It Started with an Idea
This is a deeper dive into how Tofers came to be - be sure to read this first for the bigger picture.
Realizing that I needed to create the first Tofers smoking slipper was was more like a dimmer switch going from "off" to "on", as opposed to a true "switch flipping" light bulb moment.
The short version of the story is that I fell for the clean looks of a traditional smoking slipper, but was genuinely underwhelmed by what the products on the market could offer in terms of comfort, sustainability, and price. After one too many hopeless thoughts of "which shoe should I wear today" and knowing I was settling for sub par, I realized there was a solution in the perfect smoking slipper (if only it existed...).
It would become my go-to shoe, whether heading to the office, a wedding, happy hour, or running errands. When packing for a vacation, it would be my secret weapon - one shoe to seamlessly transition from a seaside cafe, to strolling through town, a nice dinner out, and a cocktail bar for a night cap.
The concept was clear in my mind. The design was right - I knew that much - so the focus then shifted to what would make this shoe the shoe. Comfort was top priority, as I had learned one too many times it doesn't matter how good a shoe looks if it makes you miserable. It had to feel like walking on a cloud, and it needed to perform sans socks so breathability was paramount. It seemed obvious, and dare I say simple, but I was determined to elevate it to new heights, where no competitor had successfully set foot. The holy grail would be all I just mentioned, sustainably. Not just one eco friendly component and calling it "sustainable" but the most sustainable smoking slipper from the ground up. It would require extensive research & testing to identify each optimal component individually, to ultimately craft the optimal shoe in its entirety.
My competitors had decent products, but sustainability was not their focus. They had established supply chains and massive production runs well in motion. They were cruise ships on a charted course - they didn't want to change direction, and doing so would require extensive planning and very gradual changes to turn the ship ever so slightly. Tofers would be born with sustainability at its core - influencing what our shoes are made of, how they are made, and how we run our entire business. Tofers had an inherent advantage, from inception we were a nimble jet boat - already on a sustainable course and able to turn on a dime if needed.
Early on, Tofers partnered with a seasoned footwear advisor to help navigate our entry into the opaque waters. It is not an easy industry to break into, particularly with extremely limited web presence for players across the spectrum, but our partner was there as a way-finder from the onset to ensure we could confidently navigate the seas.