Marc Fisher, a third-generation American shoemaker and CEO of Marc Fisher Footwear, is at Milk Studios in Chelsea, New York City on a June afternoon to shoot the campaign for his new line, Marc Fisher Ltd. It is his first venture into what he calls a "fully curated, namesake collection." Separate from his regular accessories line, Marc Fisher, it will have the best ingredients he can put into a shoe. "I feel like everything in the market is focused on inexpensive," he tells me. "I really wanted to go in the opposite direction and focus on better shoes that are timeless." Fisher says that the Ltd line will be priced from around $140–$329 and will be available in early fall.
What makes the Marc Fisher Ltd campaign special, however, are its social media and philanthropic initiatives. For this he has partnered with model Karlie Kloss. Fisher is impressed by her recently created Kode with Karlie scholarship, a charity that offers a two-week full-time course in Ruby, the programming language used to power many apps. Kloss hopes it will encourage young women to enroll in computer science classes. Fisher does too and is creating the hashtag #MAKEYOURMARC, meant to accompany images and stories of women who are making an impact in their communities. He’s confident that people will join the conversation and promises to donate $1 to Kode with Karlie each time the hashtag is used. The social media initiative is new for Fisher, although he is very aware of its advantages. Not only will it draw attention to Kode with Karlie, but it will also allow Fisher and his team to monitor his customers' reactions.
"I sell my shoes on QVC — my regular line," he tells me. "It's a good learning experience because of the feedback you get online. There are hundreds of comments."
Kloss will also star in the line's ad campaign. "They were so passionate about launching this campaign with real purpose behind it," she says. "As a kid I was always fascinated by math and science. At 15, I started working in the fashion industry and was around all the most creative designers in the world. I have this appreciation for the creative side of the brain but I still love science and math."
About a year ago, at age 21, she decided to tag along with a friend to a coding class at the Flatiron School. She had been studying Ruby and other programming languages on her own but hoped the class would improve her skills. Once she started, she was hooked. "It just kind of clicked for me," she says of her first class. "If I had a day off work, I would code. I'd take more classes. I think a lot of people realize that coding" — she switches gears — "it's really intimidating."
You miss one semi-colon, I interrupt, and nothing works.
"I had this amazing teacher at the Flatiron School who had this incredible approach to teaching," she beams. "That's why I think it clicked for me and made me want to share my experience. [Kode for Karlie] is really quite new but because of the donation that Marc is supporting, we're actually going to make it much bigger."
This year, 21 Kode scholarships were granted to girls around the United States. Over 600 applied. "It was so hard to turn girls down," she concedes. "Everyone was worthy of a scholarship. Next summer we'll be able to offer it to a lot more girls."
In the fall, Kloss will attend New York University. Computer science will be an area of study but perhaps not her sole focus. "I think, all in all, I'm a very curious person. I love to challenge myself to learn new things — be it code, or business, or baking, or even different industries. Being back in a school environment is only going to help compel those curiosities and allow me to study what I'm really interested in."
After chatting with Kloss, I ask her to take a photo with me. Two nearby publicists involuntarily make faces. Not happy ones. I remind them that #MAKEYOURMARC asks people to share stories and photos of "inspirational women making their marc" (their words). Kloss seems an appropriate subject; plus, it's for charity. Sure, $1 is not the same as the $20 donation given to Kode when a pair of shoes is purchased. But because I do not wear women's shoes and the collection is not yet on sale, I figure a picture would be a good contribution.
"Sure," says Kloss amiably, "thanks for the support."