Dimmi Puts Focus on Medical Research

Dimmi Puts Focus on Medical Research
Peggy Kim Meill and Billy Carrington

NEW YORK — Dimmi is making a big commitment.

The charity-driven women’s brand, the brainchild of Consolidated Shoe Co. President and CEO Billy Carrington, first hit the market last summer with a small offering of casual flats.

Now, with fundraising veteran and former Two Ten Footwear Foundation President Peggy Kim Meill installed as lead consultant, the label has expanded to include more fashion-driven looks and enhanced comfort features.

The women’s brand has pledged to donate all profits to medical research and plans to make its first donation in early 2014.

Carrington was quick to point out that, although Dimmi has benefited from Consolidated’s factory and market relationships, it is a separate, independent entity. “It is not about us,” the founder said. “It’s about doing something that’s good for people everywhere.”

Dimmi has about 200 wholesale partners in brick-and-mortar and e-commerce, most of which are small independents. For spring ’13, Free People and Sundance.com will join the roster. The label also is targeting major department stores. “The story tells really well … and the idea is to raise a lot of money, so we want to be everywhere,” Meill said. “We seek to bring together the best practices of the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.”

The four core styles of flats, ranging from athletic to dressy, retail for $70 to $100, and were designed with both comfort and a feel-good aesthetic in mind. “It is important that [Dimmi] convey not only well-being and comfort but also a sort of joie de vivre,” Meill said.

The Dimmi story began in 1997, when Carrington’s brother and former Consolidated CEO, Richard Carrington died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS and Lou Gehrig’s disease) at the age of 39. “I found therapy in doing good for other people,” Billy Carrington said, noting that the experience inspired him to embark on his recent project to honor his brother.

Carrington first conceptualized Dimmi as a social networking website (the name Dimmi, Italian for “tell me,” alludes to the label’s roots), but he quickly discovered that the online endeavor did not garner enough donations to make a significant impact on the medical research landscape.

In the meantime, Carrington had created a few Dimmi shoe prototypes on a whim. When he called on Meill for feedback, she recommended he focus solely on footwear.

“Billy’s family has been in business for more than 100 years, so they know the footwear industry. This was where we could most be effective,” she said.

The first beneficiaries will be organizations centered on ALS, but Dimmi will eventually branch out to include other areas of medical research. (Meill noted she feels personally connected to the cause because she has an autoimmune disease.)

At retail, Shoebuy.com EVP and chief merchandising officer Trisha Sweeney said the label has elicited a positive response from its customers. “Dimmi is designed for comfort and wellness, which resonates perfectly with a core part of our customer base,” she said.