TOMS Shoes a fitting fashion philanthropy
Published: Monday, November 16, 2009
Updated: Monday, November 16, 2009 23:11
UDress, the university's student-run fashion magazine, held a viewing of the documentary "For Tomorrow: The TOMS Shoes Story," for its members on Monday Nov. 9 in Purnell Hall. The documentary was a preview for another TOMS Shoes-centered event, "Style Your Sole," which will be held on Dec. 8 from 7:30-9 p.m. in the Trabant University Center multipurpose room.
TOMS Shoes is UDress' charity of choice because the members of UDress believe both in the cause behind the company and its future success.
TOMS Shoes, which currently sell at Clothes in the Past Lane in Newark, is an American footwear company that operates a nonprofit organization, Friends of TOMS. Friends of TOMS donates one pair of shoes to a child in need for every purchased pair of TOMS. TOMS, which is short for the word "tomorrow," as in, "shoes for tomorrow," has succeeded by way of its revolutionary business model, "One for One."
Senior Bari Grossman, Philanthropy Director for UDress, is a campus representative for TOMS and interned for the company for a summer. She says that the TOMS mission is worth supporting and buying the shoes is an easy way for college-aged students to make a difference.
UDress members chose TOMS as its philanthropy based on experiene they had with TOMS in the past. The magazine had previously worked with the organization Dress for Success, but wanted their philanthropy to appeal to a broader audience, says Jessica Lapidos, editor-in-chief of UDress.
"What better way to attract college students than with shoes?" Lapidos says.
The documentary viewing was a way to encourage the members of UDress to attend the Style Your Sole event in December, Lapidos says. At the viewing, UDress members could pre-order TOMS shoes that they could then decorate at the Style Your Sole event using glitter, paint, buttons and other materials.
Most styles of TOMS are made from little more than canvas and rubber soles.
"The shoes are literally a blank canvas," Grossman says.
In the TOMS documentary, the founder of TOMS, Blake Mycoskie, travels to the most impoverished areas of Argentina to present poor children with pairs of TOMS shoes. This is called a shoe-drop, and TOMS had given more than 68,000 pairs of shoes away at the time of the documentary's filming.
The gratitude of the children and their families deeply affects the shoe-givers, who say that the shoe-drops are "overwhelming," "amazing," "perfect," and above all, "necessary."
According to the film, TOMS shoes are modeled after the Argentinean peasant shoe, the alpargata, which is an essential for farmers and people working outdoors. However, 40 percent of the world's people are without shoes and many of these people, including children in Argentina, have to work and walk to school barefoot, which can lead to injured feet, infection and hookworm.
Grossman says that going without shoes can also lead to a debilitating disease called podoconiosis, an inflammation and infection of the feet resulting from walking in silica-rich soil. The disease is 100 percent preventable by wearing shoes, Grossman says.
"TOMS is the easiest way to make a difference against diseases like this," Grossman says. "Buying shoes is something many of us already do, and it's a way to contribute to something big without making big changes."
Lapidos says that TOMS is a worthwhile cause because struggling college students want to be able to donate money, and through TOMS, they receive a pair of shoes as an incentive.
"If my purchase can guarantee that kids will get shoes, it's very rewarding," she says.
"In the recession especially, people can't send thousands of dollars to save the world," she says. "Buying a pair of shoes that in turn send a pair to a poor child is a better alternative than buying something just for yourself."
An average pair of TOMS is costs between $40 and $50. Considering the shoes are made of little more than canvas and rubber, some students believe the price is fair. Mara Lindel, a freshman who attended the documentary viewing, says approximately $50 is a reasonable price because the price essentially covers two pairs of shoes.
"I expect TOMS to grow even more because it's becoming so trendy," Lindel says.
Shirin Lowell, a freshman who also viewed the film, says TOMS is a simple yet brilliant concept.
"TOMS is something someone should have thought of before now," Lowell says.
Both girls are looking forward to attending the Style Your Sole event, which is open only to UDress members as a staff bonding activity.
Toward the end of the documentary, one of the volunteers talks about his experience donating shoes. The cameraman asks him how he feels about TOMS. The volunteer becomes visibly choked up and buries his face in his hands. He then looks up and says, "It's the best thing I've ever done."
Grossman believes showing UDress members these images from the documentary is important. She wants people to believe in TOMS the same way that she does so that TOMS can continue doing its good work.
"We, as students, want to make a difference, but we're overwhelmed. Buying TOMS is simple," Grossman says. "It's the first step."