There are those rare moments when art and commerce, two words so often diametrically opposed, come together to support the existence of one another in a beautifully symbiotic relationship.
Take Brandon Boyd, lead singer of Incubus, a band that came of age when fans still purchased albums, music videos were still an event and the long term staying power of a band's career still mattered. After a decade of continued success in an industry that has seen the quick rise and fall of internet sensations and disposable pop wonders, Incubus has made the kind of career for themselves that many of the better bands of that last wave of turn of the century artists are enjoying.
If Incubus is still too young a band to deem venerable, and Boyd still too relevant, the benefits of such status are already being bestowed upon the late pioneers of alternative rock experimentalism, not the least of which is that particular brand of artistic freedom that comes to an artist at that level. When not on tour with Incubus, Boyd dabbles in other creative mediums, perhaps enjoying more of a cult level fame as a visual artist, albeit an obviously successful one. Naturally, many of the fans of his paintings are fans of his music, and even a cursory glance through one of his published books makes plain that many of the themes and concepts Boyd works with in his music are worked out on canvas; canvas, a word that more often means the platform for which great ideas are birthed rather than a simple, heavy woven material.
Yet, sometimes it means both.
TOMS shoes, often made from the same heavy woven material that has birthed the ideas of many great minds, was founded on a great idea. Every pair purchased would give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. It was a great idea that took flight, and the simple canvas design of the shoes quickly became very popular with the hipster market of the Los Angeles based company. Often when social consciousness becomes a trend in fashion it remains a statement for those with the power to purchase and fails to actually impact those outside the intended consumer market in any positive way. Such is not the case with TOMS shoes, and the continued success of the company has meant only a larger impact toward the good for many in need.
The synthesis is as inspired as it is organic. Brandon Boyd, an established and successful musician and visual artist, paints on canvas. The very much in demand TOMS shoes are made from canvas and the more TOMS shoes that are sold, the more shoes are given to children in need.
One hundred pairs of TOMS shoes were cut and created from a canvas painted by Brandon Boyd for this specific purpose. The release of the shoes was an immediate sensation, and fans of Boyd's lined up around the block in Silverlake, California for the chance to purchase a pair of the limited edition shoes. Boyd even graciously signed pairs of shoes and stayed to chat with fans.
So often the sight of a line outside a trendy boutique in a hip Los Angeles neighborhood is just another example of vapid consumerism. Much too often artists with long standing careers market their work for corporate sponsorships, high-end retailers or the largest commission offered.
But some moments, like that night in Silverlake, provide a glimpse of an alternative: when great talent and great ideas come together on canvas, the benefit for everyone can be for the greater good.