Heather Mycoskie on Saving Elephants, The TOMS Animal Initiative and Getting Involved

Heather and Blake Mycoskie

Heather and Blake Mycoskie; Image: Courtesy of TOMS

Heather Mycoskie, our December guest editor, is TOMS’ chief animal lover. She oversees the brand’s animal initiatives, including a very crucial partnership with the Clinton Foundation and the Wildlife Conservation Society to protect elephants and stop poaching. She spoke to us about the collaboration, what’s happening with elephants and how we can all get involved.

[Editor’s Note: We reached out to Heather Mycoskie for comment on the previous image used in this story. “The picture of Heather and Blake Mycoskie was taken at a reputable elephant sanctuary in Africa that supports the safety, health and well-being of African elephants. The previous picture has been removed to respect the sentiments of the readers and on behalf of the TOMS Animal Initiative, we apologize for any misunderstanding.”]

theFashionSpot: How did you get involved with the Clinton Foundation and WCS partnership?
Heather Mycoskie: The Clinton Foundation and Wildlife Conservation Society work in tandem with governments around the world to stop the elephant poaching crisis. They are both influential and respected organizations, who are experts on this situation. For the Animal Initiative, we always look to partner with specialized charities to ensure our efforts are benefiting where it is needed most. When we saw the great work they were doing, I knew we could help raise even greater awareness through TOMS.
tFS: Talk to us about elephants — what’s happening?
HM: African elephants are still being killed by poachers at unprecedented rates for their ivory tusks; 96 elephants per day. At this rate, the elephants could be extinct by 2020. The Clinton Foundation and WCS are tackling the elephant poaching crisis on three fronts: By stopping the killing, stopping the trafficking and stopping the demand.
tFS: When did The TOMS Animal Initiative launch?
HM: The TOMS Animal Initiative launched this past May, in support of the gorillas of Virunga National Park. Each season, we will launch a new Animal Initiative collection in partnership with an animal-focused charity.

A shoe from The TOMS Animal Initiative collection.

tFS: Explain to us what it does exactly.
HM: The TOMS Animal Initiative is a project sparked by my passion and love for animals. It is an overarching platform to drive awareness and monetary funding for global animal conservation. After being around Blake and the company, I saw how TOMS was able to help people around the world, and realized we could also help endangered animals. For our Animal Initiative collaborations, portions of each pair of shoes sold will go directly to the organization, while still giving a pair to a child in need.
tFS: Fashion and saving animals don’t often go together, unfortunately. How have you managed to combine your love of the two?
HM: Through this partnership, I discovered that fashion is actually one of the reasons for elephant poaching. Ivory is still a sought-after item in many parts of the world and this contributes to the problem. Therefore, the fashion industry is a natural place to start when trying to help. If we can raise awareness of the severity of the crisis and the importance of not buying ivory, we can really decrease the demand for it. The fashion industry is extremely vocal when rallying around a cause they believe in. I knew that with the Clinton Foundation, the Wildlife Conservation Society and TOMS working together, we could truly help.
tFS: What’s a good way for someone to start getting involved?
HM: I think the easiest way to get started is to find the cause you are passionate about and learn everything you can about it. There are tons of charities and organizations working to help every conceivable problem. Work with them and see how they are helping and what more you could do.
tFS: What other initiatives have you done with TOMS?
HM: I first joined TOMS four years ago and have been involved in the planning for various TOMS initiatives ever since. However, this is the first initiative I have created myself, and I am especially excited to see how it can grow and help more animals in need. As a whole, TOMS is in business to help improve lives. We identify global needs and create products to help address them. This simple idea is what makes us more than a company — we’re a movement that’s continually evolving. With this mindset, the opportunities are endless to the way we can help people and animals around the globe.