The past month has been an absolute blur for me, filled with more excitement, sadness, anger, and sheer joy than I have ever felt in my life. Africa, I will miss you!
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
The past month has been an absolute blur for me, filled with more excitement, sadness, anger, and sheer joy than I have ever felt in my life. Africa, I will miss you!
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Monday, October 1, 2007
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
If you have ever seen the movie The Family Man with Nicholas Cage, you know the song that I am about to reference. It is by the Talking Heads and is one of those songs that you find yourself, for absolutely no reason at all, humming in the shower.
Due to the wondrous powers of the internet, I was able to hunt down the exact words to the chorus:
And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful Wife
And you may ask yourself-well...how did I get here?
I mention all of this because I am currently looking at a picture of myself on page 130 of People Magazine. PEOPLE MAGAZINE! The magazine has Owen Wilson on the cover and is due out any day now.
I cannot tell you guys how grateful I am for this experience. This past year-and-a-half has been surreal. It felt like yesterday that I was working out of my apartment in Venice with three interns that I found on Craigslist. TOMS now has 16 full time employees, a large office building, a professional phone system, and if all goes well, a working fax machine in the coming days. I feel so blessed.
I have spent so much time on the road these past few months that I often feel like Nicholas Cage in that movie. Sometimes it feels too good to be true.
So, yes, before I start blubbering, I would just like to thank everyone at People for putting me in their magazine, and all of you for reading this blog. I know that I have said this before, but I am going to start updating this journal every week or so. (double pinkie swear).Countdown to South Africa: 58 days!
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
There is something completely beautiful about coming home after a long trip and just basking in simple comforts: like sleeping in your own bed, and taking a hot shower, and putting on clean underwear. In short, IT FEELS GOOD TO BE HOME!
The Airstream trip was better than I could have possibility hoped. We met so many dedicated/amazing people that are excited by TOMS. It is crazy to think that less than 14 months ago TOMS did not exist! I had no idea that this would get so big; and now 4th grade students in Florida are talking about giving shoes to kids in Argentina, and people that I have never met are throwing TOMS themed birthday parties (like Ellice in New York), and artists are using TOMS as a canvas for their creativity. And Zak, my beautiful friend Zak, is now a LEGEND in department stores across the country.
(As a side note, we are thinking of creating a life-sized cardboard-cut-out of Zak and sending it to all of the department stores that he will be visiting in the fall. Can you imagine the expression on peoples� faces? Priceless, I tell you).
In any event, I have so much to say about the trip that cannot possibility be summed up in one post� I promise that I will fill you guys in the near future.
Before I go, however, I want to encourage all of you guys to SIGN up for HOUSE PARTY. On July 28, 1000+ parties will be held at the same time around the country to promote TOMS' commitment to delivering shoes to kids in need. As part of the event, every partygoer will be designing a white pair of TOMS. I have promised to personally fly out (thankfully not drive in the Airstream, lol) to the party that signs up the most number of people.
Everyone has a shot to win Limited Edition Shoes (autographed by yours truly). Also, we will be creating a Limited Edition shoe from the best/most creative design that one of y'all makes.
If you are still reading this, you must SIGN UP FOR HOUSE PARTY. The DEADLINE is this WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20TH. This is by far our biggest initiative of the summer, and a great way for you to kick it with your friends and share a little love in the process.
And with that, I must be off. Since I last left, TOMS has moved into another office, and went from 5 to 15 employees, with so-to-be 30 interns from all around the country. Rather than botching everyone's name, I have decided to take a Polaroid of all the new faces and post it on my wall.
This is going to be good.
Sunday, June 3, 2007
Fashion is an expression of who you are and how you feel. What you wear sets the tone for your whole day. I never understood this until I took this cross country trip. Over the past 75 days, I have met so many people, each with their own sense of style. What I have learned from my new friends is this:
1. Style does not mean having the "latest" items, designer brands, or hottest trend.
2. Fashion can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be. $$$$ does not necessarily add style. How you wear it does.
3. One amazing accessory speaks louder than a whole outfit.
4. When possible, wear something that there is a story attached to, and not a story about the debt you incurred buying it.
5. Buy more clothes off ebay. Some of the girls I met with the best fashion sense across the USA taught me this trick.
6. Last, go to your closet TODAY, pick out everything you have not worn in the past 6 months and donate it to goodwill and/or the number of charities that help clothe men and women re-entering the work force. Think back to how much confidence that outfit gave you a few years ago and imagine someone else getting that joy for the first time. Do this TODAY. I promise it will make you smile, and make you feel better about the clothes left in your closet.
Today it is absolutely beautiful in Seattle. We are at the downtown Nordstrom stores, the flagship, and it feels good to be alive. I know Seattle does not get a lot of pristine sunny days, so I really am going to spend the afternoon encouraging people to GET OUT OF THE MALL and enjoy the day (after they pick up a pair of TOMS of course ☺)
2 weeks left and I am looking forward to some long hot showers and the cool breeze of the coast this summer.
Now I know it is clear that my keyboard has not been working so well the past month (by the absence of my blog entries) BUT THE VIDEO CAMERA HAS CAPTURED IT ALL.
Click Here to the latest episodes of the TOMS Tour Chronicle
Sunday, April 15, 2007
I do not know if you have ever been on an amazing vacation and upon returning; found it very difficult to talk about. I mean so many things happened and your experience so uplifting that even starting to describe your trip seems too daunting of a task. Well, the last 2 weeks have been like that for me, and now, as I sit in Panera Bread (free wireless by the way) in Newport, RI, I am struggling with what to report.
I guess I will start with Miami and our first Bloomingdales event where we met the lovely Leyla. Leyla is the manager of the shoe department and really knows her stuff (besides being gorgeous). After explaining to Zak that she is married, Leyla invested a lot of time after the store closed to give us great feedback on how to make TOMS fit better and what customers would like to see from us in the future. Needless to say, I took copious notes and we have already started working her suggestions into our Spring 08 designs.
During the Bloomindales event Zak left to get a quick snack. He came back with a haircut. It looked so good I decided to get one myself after our event. When we were leaving the salon, the cashier pointed to me and then to Zak, and said "mini me"? Neither of us understood what she was trying to say! later in the night we realized she was referring to Austin Powers and the fact that Zak and I had matching hair cuts! i immediately went to the drug store and bought some Rogaine.
Next stop was Heel Shoe Lounge. We had an event there and filmed a segment for a popular South Beach show called Decko Drive. During the taping I unintentionally exhibited my lack of "footwear knowledge" by picking up "wedge" shoe when the host asked for a "platform". Just a minute later my education continued when I found out what "limo" shoes were. They were not the classy black and white stilettos I pulled, but in fact a term used to describe very expensive and UNCOMFORTABLE shoes. Hence, the term limo was created since you would only wear these shoes from the limo to the restaurant and back into the limo (limited walking)� I can't understand why anyone would wear shoe that is that uncomfortable, but hey I don�t understand waxing, eye brow trimming, and other things such women who wear these shoes do regularly.
In Philly, we engaged in the ultimate taste test. Philly is known for its "cheese steak" and there is no place more famous than south Philly and the intersection where Genos and Pats sit head on in a fierce competition for the best cheese steak. Both establishments are family owned and have been around forever, and the truth is (after eating a foot long of both) they taste exactly the same. I know I will probably start receiving hate mail from each of their legions of fans, and possibly the Airstream will mysteriously ignite in flames during our next event, but now that I am a blogger, I feel a certain responsibility to report with great candor, and the truth is they taste the same�.
After eating 2 cheese steaks and feeling disgusting with myself, I decided Philly (The Home of Rocky) was the place to "get back in shape". We got lost looking for the Rocky statue, but we did find a swanky RV camp and some nice weather. What happened next can only be told in living color, so without further to do, I present you with the:
Next stop! The Big Apple and our big night with Anne Slowey (Elle editor, trouble maker, and friend)
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Kind of like finding a missing disk from the box set of Greys Anatomy under the couch, here are two episodes of the TOMS TOUR Chronicles that were mistakenly not uploaded.
Stay tuned for next week�s premier of the TOMS TOUR Work out video and the much anticipated guest appearance of Mischa Barton.
Click Here for the new videos
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Ever since I started TOMS people have been calling me Tom. At first it would take someone yelling my name across a store or party 4 or 5 times until I realized what was going on. Now, I answer to it just as if someone called out Blake. You see, my name is not Tom, and I am sure this is news for several people reading this. My name is Blake. TOMS comes from my initial desire to provide the kids with �shoes for TOMORROW�, so TOMS is short for Tomorrow. Ok, settled, well maybe�.
Just as I was getting used to going by Blake and Tom, a new name was produced, Tommy. Yes, only 5 minutes into my lunch at the Gene Witt Elementary School cafeteria a young boy shouted, �Hey Tommy, look at me� as he stuck a whole orange into his mouth and smiled. Now I am sure you are wandering what me and Zak are doing in an elementary school cafeteria. No doubt we are frugal and are always hungry, but eating on the Florida Independent school district�s dime is probably crossing the line. BUT, we were invited.
The back-story is really incredible, but quite long. Here is the jest. Ms. Reagan�s 4th grade class read about me in TIME Magazine for Kids a few weeks ago. They have a program in their class called GottaGiv, and they immediately pronounced me a �GottaGiver�. That day the class created posters with their own TOMS designs (yes I was given the drawings and are incorporating them into the Spring 08 collection). During lunch the next day, Ms. Reagan sent us an email to inform TOMS about her class�s enthusiasm for TOMS and that I was a �GottaGiver� in their eyes. This email was forwarded to my dad (another long story) and before I knew it, my dad had informed Ms. Reagan that I would be in Florida on the tour soon and perhaps I could stop by and say thanks to the kids. When he told me this, I could not have been more excited. While I love doing events at fashion boutiques, Nordstrom, and other people�s homes, what I really love are kids, and to hang with some 4th graders for an afternoon sounded like a lot of fun. Fun does not describe what happened yesterday. Inspiring, Joy, Humbling, and Passion do�.well we also had a lot of fun, but you get the point.
Zak Ferris showing the kids all the states we have traveled on our tour
In the week prior to our visit, the kids had all created their own speech about TOMS and visited all the other classes in the elementary school to give them. They also posted signs about our mission all over the school, and each student took time to write me a personal letter. I had tears rolling down my cheeks this morning as I read them. Not since our first shoe drop in Argentina had I felt this emotional and inspired. This is what TOMS is all about, and no ad agency, marketing genius, or company brainstorming session could have said it better than these kids.
Aaron, class winner, giving his speech about TOMS
Below are some of their designs and pics from our day at Gene Witt Elementary. Also, please take the time to watch the video of Aaron�s speech about TOMS (his peers voted it)
Also, TOMS Tour blog is now live on www.Elle.com with exclusive daily content, check it out.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Like an episode of Lost, my blog will feature flash backs from time to time. The reason for this is quite simple. The days that the most happen are also the days I have the least amount of time to write. Needless to say we were in Texas almost a week and A LOT happened. So, if you were confused how we went from Phoenix (heading to Dallas and Austin) to waking up in New Orleans yesterday, well that is your explanation.
Upon arriving in Dallas, we celebrated my brother�s 23rd birthday with his friends at the Lonesome Dove restaurant in the Ft. Worth stockyards. www.lonesomedovebistro.com Now a few words about my brother Tyler. Tyler has had it tough. He is the youngest child in our family, and continually has to live up to my sister Paige and my prior accomplishments. Paige and I are very ambitious, over achieving, and self-promoting. Tyler is compassionate and laid back. That makes things tough for Tyler, but that has not created an obstacle in our relationship at all. Tyler is my biggest supporter, and the most loyal person I know. Last summer he slept on my couch for three months and worked alongside me each day as we launched TOMS. He then went back to school at TCU and proceeded to get every girl on campus wearing our shoes. Needless to say, it was quite fun for me going to the college bars with him after dinner meeting all the followers of TOMS he had enlisted.
In Dallas, we got into a little bind with a lack of fresh water. Zak, being the enterprising young man he is, improvised.
Later that day we met some cool cats and were deceived by a super model (Erin Wasson) who told us she was a professional roller skater. If it wasn�t for her vocabulary (mainly consisting of rad, epic, and dude) I would not have believed her, but in the end we were fooled�guess things could be worse.
Austin is where we really hit our stride. After settling down in the Shady Grove RV park, we had our first out of town guest. Jenny Feldman, an editor from Elle Magazine had contacted me weeks earlier about doing a story on the TOMS Tour (aka The CRUSADE). Rather than doing the interview on the phone, I invited her to join us in Austin. She booked a flight from NYC and sent me an email about finding accommodations in Austin. I remember laughing out loud as I replied that there was only one place worth staying and that was in the Airstream with us�..I even offered my back bedroom (which pissed Zak off), but in the end she accepted and we anxiously awaited her arrival at the Shady Grove RV Park.
During her short stay, we introduced her to the competitive sport of Bocce Ball, Tequilla Tuesday�s at Don�s Depot, and impromptu acrobatics. And yes, she did sleep with us in the Airstream ☺
I suspect we were Jenny�s �show and tell� on Monday morning in the big apple because the TOMS Tour Blog is now featured on Elle.com�s homepage. And each week as we continue cross country, we will be posting exclusive content (including Zak�s fashion pic of the week) for Elle.com so continue to check it out as well at www.Elle.com
Ok, back to reality. I have a Nordstrom event in 10 minutes and I have not showered since New Orleans ☺ �.Good news is Zak just found another fountain.
Speaking of fountains and bathing, CLICK HERE to see the latest TOMS Chronicle Episode
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Last night we experienced the Rebirth Brass Band at the Maple Leaf in New Orleans (strongly suggested by Elle�s Jenny Feldman). Now I use the word �experience� deliberately because you do not watch or see this band, you literally experience them and the music as it reverberates through your bones and hopefully your soul.
Sear Sucker Blazer by Trovata � Available at Barneys NYC
Straw Hat by �made in china� � Available at Moe�s Truck Stop
Day 21 of our 3-week anniversary on this tour started with a trip to the Blue Bird Caf�. Zak said his corn beef hash was one of the best he had ever had and I quote, �It is hard to screw up corn beef hash, but they really went above and beyond my expectations with this plate.�
However, he was less than satisfied with his home fries, and vowed to never order them again. He explained, �The problem with home fries is that they are irregular in what they are (getting very philosophical now)�you see, every place I order them sends out something slightly different, some are fried, some or mushy, so you never know what exactly you are going to get.�
Perhaps Zak should stick to McDonalds. They seem to have the whole consistency thing down pretty well.
Glasses by Chanel � Availabel at Chanel.com
Hair Styling by Paul Mitchell � Available at John Paul�s house in Austin
While in New Orleans we stopped by Pied Nu and visited with the lovely Priscilla who owns the fashionable boutique on Magazine Street. She was one of our first supporters and was very enthusiastic about the new styles coming out this summer. While there we did an interview with Susan, the fashion editor of the Times-Picayne Newspaper. She asked really great questions and I think the feature will be great for getting the message of TOMS out to the people of New Orleans.
Blake and Pied Nu owner Priscilla O�Quinn
While there we learned about an inspirational designer named Christina Kim, who Priscilla really supported. Kim�s line is called Dosa and she uses organically grown wools in addition to hand loomed cottons. Googling the line later I found a great quote from her printed in TIME Mag earlier this year. Kim states, "I am less interested in some really grandiose idea of how I'm going to save the environment," says Kim. "Ultimately, we have to look at how we spend one day.�
I could not agree more.
Dosa � Available at Pied Nu New Orleans
Zak wearing Dosa scarf and skirt
Dosa - Available at Pied Nu - Zak - Available at 949-315-5357
Well our time is up in New Orleans and we are off to Florida. Tomorrow I am speaking to a 4th Grade class at Gene Witt Elementary School. They read about me in TIME for Kids and nominated me the Do Gooder of the Year. I can�t wait. I think we are going to work on some designs for the Spring 08 collection.
I will leave you with our latest Mantra "We're not here for a long time, but we are here for a good time."
PS, new episode of the TOMS Chronicles coming tomorrow, check videos
Monday, March 19, 2007
This morning I woke early with the intention of catching up on some emails and over due blogging, but the battery in the Airstream was completely dead, and it was still dark outside. I really wanted to go back to sleep for an hour or so until the daylight lit my workspace, but I felt a pull towards the hill country that surrounded me. Using my blackberry screen as a flashlight, I rummaged through the Airstream until I found my running shoes and ipod, both hardly used since we started this journey 18 days ago.
Not sure if there were lurking bob cats in the bush that surrounded me or if I could make it up the first hill, my run began with fear and hesitation. It was still completely dark outside, and my legs were heavy. Even though I promised myself I would work out regularly and take time to quiet my mind each day on this trip, the reality had been 2 events a day, meeting fascinating people every night, and too much McChicken honey wraps (which are pretty amazing by the way).
Physical activity had been minimal, but the adrenaline rush of TOMS acceptance, new people, and endless possibilities filled my mind and fueled my body each day. In all my life, I have never seen something so viral and exciting as TOMS, and meeting countless people who shared my passion for helping those less fortunate the past 2 weeks, I felt a responsibility to waste not one minute of the day with anything that would not further our cause. There is no doubt we are making history with each tour stop, and that the collective efforts of everyone we meet will propel TOMS and our mission ever forward. We truly can change how people think about the world around us by uniting those we meet with a simple shoe and the TOMS story, which hopefully they tell every time they wear TOMS. Just a year ago it was an idea. Now I think�.if every person we meet (about 200 people a day) tells just 10 people about TOMS, and they in turn share the story or our Shoe Drop video with their friends, well you get the picture��by the end of this tour we could have thousands and thousands more kids with shoes on their feet, and as important, an equal amount of people thinking more about the injustices of the world and how they can do something to alleviate them.
Ok, so you can see why I have not been working out or taking any time for myself this trip. The people we meet are just too intoxicating, and once in that state of endless possibilities, doing anything, even if it is good for you, seems like a waste of precious time. Well, that was my thought before I set out on my jog through the hill country this morning.
A few miles later as the sun began to rise and my legs found the ground beneath me, the most amazing thing happened. It started to mist outside. Now I know this might not sound like an earth shattering event, and perhaps its affect on me was intensified by the fact that I had not felt clean since my last real shower, but the mist created a tingle all over my body, which quickly spread to my mind. As I ran faster up and down the hills, cutting through the clouds of mist, I felt all my fears, anxieties, and responsibilities wash away. I felt lighter. I thought of the next shoe drop, of Africa, of my favorite cities around the world, everything and nothing at the same time, and eventually, of myself. I realized, while �mist induced� that this was all happening so fast, and that if I did not stop �to feel the mist�, it would pass me by. I HAD to take time for myself�.to run, to write, to pray. And I had to do it EVERY DAY.
We all do. It does not matter if you work a 9-5 job in a tall office building, go to class for 8 hours a day, or take care of your 3 year old�s never ceasing needs, whatever you are working on, wherever you are trying to go cannot distract you completely from where you are, who you are�.today. We all have �important� stuff going on in our lives�. responsibilities, friends, bills, causes, but at the end of the day, we also have life, and it is precious, and today I was reminded, you must spend some time alone each day to truly experience it.
THE NEWEST TOMS CHRONICLE VIDEO IS UP
CLICK HERE FOR EPISODE 5
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Nothing I can write will compare to the last two episodes of the TOMS Chronicles...Click Here and see what TV guide called "top new video blog of the week"....also stay tuned for next week's video blog, guest starring Micha Barton (zak met her last night and she autographed his chest)
Livin the dream,
Thursday, March 15, 2007
One year ago today I arrived back in the USA with 200 pairs of TOMS in 4 duffle bags. Each pair had been hand made, inspected and deeply cared for by me and my new Argentine friend, Alejo Nitti. I am not sure which was more unbelievable to me at the time, the fact that I had given up a secure, well paying job to start a shoe company in Argentina where we would give a pair away for everyone we sold, or the deep friendship I had developed with Alejo. I first met Alejo in January at the La Tarde polo ranch where he was introduced to me as my �polo instructor�, and where he presumed to tell me how great he was at everything from golf to polo, to sailing as he rummaged through my luggage and travel books. I kid you not, he literally picked up a book on sailing I had been reading and went into a 20 minute dissertation on how he learned to sail as a child and was �very good�, and without skipping a beat, seeing a golf magazine in my book bag, began to tell me his handicap and how he was a �very good� golfer even though he had never had a lesson in his life�.this continued as he covered many subjects, girlfriends, and sports as we walked out to the polo field that first afternoon�..needless to say I was annoyed and exhausted before my first polo lesson ever started, which explains why I fell off the horse within the first 5 minutes.
3 months after that first day, and countless hours meeting with Argentine shoe makers, driving down dirt roads with pot holes the size of watermelons, and lots of vino tinto, I realized that Alejo and I were a lot more alike than I cared to admit, and without a doubt, he had become my best friend and the strongest supporter of the TOMS idea. So much, that he put his polo career aside and took over the management of all our production�.and one year later I am still hearing how he is so �very good�, but now it has to do with shoe making.
So, as we celebrate this one year anniversary of TOMS, I want to dedicate it to Alejo Nitti and the many people in Argentina who have given us so much support. Alejo works harder than anyone I know and continually finds ways to improve our operations. One year ago he was a 26 year old cocky polo player, today he is the �greatest shoe maker in the world� and yes, that is a quote from him.
In terms of the �Tour Update�, we just left Phoenix and are headed to Texas. I must say the Chandler Nordstrom group in Phoenix was one of the most enthusiastic and supportive groups we have encountered. Not only did they sell 40% of their inventory in 2 hours on a Tuesday afternoon, they proved quite creative when taking the group picture (see above pic, yes that is a �S� I am making) Ok, Zak�s got a long drive ahead of him, and I need to catch a little sleep, so stay tuned, no doubt we will be �messing with Texas� soon enough.
Click Here to see the video blog