TOMS Eyewear: Sunglasses in Stores Now and We Got the Backstory

Photo courtesy of TOMS

Made in the shades: TOMS introduces eyewear, including its oversized sunglasses (above) in dusty rose and blue

Since its launch in 2006, TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoksie has sparked a veritable retail revolution with his One for One business model, which gives away one pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair sold. (Skechers and Warby Parker eyewear are just a few adopters of the concept.)

And while Mycoskie’s shoe line has become a phenomenon with everyone from mall-going teens to the Olsen twins, footwear is only the beginning for TOMS: The company just announced the launch of its brand-new eyewear collection, which includes styles for men and women retailing for $135 to $145. FashionEtc caught up with Mycoskie to get the scoop.

Congratulations on the launch! How are you feeling?

Relieved! I’ve been working on this since 2007—it’s been four years in the making! It’s really exciting to have it officially launched and be able to talk about it!

Was it tough keeping it under wraps?

Very hard! Not only was it hard for my friends and family to not know, but between the production of the glasses in Italy and all the work we’ve been done with eye care in places like Napal, I was so worried that it would leak on the web. Luckily, it didn’t!

Tell me about the sunglasses.

The most unique thing from a design standpoint is every pair has these hand-painted stripes. Every stripe tells a story—that’s kind of the tagline—and the idea is that these stripes are a reminder of what you’ve done. The first stripe represents you, you purchased them and you’re using them to protect your eyes. The bright stripe represents the person you’ve given sight to, and the stripe in the middle, the white stripe, represents TOMS—because TOMS connects you to that person. It personifies One for One, and it’s a really cool design element. 

Photo courtesy of TOMS

Mixing it up: Another style—in tortoise, off-white, and olive—from TOMS Eyewear collection

Where did the idea to do glasses come from?

After we’d given away 10,000 shoes, I was traveling and noticed that many kids couldn’t see the blackboard and didn’t have eyewear, or others had cataracts or blindness. I had the idea in October 2007—I still remember the day I registered on GoDaddy, and I didn’t tell anyone! I just sat on it for a few months, and then went to my staff and advisory board—but I said we’re so busy, and not ready yet. So we went on learning about vision and stuff, and as we got bigger we did more research and really started investing and learning, and really refining the product.

How to you feel about the brands that have adopted your One for One business model—are you annoyed or flattered?

It’s awesome! That’s what this is all about. I spoke at over 50 universities last year and at the end of the talk I said, use the One for One model, use it to create change. I’m actually writing a book that will help people copy the business plan.

So shoes, glasses—what’s next for TOMS?

I don’t think other products, for now. We’re going to expand the sunglasses, but as far as other products, we’re just going to focus on these two for a while. But in the future, we’d love to do more. One for one will hopefully address many needs in my lifetime.