mycoskie with a singular shoe style — will look to expand its aesthetic repertoire beyond the Whole Foods and hiking set.

Whitledge, cofounder of the Trovata fashion brand — which won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2005 — aims to reinvigorate Toms men’s assortment and shoe designs. His influence at Toms will first be seen for the spring season. Whitledge is to continue his work on Trovata as well.

“Our goal is to elevate design, product and storytelling to match the commitment we have emphasized with giving,” Whitledge said. “If we can re-create that focus and enthusiasm, then the sky’s the limit. Our approach for spring 2018 was to remove anything that wasn’t providing an emotional connection within the team. This allowed us to take some bold steps in materials we used, compelling outsole executions, and introducing signature details to create a cohesive collection.”

Toms’ best-known design — its Alpargata slip-on flat — has become Whitledge’s first matter of business. The designer hopes to elevate what has become a fixture of yoga studio shoe racks. “My goal for the immediate future is to really focus on reinvigorating the Alpargata, which is the shoe that started the Toms movement. For spring we are excited to explore and leverage some of the company’s roots, while at the same time pushing the process through a curated lens that we believe elevates the brand forward. It’s important to showcase where we came from, how far we have come and where it is we are heading,” Whitledge said.

A 2006 trip to Argentina inspired Mycoskie to create the Alpargata style — redesigning a traditional, regional shoe for everyday urban life. With Toms one-for-one giveback philosophy, Alpargata sales have led to tens of thousands of donated shoes in developing nations and regions.

This is not Whitledge’s first work with Toms. In 2011, he designed Toms’ debut eyewear collection.

Mycoskie said of his appointment: “I met John soon after he had won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award and from then on we have become the best of friends, supporting each other and being thought-partners for one another. I asked him to design the first line of Toms glasses, which we launched in 2011. Now, he is overseeing all things creative at Toms and I couldn’t be more excited about the ideas and products he’s created. He’s bringing a fresh energy and perspective to Toms and it’s superinspiring for our staff and myself personally.”

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