It started with a question, "Will you marry me?" as I (Tom, the Founder) popped the question to my now wife, Charlotte. Fast forward a year to 2019 as I started to pull together my outfit for the big day - a well fitted midnight blue tux and some sharp loafers (more specifically, a style called "smoking slippers".
The tux part was a breeze, relatively speaking. The shoes however were a real challenge. Smoking slippers (remember, that's the loafer style) aren't necessarily hard to find, but they aren't in every shop either, and I learned that a quality pair cost multiples more than I imagined. After too many days of hunting online and across the shops of NYC, I found my top contender and placed my order. They were beautiful shoes, and on my wedding day I felt like James Bond.
Coming off the wedding and honeymoon high in 2019, I reflected back on that shoe hunt and reasoned there had to be a better option out there, only there wasn't… yet. While the shoes I bought were worth every penny, that was only because it was for my wedding. To this day I can't fathom wearing them out onto the streets of NYC for fear of scuffing them. Beyond the insane price tag, they were uncomfortable, had zero traction, didn't breathe well, and were packaged in an incredibly inefficient manner.
Tofers is Born
I could have left it there and moved on with my life, but I was obsessed with how amazing smoking slippers looked and wanted to find a way to wear them out comfortably in the world on less formal occasions - from the office to happy hours and weekend errands around town. So I decided I would make the perfect shoe - clean looks at a reasonable price while ensuring insane comfort and breathability with a focus on sustainability – I knew I wasn’t the only person who wanted to look sharp and not feel guilty about the impact my choices were having on the planet.
Starting from scratch, I viewed it as my responsibility to create the cleanest product possible, using eco-conscious materials with a focus on an efficient supply chain while supporting the planet along the way.
Easier said than done. I had zero background in fashion coming from the world of mergers & acquisitions, something which proved to be an advantage. What I did have was a vision, a proclivity for managing complexity, and a desire, willingness, and good fortune in pulling together an all-star team of footwear industry veterans with a collective ~60 years of industry experience to help me make it a reality.
Following extensive market research, we started designing & developing Tofers' first product, the best & most sustainable smoking slipper, in mid 2020. By year’s end, we had a design ready to go and a team of skilled artisans through our factory partner in Portugal to make it happen.
Shoes ready, Kickstarter launches
Over the first half of 2021, I worked with my agent in Portugal to fine tune our first product called the Hampton smoking slipper. We iterated through 6 or 7 versions before finally landing on the finished product. It is the perfect balance of looks and comfort, while incorporating eco-conscious components without sacrificing on feel or durability.
In the summer of 2021 I had proper product photography done, and shot a video for the upcoming Kickstarter launch.
In October 2021, the Kickstarter was live. The funds raised would finance the first production run, with an added benefit of knowing what size and colors customers wanted in advance (instead of blindly ordering and hoping it worked out!). By month's end, Tofers nearly doubled its fundraising goal, keeping the dream alive and confirming that people appreciate what we're putting out.
By December, the production order was in with the factory and I got to work on this site to prepare for sales to launch direct to consumer in 2022.
The Tofers Site is Live
Come 2022, the site is now officially live and you can buy your pair directly from us. The first shoes arrived from Portugal in April, looking sharp as ever. Processes are dialed in with our fulfillment partner so orders placed before 1pm ship out same day.
I'm excited to see what 2022 and beyond holds. Definitely some exciting new colors, and likely entirely new shoe styles. Let's see what happens.
Thanks for being a part of the journey. Let's elevate our footprint together.