Most Australian designers launch their brand first in Australia before making the leap overseas. Not so for Tome. It may seem like a reckless move but it's well-known that the design partnership between Australians Ramon Martin and Ryan Lobo was 15 years in the making, starting with their meeting whilst studying at University of Technology Sydney and deciding there and then that they wanted to work with each other. Fast forward ten years, after working on their own solo careers in fashion, Ramon and Ryan launched Tome in New York to much acclaim. The brand was a finalist of the acclaimed CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, gaining the approval of judges Anna Wintour and Diane von Furstenberg, and also received the Ecco Domain Fashion Fashion Foundation award.
Besides reckless and precipitous are not part of the Tome ethos. Their designs are well-considered, modern and contemporary, created with an eye for timeless design — which is where the brand's appeal lies, and why Tome, recently launching as a department store exclusive, is a great addition to the David Jones stable of international designer brands.
At an elegant David Jones lunch celebrating the brand's launch, we chat to the affable Ryan Lobo about their design muse, brand ethos, and even some insider tips to New York City.
Tell us about the Tome woman, what's she like?
That's a tricky question to answer as it's hard to say that we design for just one type of woman. But we envision her as strong, formidable, artistic. She has a strong sense of style, and definitely not a fashion victim. She can wear the brand head to toe but can mix our pieces in with what she already has in her wardrobe.
You launched Tome as a New York brand five years ago and is stocked in some of the best department stores overseas. How did you decide it was the right time to be a part of David Jones now?
We felt that the profile of the brand has now grown to the level that it can sit alongside the stable of well-established designers found in David Jones.
You've previously described your brand ethos as "relevant, pure, very essential, and that if a woman can't make [our designs] a part of her life, then it's audacious for us to suggest it." Would you say that's still relevant for your brand now?
Yes, definitely. When we were philosophising about the brand earlier on and the woman we were designing for, we decided that our designs need to make sense in her life, otherwise we don't do it. As males designing for women, we do rely on our female friends to tell us what looks good, and at the end of the day, men are known to shop for function; they buy a pair of jeans and wear it until it wears out. Whereas women are trained to shop in a different way and sometimes it's not in their best interest. For us, our designs need to be all about function and integrity.
What's the significance of the white shirt for you and your designs?
One of the first images in our moodboard when we first started out was of Peter Lindbergh shooting supermodels, and they were all wearing white shirts. So the white shirt has always been important to our personal aesthetic — it's actually the first thing we sold as a brand.
What influences your designs?
For each collection, we have a female artist, a muse, in mind as our inspiration; and we work this into aspects of the collection but always with a sense of purpose. To [Ramon and I], fashion is not about fantasy, but about functionality.
For the collection in David Jones now, Resort S16, our inspiration was the writer Dorothy Parker.
Ryan's insider tips to the Big Apple:
Favourite place to take someone visiting from Australia in NYC?
Favourite place to eat?
Three words to describe NYC style.
Inspiring, adventurous, functional