Jasmine J.

TOMS – One size does not fit all

In Eco trends watch on May 22, 2012 at 11:08 am

The super comfy, unisex, canvas slips-ons have been lurking the market for some time, but only became the season’s sartorial staple for summertime wear this year. Yep, TOMS are everywhere these days, from adorable toddlers, campus crowds, to hottest celebs. And the celebs are also touting the company’s “One Day Without Shoes” campaign, like it is going out of style. Pun intended.

In 2006, when TOMS kicked off its fledgling business model of providing a pair of shoes to someone in developing world for every pair sold, every fashionably conscious do-gooder rejoiced. Last year, on its website, the company proudly reported that by 2010 it had given away more than 1 million shoes. It has expanded further to include sunglasses under this same charitable model.

TOMS is not a pioneer in these matters by no means. Brands founded on a similar philanthropic business concept are making their appearances in the world of fashion on a steady basis. So, one might wonder does this sort of corporate altruism really help people in need?

And here’s the reality check.  Aid workers (some have even launched excellent blogs) on the ground in many of these developing countries, i.e. those best-equipped to weigh in, feel that this is risky business, one with a fair chance of doing more harm than good. If thought out well, it may make some marginal difference, otherwise it just might lead to a plethora of problems for the local economy. At the very least, it leads to mass dumping of goods that are either not needed or appropriate for the market, at the worst, it can erode all competition and drive local business out of work, because who can compete with a price tag of “free”?

Note to readers: This Canela Pura piece will be published in the 405 Magazine, thefourohfive.com on June 6.

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  1. Really interesting point about how this One for One may affect the local community and economy. I guess it depends on whether the people that are receiving the free pairs of shoes would be engaging in the local economy anyway i.e. they wouldn’t have the money to buy a pair of shoes, so would more likely go without than buy a pair from a local business.

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