5 Minutes With TOME

NYC Style Q&A With: TOME

Thousands of fashion designers come to New York each year to establish their brand and attract high profile buyers. Few make it. With the exception of few, like TOME, the NYC-based womenswear line launched in 2011 by Roman Martin, a Sydney native; and Ryan Lobo of Kolkata, India. Before teaming up, the two honed their careers in design, merchandising and buying at houses Alberta Ferretti, Marchesa and Derek Lam, to name a few, and worked in Sydney boutiques including Robby Igham and Belinda. Among the 2013 finalists of CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund, TOME moved forward launching The White Shirt Project (http://www.vogue.com/article/tome-white-shirt-project-freedom-for-all), a foundation that fights human trafficking and modern day slavery. Today TOME is a burgeoning international brand, with distribution in Europe, Asia, The Middle East and Australia. The two sat down with us to discuss their New York brand, and the city where their business started.

Q: You’ve both spent time around inside the Sydney fashion scene. What about New York style, if at all, is shockingly different and what elements of this difference appear in your designs?

A: New York is so diverse, there are so many different definitions of style and taste, and in such a dense city those contrasts often sit side by side (quite literally, on the subway). Sydney is less extreme, more relaxed, less daring. The clash of fashion in NYC is very inspiring.

Q:  TOME normally chooses a muse to influence your takes on wardrobe staples like a camisole dress, and design a dress for ‘every woman’ From your experience is this harder or easier to do in NY. Or in other words, what, if any differences do you find dressing the ‘every woman’ in NYC as opposed to say, London or Paris?

A: I think New York is the reason for our desire to dress ‘every woman’, because you see women from different backgrounds, cultures and careers, each part of the energy of the city.
I think other cities have more of an archetype of woman that exists and that people expect to see in brands that are based in each – ‘Parisian chic’; the tweed jacket, tousled hair, skinny jean Parisian for example. Anyone can be New York.. that’s its attraction for the world… come to New York, and you could become anything you dream of… its a pretty good philosophy to apply to fashion!

Q: What changed after 2013 for you both when TOME became a CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund finalist?

A: Firstly, the business increased.. rapidly. So we needed to change many of the structures we had in place to accommodate us. But as Australians trying to root ourselves in the industry here, it was the moment that solidified us as an American fashion brand.

Q: Where can women buy TOME in New York?

A: We sell at Saks 5th Ave, Five Story, and on our own website. If you order online, send us a note if you would like your purchased delivered to your hotel… Its a extra service we offer for anyone making a visit to NYC

Q: What are some of your favorite and versatile pieces in your S/S collection?

A: We have some great printed cotton shirt dresses, from all-female artisan co-operatives based in India. They are special to us, because we believe in a female empowered economy, women making clothes for women, and women using their purchase power to support other women.

Q:  Any NY menswear designers that you follow?

A: We have some friends in the industry that are doing great things! We are t-shirts and jeans guys, we live in Levis!

Q: Favorite downtown bar/restaurant?

A: Ramon: Estella, Ryan: MIMI

Q: Favorite NYC museum.

A: (Ramon  Brooklyn Museum, go see the Georgia O’Keffe exhibition currently on… a perennial Tome muse! (Ryan) The Whitney – both the museum and the restaurant, Untitled

Words by Rocky Casale