This was my first visit to Los Angeles, to California, actually to the West Coast of the United States! Although I already travelled to the East Coast more than 20 times, I never made my way across the state to the Pacific coast – but now TOMS made this dream trip reality for me. I can only dream of moving out there one day (but it doesn’t hurt to look at apartments on sites like https://www.lineala.com/, right?!).
Already upon arrival in L.A. you get this sense of “Everything is possible”! Maybe it’s just triggered by hearing and reading about it so often, but this city really has a special vibe to it. Probably it’s all the hours that people are driving in their cars – at least that’s the place where I often have the best ideas and make big plans for the future. The traffic in L.A. at least creates a lot of daydreaming time in the car ;-)
It must have been the same for Blake Mycoskie – the founder of TOMS. He set out with a vision of creating a business, that TOMS is set up to do good and help people in need, by coming up with the “One for One” mission. For every product that’s sold another product is donated via one of the giving partners of TOMS.
He actually had no idea about the shoe industry, but an entrepreneurial background – as he had already founded a couple of businesses before TOMS. In Austria, people would’ve probably told him he’s crazy, but in L.A. he found the right base to grow this idea into a worldwide business with hundreds of employees and over 60 million of shoes donated to children in need since it’s launch in 2006.
But it’s not only shoes! As the social business expands, TOMS is able to help solve more problems – like restoring sight for every pair of eyewear purchased – or access to safe drinking water for every package of coffee sold from the TOMS brand. With the TOMS Social Entrepreneurship fund they also set out to help new companies with similar visions.
Well – and here’s the reason for my visit: TOMS launched a new collection in collaboration with “The Hill-Side”. So a small group of locals and friends of TOMS gathered in the art district of L.A. in a small shop & gallery called “Alchemy Works” for a laid-back California style party.
The collaboration is all about high quality fabrics from Japan and a special “punk-pattern” based upon an existing pattern from the archives of The Hill-Side, which actually started as an accessories brand. Then they started sourcing heritage textiles and reviving old manufacturing techniques. And this is what took them all the way to Japan, where the majority of their signature fabrics are woven. The whole collection goes from TOMS signature shoes to eyewear and even ties.
During the party I got to interview one of the two co-founders (and brothers) of The Hill-Side – Emil Corsillo. We talked a lot about Japanese influence since Japan is also a big inspiration for myself. From the early beginning a high school friend with Japanese roots was also part of the Hill-side team. The materials used for collaboration with Toms are also mostly made in Japan. The traditional weaving techniques are something only Japan can offer nowadays. This love for traditionally produced cotton fabrics was one of the key factors for starting their own business.
Officer’s look: Uniform from the State of California ;)
Get The Hill-Side x TOMS collection:
Visiting TOMS Headquarter:
To get a better sense of the brand’s values I also had the chance to visit the TOMS headquarter in Los Angeles. The “Giving” principle isn’t only the theoretical foundation of the brand, but it comes to life in their offices – as you can see. The spirit of the employees really transcends the brand and you can sense that their work has a true purpose and meaning. This was easily my favorite part of the visit! (And it’s only empty in these shots, because it was Veteran’s day and Friday and they had a big international sales conference – at least that’s what they told me ;-)).
Stay tuned: I’ll release a full travel video diary soon!
Thanks for the invitation to TOMS.