Strong sculptural shapes, an integral commitment to women, and a robust knowledge of art are just a few of the things that mark out Tome against the plethora of other brands that show at New York fashion week. They’ve also been participants in the CFDA’s sustainable fashion initiative and transparency permeates their brand. We chatted to Ryan and Ramon – who were friends for 15 years before launching the label – about the rise of conscious consumerism and what the future of the fashion industry looks like.
RYAN AND RAMON, YOU ORIGINALLY MET AT FASHION SCHOOL IN AUSTRALIA. DOES THE COUNTRY INFLUENCE YOUR DESIGN PROCESS?
There’s a beautiful ease about the way people wears our clothes in Australia. We’d like to think we embody that in our design at Tome.
WHAT HAS THE RESPONSE BEEN TO TOME CHAMPIONING WOMEN SO PROFOUNDLY? WHAT OTHER CAUSES ARE CURRENTLY TOP OF MIND FOR YOU?
We have been a brand for the Everywoman since day one and our customers love that about us. Another cause we are passionate about is ethical, sustainable fashion.
THE BRAND HAS A VERY GLOBAL FEEL. WHERE DID THIS AESTHETIC COME FROM?
Our aesthetic is informed by the women that we know and the women we encounter in everyday life. We make clothes that fit into a woman’s life, her day, her wardrobe.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN FOCUSED ON SUSTAINABILITY? IF NOT, WHAT CHANGED?
We have always been interested in ecological and ethical ways to make clothing. We began seriously looking into sustainable and ethical fashion when we debuted our first White Shirt Project capsule in 2014. The White Shirt Project, now in its fourth iteration, supports Katie Ford’s foundation, Freedom For All that fights human trafficking and slavery. When we began our partnership Katie asked us “Is everyone involved in making your clothes paid well? Is there anyone being coerced? Anything that does not meet industry standards?” Her questions forced to examine our process and visit our factories.
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE DIRECTION OF THE FASHION INDUSTRY MOVING? WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THE REST OF THE INDUSTRY TODAY?
You can no longer just throw around the words like “sustainable” or “ethical” without being able to prove to your customer that there’s real commitment behind those terms. That’s the direction that the industry is taking and it’ll be unwise for brands to ignore this trend. Sustainable and ethical fashion should not be considered a luxury but a given.
WHEN YOU START DESIGNING A COLLECTION WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR INSPIRATION?
We take inspiration from female artists, some living and some historical. We love to inhabit the work of each artist during the design process to connect with that woman, and then work outwards from there. As we’re both men, it’s important that we feel a very real, closeness to the women who inspire us as some of the artists such as Barbara Kruger, Shirin Neshat and Patricia Cronin have been central, almost physical figures in past collections.
WHAT DOES CONSCIOUS CONSUMERISM MEAN TO YOU AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO CONSUMERS TRYING TO BE MORE MINDFUL ABOUT THEIR PURCHASES?
We absolutely think that the consumer cares about the origin of everything they buy more than they did before. Always ask questions. With designer brands, there’s an expectation that the higher prices reflect craftsmanship and quality materials, which in consumers’ minds equal sustainable practices. This is not always true. Make sure that not only are the brand’s practices aboveboard but their supply chains are also.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A YOUND DESIGNER TRYING TO BUILD A BRAND THAT IS BOTH SUSTAINABLE AND FITS IN THE MAINSTREAM FASHION INDUSTRY?
Approach sustainability holistically. There’s so much involved—from fabrication, supply chain to business practices. There are always sustainable solutions out there, even if they might not always be immediately obvious. Do your research and never compromise on your principals.