One evening last winter, between bouts of homework, 16-year-old Brooke Foy drew up an idea for a shoe-design contest hosted by TOMS Shoes and Nordstrom: She created a colorful, tiled pattern of 26 flags, representing each country where the shoe company makes donations through its “One for One” campaign.
The inside would feature the names of the countries – Rwanda, Cambodia, Honduras and Romania among them – in her handwriting.
Foy, now 17, was surprised to get word that she’d won, out of hundreds of submissions funneled through 116 Nordstrom stores nationwide. Her design would be sold as an exclusive in the department stores and online for the fall 2013 season.
“I actually wasn’t going to do it, but my brother said I should,” Foy said.
In August her “Flag” shoe design ($53.95) went on presale online – and sold out of allocated units after just a week, meaning there would only be enough left for select Nordstrom stores to carry them.
Foy, a soccer-playing, Instagram-savvy junior at Rosary High School in Fullerton, is a longtime aficionado of TOMS, a company known for producing casual slip-ons and popularizing the buy-one-give-one business model. “I have a black sparkly pair, a gray pair, a red pair … uh, I have a lot,” she said. “We wear school uniforms and shoes are some of the only things that can show off our style.”
She first heard about the design contest as a member of Nordstrom’s BP Fashion Board, a program that helps high schoolers learn about fashion and retailing. TOMS retail marketing events coordinator, Ryan Gilmore, came to a board meeting, where he talked about all the countries TOMS operates in and encouraged members to submit contest designs.
Los Angeles-based TOMS – founder Blake Mycoskie’s abbreviation of the phrase “tomorrow’s shoes” – has donated more than 2 million pairs of shoes and has expanded to 50 countries. For each pair of shoes purchased, the company pledges to give away a pair to someone in need.
The contest was the first time the company crowdsourced shoe design in partnership with Nordstrom’s customer base. “People really liked that part of the story, and it’s something we definitely hope to bring back,” Gilmore said.
To generate buzz for the shoe, Gilmore and the retail marketing crew visited Rosary High in May, surprising Foy and taking her along with two friends to tour the TOMS facilities, where she met with designers.
The “Flag” style is well-stocked in Orange County retail locations, including the Irvine Spectrum and the Brea Mall, but Foy admitted she hadn’t seen her shoes in stores yet.
If she goes to South Coast Plaza, she’ll see “Flag” on a raised pedestal on the TOMS shoes display on the third floor, standing out as the most visible of the season’s bunch.
Foy, however, said she doesn’t plan on going into fashion. “I’d like to study to be a kinesiologist, like my dad.”