Fashion Brand that Cares Chooses Amsterdam

TOMS is a social enterprise headquartered in Los Angeles, California. The company was founded in 2006 by Blake Mycoskie, an entrepreneur from Arlington, Texas. It was originally called Tomorrow’s Shoes which was a bit long for the label, so Mycoskie decided to name the enterprise “TOMS”. TOMS' business model is referred to as the "one for one concept" business model, referring to the company's promise to deliver a pair of free, new shoes to a child in need for every shoe sale. 

With the addition of several new product lines, including eyewear and coffee, the company became a One for One company, with giving incorporated in every new product. Or in the case of eyewear sales, money is donated for eye surgery, medical treatment, and prescription glasses. This innovative blend of for-profit and social entrepreneurship models has garnered the company much recognition worldwide.

In 2012, TOMS decided to bring its EMEA headquarters to Europe. When considering locations to base its HQ, both the UK and the Netherlands were considered. “When making our final decision on location, the Netherlands had some clear advantages,” said Martin Johnston, managing director of TOMS EMEA. “Major fashion brands are based here. There is a large talent pool to draw from. Plus, the proximity of the port of Rotterdam and of our distribution center meant we were able to penetrate lots of markets from here. All of those reasons added up to our choosing the Netherlands as our base.”

Once the company had chosen the Netherlands, Amsterdam was the obvious location for its office. “Amsterdam is a hub for social innovation, sustainability, creativity, and fashion,” added Johnston. And it has proven to be the right choice. “The city has definitely adopted TOMS.” Johnston was already living in Amsterdam, and he is a fan of the city: “It has the feeling of a big city with the pleasantness of a village.” The choice of the Netherlands has continued to pay off for the company. “The brand is on fire,” enthused Johnston.

The introduction of four new e-stores, in the UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, was only one of TOMS’ accomplishments in the e-commerce arena. In addition, TOMS’ omnichannel strategy means that it has both physical store locations across Europe and the Middle East, as well as products in many leading European retailers, and its countrye-stores. “We are opening new key TOMS stores in the coming year, including strategic additions in the Middle East, Thessaloniki, London and Cologne. And we will be launching new product categories, all in line with the One for One giving philosophy.” TOMS has distributed over 35 million pairs of shoes and helped offer sight to 270,000 people through the purchases of our One for One products. 

Finally, the presence of its European Distribution Center in the Netherlands means that ordering and delivery to European customers from any of its channels or product lines is handled seamlessly and quickly. The company’s presence in the Netherlands has paid off in other ways as well. The managing director wasinvited to an event commemorating the 475th anniversary of the Amsterdam canals, and he got to meet many CEOs of major corporations in the Netherlands. “The Netherlands is globally one of the top three countries in terms of making a commitment to a better world, and the contacts I made at that event alone vindicated our decision to base ourselves here. There is a clear commitment in this country to sustainability and a better way to do business.”

Johnston also cited the huge amount of support and assistance TOMS got from the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) and amsterdam inbusiness, the regional development group for Amsterdam. “They were great! They reached out to us, showed us around; they even introduced us to our landlord, who has been the best property management company we could ask for. Heren Twee has been super flexible and helpful, and they made us feel at home here in our location in the Houthavens in Amsterdam.”

Clearly, TOMS EMEA is on track to continue its success story, combining principle, profit and impact, while significantly contributing to Amsterdam’s reputation as a fashion leader.