This week, I’m going to interview Blake Mycoskie, the entrepreneur behind TOMS, for a freelance profile I’ve been asked to write for NUVO, Canada’s leading lifestyle magazine. To prepare, I’ve immersed myself in the world of corporate giving.
Mycoskie founded the for-profit business in 2006 after a trip to Argentina in which he encountered children whose families couldn’t afford shoes. With TOMS, he pioneered the one-for-one business model, which dictates that for every pair of shoes sold, the company gives a pair to a needy child. In 2011, he expanded the concept to eyewear; for every pair TOMS sells, the company helps pay for sight-saving surgery, prescription glasses, or medical treatment.
In March, Mycoskie unveiled an ambitious plan to bring his one-for-one philosophy to the coffee business. He’s partnered with the nonprofit Water For People to make good on this promise: For every bag of coffee purchased, TOMS pays for a week of clean water for a person in need.
The concept of social responsibility is hardly new, but in the past few years, as Mycoskie’s ethos has been embraced by business leaders across the country, it’s taken hold in the jewelry industry—not the least because millennial consumers are wild for products that are connected to good causes.
Press releases from quite a number of cause-related jewelry brands have come through my inbox in recent months. Here are a few of my favorites:
Founded in the spring of 2013 by entrepreneur Peter Thum—whose high-end Fonderie 47 collection I wrote about last year—Liberty United transforms confiscated guns and bullets into chic designer jewelry made by Philip Crangi and Pamela Love. The profits are used to fund anti–gun violence programs in American cities. I’m the proud owner of the Skinny Bullet Cuff in brass seen below.
In 2013, we wrote about Elizabeth Suda’s mission “to buy back the bomb,” her effort to help clear Laos of unexploded ordinance by selling jewelry made by Laotian villagers using material from Vietnam War–era bombs. Known as Article 22, the brand recently spawned a second, higher-end collection, dubbed A22.2. Made of scrap bomb metal finished with semi and precious metals, A22.2 helps sustain an artisan community in Laos and donates money to clear the country’s bomb-littered lands.
Handcrafted in Kenya using traditional East African jewelry materials such as repurposed horn, bronze, and semiprecious gems, Ashley Pittman’s baubles, which launched at Bergdorf Goodman in 2009, are on my wish list for Christmas. Chunky, stylish, and perfect for an island getaway, the collection is made by 75 Kenyan artisans. The founder’s eponymous foundation diverts 10 percent of all profits to help fund the Kamboo Dispensary and Kathiani Primary School in rural Kenya.
There are so many jewelers entering this space. Keep your eyes peeled for a big feature on this topic in our March designer-themed issue!