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Category: Blake Mycoskie

Book by Toms Shoes' founder tries to 'start something'

Toms Shoes Founder Blake Mycoskie
If you're a fan of the Toms Shoes brand, you might want to check out my review of "Start Something That Matters," a new book by the footwear company's founder Blake Mycoskie, which appears in today's Los Angeles Times.

Although the main thrust of the book is to lay out Mycoskie's guidelines for starting a business with a meaningful -- i.e. charitable -- component (or grafting such a component onto an already existing business), the book -- which is a very fast-reading 189 pages -- is worth reading even if that's not on your immediate to-do list, since it not only lays out how the early history of the company, but also answers Toms-related questions big (what inspired him, what some of the early, costly mistakes were) and small (like where the name "Toms Shoes" came from).

"Start Something That Matters," by Blake Mycoskie ($22, Spiegel & Grau, 2011)

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Toms shoes' Blake Mycoskie on his next steps

Toms Shoes' model is sell a pair, give a pair away

-- Adam Tschorn

Photo: Toms Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie, far right, with employees Meaghan Delmonico and Ron Elizondo at the company's Santa Monica headquarters in 2009. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Toms shoe guru Blake Mycoskie on his next steps

Blake2

Toms Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie is one of my favorite Angelenos, if you can call him one, since he spends so much of his time traveling on shoe drops in South America and Africa, and giving speeches about his One For One business model (buy a pair of shoes, and a pair is donated to someone in need).

I caught up with him over tea at his Santa Monica office recently, and even though I had to use my Blackberry, I wanted to take a picture of his wonderfully wacky outfit (below). He's wearing a nubby Edun cardigan and pants he picked up at a market in Nepal, and carrying his journal, purchased at the San Telmo market in Buenos Aires. He's also wearing Toms, of course, from the latest collection inspired by the journals and images left by activist Dan Eldon, the young photographer who was killed in 1993 covering the war in Somalia. (The shoes have a fingerprint-print, which Mycoskie took from Eldon's passport.)Blake

It's appropriate that Mycoskie looks a little like a guru, because he's asking us to follow him on Tuesday, April 5, in spending a day without shoes to raise awareness for those who do not have a choice. He's expecting 1 million people to participate worldwide in the One Day Without Shoes event, include corporate partners AOL and Microsoft. It would be an astonishing response, especially considering the brand isn't 5 years old yet.

Not that Mycoskie is anywhere close to completing his goal of stamping out foot diseases worldwide. To that end, on June 7, he's announcing a new product that will guide the next phase of growth for his business.

But he's keeping that product shrouded in mystery, or hidden in a box as it were, which he presented to an audience for the first time last month, while giving the keynote speech at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas.  

I tried to play the 20 questions game with him. Is it bigger than a bread box? Will it sell at the same stores as Toms shoes? Is it a product in the fashion space? But he wouldn't budge. He says his staff doesn't even know what it is. He asked retailers to purchase the product sight unseen. "If they open the box and don't think [the product] is a fit for them, they can send it back to us," he said. "And I do believe it can be sold in 50% of our stores, and that it will open up new doors, and new places. Our first big retail account was actually a furniture store," he pointed out.

The plan for June 7 is to distribute 200 of the mystery boxes to different influencers around the world, and to have them open the boxes simulataneously. (Which could be exciting, considering the folks Mycoskie keeps company with -- Bill Clinton, Cameron Diaz, Morgan Spurlock, etc.) Until then, we'll just have to keep guessing.

W-Neon Green Crochet-S[1] From a fashion perspective, it's incredible how many people are wearing Toms, which are now almost as popular as flip-flops. In June, the summer collection will land in stores, with a very cool-looking crochet style. And for fall, Toms has collaborated with the Row on a collection of shoes designed by Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen.

"The great thing about their line is that they make unbelievable basics, which sell incredibly well at some of the same stores we sell," Mycoskie said. "So to take their amazing cashmeres and Italian wools and put them on a classic Toms style, it seemed like it made sense. And they feel like butter on your feet."

The core fall Toms collection, however, has a more lofty inspiration: great mentors and teachers. "I saw 'Waiting for "Superman,"' and I started thinking with that film and some of the things the Gates Foundation is doing, that education could be the next climate change," Mycoskie said. "Not that we don't have a long way to go on climate change still, but I believe education will be the next chatter of pop culture."

So he asked Toms employees to team up with their favorite teachers and model fall shoes for a photo shoot. Mycoskie's favorite teacher is pictured in the lookbook: Jim Woodruff, his theology teacher from senior year of high school. The shoe designs play off the education theme, with an academic-looking herringbone, and a print that reads "dare to teach."

Mycoskie is putting the finishing touches on his first book, titled “Start Something That Matters," out Sept. 6. "It's the No. 1 question I get asked: 'I have an idea, how do I get it started?' And I think I have some ideas to help people with that," he said.

Part of the book is about challenging people -- to volunteer at a homeless shelter, start a nonprofit or start a giving program at their for-profit business, he explained. "It's not only an entrepreneurial book, it’s personal."

The book also makes a case for simplicity -- simplicity in design, message and in how you live. "People are addicted to stuff," said Mycoskie, who lives on a houseboat to keep his stuff in check. "They think they can't live without it. But intellectually, they also understand how not having a lot of stuff to keep, and take care of, lets you lead a more free life."

Except that Mycoskie sells shoes, and he doesn't want you to just buy one pair. "That is a dilemma," he admitted. "But everything has its flaws."

At least Toms don’t take up a lot of room.

-- Booth Moore

Photos, from top: Blake Mycoskie, right, rallying the crowd in Venice at the 2010 One Day Without Shoes event. And green crochet Toms from the summer collection. From Toms shoes.

Ewan McGregor toasts Toms Shoes' Blake Mycoskie at Go Campaign's Go Go Gala

ActorEwan_Paul_17057444_Max Last Friday, Go Campaign -- which encourages kids to volunteer to help other children around the world -- held a dinner fund-raiser and auction at the Social Hollywood to honor Toms Shoes' Blake Mycoskie. Actor Ewan McGregor hosted the event.

“Toms is not only giving shoes to kids around the world but it’s inspiring people to think differently about business,” said Mycoskie, who wore a new silver Toms shoe for Neiman-Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. “When I accept an award, I get a few minutes to tell people: you don’t have to either do just charity or business. You can combine the two for more sustainable ways to help people.”

Toms Shoes has a policy where it gives one pair of shoes to children in need for every pair sold.

Ewan McGregor said he got involved with the Go Campaign after mutual friends suggested he let organization founder Scott Fifer stay on his couch in London while en route to a project in Tanzania. “I’m here to raise awareness and raise money for the project -- that's my job,” said the now L.A.-based actor who was wearing just a "gray suit." “A lot can be done for a very little.”

Dave Stewart and his Rock Fabulous quartet entertained the student volunteers and their families plus celebs Jonah Hill, Cheryl Tiegs and Danielle Bisutti.

-- Max Padilla

Photo: Ewan McGregor (left), Go Campaign founder Scott Fifer and Tom's Blake Mycoskie. Credit: Paul Redmond/WireImage

Fashion Diary: Toasting Toms Shoes

Rage_blake Gossip, first impressions, trends in the making, celebrities and style setters. A regular feature by fashion critic Booth Moore.

All the leggy, blond girls and wild-haired surfer boys were out Wednesdaynight at the Viceroy in Santa Monica to celebrate Blake Mycoskie's birthday. The founder of Toms shoes may be turning 33 (the actual date is next week, when he's going to be in New Orleans on a shoe drop), but he can still part-ay, as demonstrated by the gun-shaped flasks of tequila he was sporting in a waist holster made out of two open-toed Toms canvas shoes.

Mycoskie's business is going great guns, thanks in no small part to his AT&T commercial, which is in heavy rotation on TV. Turns out the folks from AT&T called the Toms 800 number to offer the gig to Mycoskie who was, ironically, out of touch, traveling in Chile. He went to check his e-mail at an Internet cafe, and finally got word of the commercial. And since it's started airing earlier this year, he says shoe sales have increased 600%.

Continue reading »

Fashion Diary: L.A. wins at the CFDA

Rodarte sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy Gossip, first impressions, trends in the making, celebrities and style setters. A regular feature by fashion critic Booth Moore.
 
NEW YORK -- It was a big night for Los Angeles at the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards, the apparel industry equivalent to the Oscars held at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall on Monday. Rodarte designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy, who started making dresses in their parents' guest house in Pasadena just four years ago, took the womenswear designer of the year award.
 
Not since James Galanos won the lifetime achievement award in 1984 has a Left Coast label made such an impact on the Seventh Avenue-centric CFDA, a non-profit trade organization that supports American designers. Unlike Galanos, whose beaded confections were all Nancy Reagan perfection, the Mulleavys' horror-film-meets-haute-couture aesthetic reflects the dichotomy of the California dream with blood red-streaked and graffitied chiffon gowns, shredded leather leggings and bike jackets and spike-covered stilettos.
 
The self-taught sisters have earned a loyal following in Hollywood with celebs such as Kirsten Dunst, who led the designers' cheering section Monday night. Also in the visiting-from-California contingent: Decades' Cameron Silver, Toms Shoes' Blake Mycoskie and Trovata's John Whitledge.
 
Continue reading »

Earth Day 2009: Help the environment in style

Do-gooder-coverHappy Earth Day! We here at the Los Angeles Times Image section know that desire drives fashion. But as the high cost of our wants becomes clear, some businesses are evolving with an eye to helping people and planet. The new vision? Here's a look at some local entrepreneurs who are bringing it to focus.

* Clothing designer Christina Kim weaves recycled materials as well as the work of artisans the world over into her eco-friendly, human-friendly Dosa fashions. Click here for more on Kim, and here for photos of her work.

* Pierre André Senizergues' Sole Technology, a successful Lake Forest-based skatewear company, is using eco-friendly technology and recycled materials in hopes of inspiring others to do the same. Here's more on him, and photos are here.

* Toms Shoes' entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie has, to date, given away 140,000 pairs of shoes in the U.S., Argentina, Ethiopia and South Africa. Read more about him here, or click here for photos.

* Local boutique The Way We Wore brings in designers to give flat frocks new chic (and fuel its Out of the Ordinary charity auction). More about that here, with photos here.

For more on eco-friendly fashions, including what to wear and what green-friendly online publications to bookmark, check out this package.

-- Times staff writers

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Photos: Top, Christina Kim. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times; middle, Pierre André Senizergues. Credit:Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times; bottom: Blake Mycoskie.Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Toms Shoes and Element collaborate on shoes and skateboards

Toms Shoes have become popular with skaters, hipsters and hipsters who wish they were skaters, so it seems fitting that Toms would collaborate with a huge skate brand on a limited edition line of shoes and boards.1womens_striped_flower

The Toms and Element Skateboards line launches today with a 1mens_element_print_2 collection of five styles of shoes --three for women and two for men.  Also, Element has designed a Toms branded skateboard to push around on while wearing what else? Toms shoes.

Element will follow the Toms "one for one" rule -- for every skate deck or board bought, Element will give a board away to a child in need of some wheels. 

The shoes from the collection are fun and splashy, with stripes, flowers and graphic prints. The shoes are all $46. Skateboards retail for $150 for a complete long board and $50 for the smaller deck.

--Melissa Magsaysay

Photos: Women's floral stripe shoe and men's Element print shoe / Toms Shoes

Sole power

Rage_toms_2I stopped into the Toms Shoes pop-up store in Venice on Friday to reconnect with the brand’s founder Blake Mycoskie.  I was one of the first people to write about him back in 2006. A former contestant on “The Amazing Race” reality show, he was just returning to L.A. from Argentina, where he’d gone to relax, play polo and volunteer. Inspired by poverty in the country and by the traditional Argentine rope-soled canvas “alpargata” shoes, he'd created a business. The model? For every pair of Toms shoe sold in the states, he would donate a pair to a child in need in South America or Africa.

Since then, he has given away more than 200,000 pairs of shoes, many on “shoe drops” in Ethiopia and Argentina. Next year, his goal is to give away 300,000 more. The shoes come in a variety of colors, prints and plaids (including glitter for the holidays) and are affordable, at about $48 a pair. They are sold online at tomsshoes.com and at stores such as Whole Foods and Urban Outfitters. And you can’t help but feel good about buying them. Not that Mycoskie’s making a profit — yet. That’s for 2009.Rage_glitter

Still, I think Mycoskie, who lives on a sailboat in the marina (how cool is that?) and works in Santa Monica, is at the forefront of a new kind of conscientious consumerism. He never went to college but is a natural-born entrepreneur who likes to talk about everyone from Richard Branson to Ralph Lauren, with whom he recently collaborated on a limited edition line of Toms. And he pays for his employees, all 30 of them, to go on shoe drops with him around the world -- so they believe in the product as much as he does.

It’s no wonder that former President Clinton became such a fan he invited Mycoskie to join his Global Initiative annual meeting in September — and gifted all the world leaders who participated with a pair of Toms shoes!

Check them out for yourself at tomsshoes.com or TOMS Pop-Up store, 1617 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (800) 975-TOMS.

-- Booth Moore

Photos: Top, Toms Pop-Up Store, and bottom, Toms glitter shoes. Credit: Toms


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