New Charity-Minded Sock Company Bombas Picks Up Where Warby Parker, TOMS Leave Off

As Scottish philosopher/economist Adam Smith explained more than two centuries ago, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest." This means that charity isn’t much of a factor in capitalism. It’s all about taking care of your needs by making the necessary trades of products, labor, and capital with others who are taking care of their needs. Why, then, have companies like TOMS shoes and Warby Parker eyewear succeeded when they give away half of what they make? Through their "one for one" programs, every pair of shoes or eyeglasses purchased results in a comparable pair of shoes or eyeglasses given to people in need around the world. And now there’s Bombas, a new sock company that’s following the same business model, sending a pair of socks to a person in need with every traditional purchase. What would Adam Smith think? 

I think he’d be cool with it, because the idea doesn’t really mitigate his theory of rational self interest. As any Econ 101 student can tell you, charity’s not a one-sided transaction. Whether you drop a quarter into a homeless person’s tin cup or a quarter-million to fund an inner-city art museum, you’re purchasing the warm feelings that go along with your benevolence. TOMS, Warby Parker, and now Bombas are using charity to differentiate themselves from the many other companies that do what they do. They sell shoes, eyeglasses, and socks, as well as the satisfaction that comes with knowing you’ve helped someone, somewhere. And they add a tangible element to the deal. While you wiggle your toes or scrunch your nose and admire your new purchase, it’s easy to imagine some poor kid doing the exact same thing, and probably feeling twice as happy about it. 

As for Bombas, the company is the brainchild of David Heath and Randy Goldberg who, along with their business partners, did a bit of research and discovered that socks were the number one most requested clothing item in homeless shelters. Armed with that knowledge, they designed a line of bumblebee-adorned socks (Bombas is derived from the Latin word for bumblebee) that are stylish, high-tech, and comfortable, and committed to the one pair purchased = one pair donated philosophy. (Scroll down to the video below for details.)

I’ll let the sock experts weigh in on their quality, which involves a honeycomb support system, seamless toe, and Y-stitched heel, among other 21st Century sock innovations. All I know is that they’re extremely comfortable, allowing me to complete a serious run in Prospect Park yesterday even though I was hung over. So, benevolence aside, they’re very good socks, and they don’t cost any more than other high-performance socks. You can get a starter pack of three pairs, plus three pairs donated, for $24. 

But is the charitable element a way to make Bombas stand out from its competitors? Well, yes, but it’s not just that. Heath and Goldberg do care about the less fortunate, and clearly enjoy being able to help in their way. And with backgrounds in some of the most successful tech companies New York has produced in the past decade, they could have taken more traditional career paths involving the standard dealmaking so many contend with every day to make a living. Instead, they sell socks, and they help poor people, and they use one to aid the other. Try as I might, I can’t find a problem with that. 

And so we’ve got a world of poor people wearing designer eyeglasses, high-performance socks, and stylish shoes. Anybody out there care to complete the ensemble? Underwear, pants, and shirt-makers, I’m looking at you. 

[Bombas Socks Official Site; More by Victor Ozols; Follow me on Twitter]

Buy Fashion & Give Back with Community Collection

Spanking new e-commerce site Community Collection is merging fashion and philanthropy like never before. Blending the flash-sales concept of Gilt Groupe with the goodwill ethos of TOMS, this exciting platform helps both consumers and designers boost their charitable initiatives by donating a percentage of sales to a specific cause. In other words, we can all finally bid adieu to buyer’s remorse.

Here’s how it works: each week, a new batch of top brands team up with a specific charity, like Alexander Wang for Operation Homefront. Users browse by collection, cause, or designer to fulfill their retail therapy, and for every item purchased, 20% of the sale will be donated to a charity tied to that specific designer. Painless.

Founded by Brooks Cook, a 25-year-old former water polo phenom and real estate investor (ambitious much?), Community Collection launched a few weeks ago and has already raised $1,041 for 15 charities. Including the aforementioned Wang, the following designers and charities participated in week one: Alexis Bittar for Flying Kites Global, Adam Lippes for American Cancer Society, Equipment for Girls Inc., Current Elliott for Goods for Good, Alexander Wang Sunglasses for Operation Homefront, Cut 25 by Yigal Azrouel for Operation Smile, Whetherly for Operation USA and Inhabit for World Wildlife Fund. Next week’s sales will include LnA for Partners in Health, Helmut Lang for Flying Kites Global, and Clare Vivier for Surfrider Foundation.

After Hosting The Row’s Fashion Show, Paris Boutique Market Montaigne Catches the International Eye

One evening during fashion week, I asked Liliane Jossua, owner of the fashion boutique Montaigne Market in Paris, if her store was like Colette, perhaps the most famous contemporary store in Paris. “I wouldn’t say that,” she said. “We don’t carry objects except for our jewelry lines, and we don’t have a bar!” While she doesn’t have plans to install one, either, the frequent parties the boutique hosts with star European DJs like Martin Solveig still make it one of Paris’s chicest boutiques — and sometimes watering holes. Over the just-wrapped Fashion Week in the French capital, Liliane hosted the Row’s Spring/Summer 2012 collection show, where Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were on hand to toast themselves along with the rest of the fashion elite.

The Paris boutique was the first to carry the Row, and Liliane describes her relationship with the Olsens as a “kind of a partnership.” In other words, she won’t show just anyone’s new collection in her Market.

“Market Montaigne is a bull’s eye into the fashion world of Paris,” says Myrene de Premonville, Market Montaigne’s public relations representative. The Row’s SS12 collection was taken down the day after the show, leaving only the current winter collection in store, but the entire range of creamy, ivory whites in diverse textures and materials was memorable. Particularly alluring is the buttery-soft suede drape skirt paired with a silk blouse — luxurious, comfortable, and feminine.

The Row’s Olsens teamed up with Tom’s Shoes for their collection, so the do-good shoe company’s casual loafer-style kicks, based out of Santa Monica, can now be bought in the hottest shop on Avenue Montaigne.

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The Market opened six years ago. It remains unique in its multi-brand approach to stocking its shelves on an avenue that’s world-famous for its designer boutiques like Chanel, Dior, and Nina Ricci. In other words, it’s one-stop shopping to dress yourself head-to-toe in the most coveted, trendsetting, in-demand looks. “This is one of Paris’s most exclusive boutiques. It’s very edgy, very Right Bank with international clients. And they always take the fashion trend just a bit further,” commented Gregoire Marot, one of the principals at communications agency Favori.

Hottest sellers during Paris’ SS12 Fashion Week: Bouchra Jarrar, Maxime Simoens, Sophie Theallet, Alaia, Carven, the Row, and Thakoon, which is exclusive in Paris to Market Montaigne. For jewelry, you’ll find cuffs and one-of-a-kinds by Prive, Pristine, Shambhala, and Aaron Jah Stone, among others. Montaigne Market carries over 600 brands, and on a good shopping week can see upwards of 700 clients come through their doors. Price points? If you have to ask…

Fashion Week SS’12 Paris also saw the opening of the new DSquared2 Boutique on rue St. Honoré. It was one of the hot tickets over the weekend, though the “VIP Party” that followed was rather a disappointment. The boutique is at 247-251 rue St. Honoré, just down from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and practically across the street from the Tara Jarmon boutique.

Tara Jarmon’s new SS’12 collection, shown in boutique, is a fun, playful and colorfully daring tribute to Monte Carlo and Caracas. “Mademoiselle Tara” is a line designed for the mischievous jetsetter who packs her bags for days spent beach-side in Monte Carlo, and nights spent at gala parties. Color palette is creams, night blues and rays of sunshine yellow. Several outfits come with matching leather driving gloves…very Princess Grace!

For the Caracas theme, Tara Jarmon’s inspiration was drawn from David Hockney paintings with a color tone that combines soft tones and acid flashes: Zesty lemon, water green. Particularly enticing is a little tennis ensemble that adds sequins to the V neckline of the traditional tennis sweater and pairs with a mid-thigh lemon yellow skirt. French Open and Wimbledon, here we come!

Guerlain and the Westin Hotel, rue Castiglione, paired up to offer complimentary makeup during breaks in the relentless fashion week schedule. Makeup retouches are offered to those quick enough to call in with their name and requested appointment time. Even if you’re not a professional model, the artist’s skilled hands and Guerlain’s makeup will make you look ready to walk a runway!

The Olsen Twins Travel to Honduras to Donate TOMS Shoes

Even as Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are busy running a CFDA-nominated high-fashion line, they manage to make time for collaborations across the price spectrum. Their latest pairing was with philanthropic footwear line TOMS to debut a limited-edition collection of cashmere and merino wool espadrilles. To prove that they’re just as passionate about giving back as they are about $39,000 crocodile backpacks, the Olsens recently headed to Honduras to hand-deliver TOMS shoes to children in need. Because every kid needs a pair of cashmere slippers, right?

The Telegraph reports that the girls joined TOMS founder Blake Mcoyskie to honor the footwear brand’s “One for One” movement, which provides an impoverished child with a pair of shoes for every pair purchased. While the shoes distributed were most likely not from their TOMS collaboration (those are $150 a pop, after all), we still think breaking away from their billion-dollar bubble to meet these kids was a pretty cool move.

Introducing TOMS Eyewear

After a compelling trip to Argentina during his stint on The Amazing Race, Blake Mycoskie was inspired to develop a shoe company with a simple initiative: for every pair of shoes sold, a new pair would be donated to a child in need. Little did he know that his charitable start-up, TOM Shoes, would spark a full-fledged movement that would single-handedly unite fashion and philanthropy. Now, Mycoskie is taking his patented One for One concept one step further by producing more than just footwear – and he’s starting with eyewear.

TOMS Eyewear comes in a range of styles, with wayfarer or aviator frame options. Not sure what pair fits your style? Try them on virtually. At $135-$145 a pop, your purchase will help the disadvantaged in one of three ways: Medical treatment (like prescription medications), prescriptive eyeglasses, or sight-saving surgery (to treat conditions such as cataract, which is the leading cause of blindness in the world). Learn more here.

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Warby Parker Will Change the Future of Eyewear

If you have bad eyesight and no vision insurance, you’ve probably heard of Warby Parker. Best known for its inconceivably low prices for prescription eyeglasses (inconceivable until you realize how incredibly cheap it must be to make specs), Warby Parker has been quietly and steadily filling an important niche in the field of optics: budget eyewear that doesn’t sacrifice style. A finished prescription pair of frames comes out to just $95 (anywhere from half to a quarter of what you’d pay for glasses elsewhere), and the impressive collection of styles rivals those found at any luxury eyewear retailer.

If the price point isn’t convincing enough, Warby Parker offers free at-home try-on — up to 5 selections — and for every pair you purchase, they’ll give a pair to someone in need (similar to the TOMS model).

Best of all, Warby Parker has just released a new collection of frames for 2011, nearly doubling their catalogue of vintage-inspired styles. As always, the trusty monocle is still for sale on the site. I give it six weeks before I see someone in Williamsburg donning this look. Check out the full collection on the site, but act fast: Some of the styles are no longer available for the at-home trial run due to limited qualities. Then again, if you live in NYC, you’re always welcome to visit the showroom and try on as many pairs as you like.

Selling Their Soles (To Save Their Souls)

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Blake Mycoskie is standing outside of a movie theater on the corner of East 19th and Broadway in Manhattan. He looks scruffy in a manicured way, and he’s wearing a pair of Toms shoes inspired by traditional Argentinian footwear—a combination of Tod’s and tatami slippers. He’s here at the Tribeca Film Festival promoting For Tomorrow: The First Step of the Revolution, the new short film he produced about his entrepeneurial upstart. It’s part of the preciously titled “All Truisms” collection of films centered on world travel and benevolence. For Tomorrow, directed by Ken Kokin, chronicles Mycoskie’s experience with Toms, and his first major “drop” in Argentina. You see, for every pair of shoes he sells at places like Nordstrom, Toms gives away a pair of shoes to a child in need.

Surprisingly, and pleasantly, it’s an altruistic business model that seems to work. The film, at once anthropological and confessional, follows Mycoskie and his crew as they give shoes away en masse. For their first drop—despite little sleep, sudden downpours, and little experience—they were able to hand out 10,000 pairs of shoes. On his next excursion to Africa, he intends to part with 40,000 pairs. Mycoskie’s is a genuine desire to help people (without the sexploitation of Dov Charney and company).