TOMS Hits London! We Talk To The Founder Of The Shoes Blake Mycoskie

As TOMS Hits London, We Talk To The Founder


by Contributor |
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We caught up with the brains behind the fash-pack’s favourite comfy shoe that also does good. Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoes, talks fashion week, celebrity fans and Instagram ahead of the brand’s first UK store opening in London...

Grazia: TOMS gives away one pair of shoes to those in need, for every pair bought. Where did the One For One idea come from?

Blake: It was from when I was in Argentina and met a lot of children who didn’t own any shoes. I wanted to help them, but didn’t want to start a charity – so I began a business. The idea was sell a pair, give a pair. If you can afford to buy a pair of shoes, how great would it be to help someone while you’re doing that. It took off, and so far we’ve given away 38 million pairs.

Grazia: Did you have big dreams for TOMS from the beginning?

Blake: I wasn’t sure the idea was going to work at all. It was a very small project to start with – only 250 kids from one village in Argentina. I felt like I could sell that number to my friends and family. So it wasn’t like we were thinking of thousands or millions of people getting involved. I had no idea it would have the commercial appeal it did and turn into an international brand.

TOMS's first UK store on Foubert's Place, London.

Grazia: What was the inspiration for TOMs’ earthy and simple design aesthetic?

Blake: The look of the shoes all come from Argentina. The original, simple design was based off the alpargata – which is a farmer’s shoe in Argentina. We’ve now expanded into wedges and all different types of style.

Grazia: Ethical fashion can be uncool – how is TOMS bucking the trend?

Blake: We haven’t tried to be cool, but I think we did become cool with people in fashion because we are quite understated. You can speak your values and what you care about without changing some of your other fashion choices. It became very chic to wear a pair of black TOMS with the rest of your outfit during fashion week. We just focused on making very simple shoes, rather than doing a whole read-to-wear collection.

Grazia: Does it help to have lots of A-List fans?

Blake: Since we’re based in Los Angeles we have a lot of support from Hollywood. There are lots of celebrities wearing our products – Charlize Theron, Ben Affleck, Keira Knightley, Natalie Portman – which has a big effect. Pretty much all the major style icons are supporters. Sienna Miller was our very first after only a couple of weeks of being in business. I just read an article saying she was wearing TOMS but have no idea how she got her hands on a pair.

Inside the new TOMS store.

Grazia: How important is it for fashion to use social media to raise awareness?

Blake: Very – we have used social media a lot to raise awareness in the past. However, we want to raise more than awareness, and want people to be a part of giving – even if they don’t buy a pair of shoes. As part of our ninth anniversary, starting today until 21 May, when anyone posts a picture of their bare feet on Instagram with the hashtag #withoutshoes or #TOMS, we’ll give away a pair of shoes to someone in need. We’d like to give away up to a million pairs. I’m a little nervous as it’s the first time we’ve done this.

Grazia: You now have collections of bags and eyewear, what other areas would you like to expand into?

Blake: We’ll stay focused on accessories. Shoes, eyewear and bags fit very well together, and I think they will be our main focus for the next couple of years.

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