Can Good Actions Be Bad?
By Tom Ryan
For the last several weeks, scores of fashion and footwear blogs
have criticized Skechers for blatantly copying another shoe company’s business
model. The twist: the company is TOMS Shoes, which has gained widespread media
attention for its pledge to donate a pair of shoes to a child in need for each
pair it sells.
Skechers’ line, Bobs, is similar in name and also the same traditional
Argentine ‘alpargata’ style as TOMS. One-upping TOMS, Skechers is donating
two pairs of shoes to needy children through the charity, Soles4Souls, for
each pair of $42 Bobs it sells.
In a statement released to the Los Angeles
Times, Jennifer Clay, Skechers’
vice president of corporate communications, stated, "We saw what TOMS
is doing and believe their charitable efforts and program are inspirational.
We applaud their efforts and believe with our distribution and network we can
reach even more children around the world."
The statement added: "Skechers
is proud of its design, and we don’t think there should be any issue with being
inspired, as many other companies have been, by a design that is seven centuries
old and still popular throughout the world today."
She estimated in her
statement that the company "may be able to donate
up to 1 million pairs of shoes next year."
A spokesman for TOMS told the L.A.
Times that no legal actions are
being planned. In a brief e-mail, Blake Mycoskie, TOMS’ founder who was in
Ethiopia at the time the story broke, wrote: "At Toms, giving isn’t a
trend, or a fad, or a part of our business — it is our business. We’re proud
that Toms has inspired a global movement and continues to influence other companies
around the world."
Douglas Hand, a New York-based attorney who specializes
in the fashion industry, told the Times that TOMS may have no grounds
for any lawsuit.
"While you could argue," Mr. Hand said, "that Skechers is trading
off TOMS’ goodwill and what it represents — namely giving shoes to needy
children — it’s unlikely any judge is going to say you’re the only company
that can give kids free shoes."
But TOMS’ fans and others mocked the new
line. Many felt Bobs’ effort lacked authenticity, coming from Skechers, and
took advantage of a profitable yet philanthropic business.
"By mirroring the TOMS’ concept so blatantly, Skechers not only showed
a lack of creativity and originality, but they left themselves wide open to
accusations of disingenuous social concern," wrote Simon Mainwaring in
a blog for Fast
Discussion Question: Could Skechers do more harm than good to its own brand
by copying the TOMS philanthropic model? Would you have recommended a different
- Toms has its alpargata,
and now so does Bobs – The Los Angeles Times
- TOMS vs. BOBS: How Skechers Shot Themselves in the Foot – Fast Company
- The Devil Might Not Be Able to Wear Prada Much Longer – StyleBistro
- Can a good deed be wrong? – St. Louis Today
- Meet Bobs, Skechers’ Blatant TOMS Rip-Off – Blisstree
- TOMS Rip-off Reveals "Social Responsibility" Dark Side – The