Ryan: Up Top since 2011. Ramon: Up Top since 2007.
I’ve harboured a bit of a creepy obsession with two-year-old, New York-based clothing label TOME for a while now. First, it was their beautifully minimalist designs that caught my eye; then, after I met them earlier in the year it was the designers Ryan and Ramon themselves. These are truly nice guys – I met them under highly pressurised circumstances; in their teeny studio on the Lower East Side, the day before their very first show at New York Fashion Week, but they still made me feel welcome. While deeply absorbed in their final preparations they joked and gossiped with models, friends and each other. Given the clothes these two are producing, perhaps they prove that nice guys can finish first.
Once study buddies at the University of Technology Sydney, Ryan and Ramon set off on different career paths, only to come back together in 2011 to launch TOME. Ramon has a design pedigree many can only dream of, having trekked through the fashion capitals of the world working for Alberta Ferretti in Italy, in the Haute Couture Atelier of Jean Paul Gaultier in Paris before ending up in New York working first for J. Mendel and then taking on the position of Design Director for Derek Lam. Ryan is positively fresh off the boat in comparison, although with no less experience. Before heading to New York to start the label with Ramon, Ryan had worked as a buyer for Belinda and Robby Ingham in Sydney and spent time as editor in chief of pagesonline. Once the two decided to set up shop together, it was clear New York was the place to be.
And so, they’ve set about building their line, making a name for themselves and above all, designing beautiful clothes. Being in the States has meant they’re able to be free of some of the peculiarities of the Australian market, not restricted by size or demand. For Ramon, the advantage is clear: “In America there’s incredible industry support and access to serious funding opportunities.” Ryan is even more succinct when it comes to the advantages of the US – “A huge population and potential market.”
Already they’re feeling the American advantage. Right at the beginning of this year, TOME was awarded the Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation award and are now in the same company as design stalwarts like Rodarte, Proenza Schouler and wunderkind Balenciaga designer Alexander Wang. The prize money meant they could be a part of New York Fashion Week for the first time, staging a moody presentation of pared down looks inspired by Georgia O’Keefe and garnering attention from the international fashion pack.
Their clothes evoke the kind of considered minimalism that seems perfect for the current fashion mood. While certainly being on trend, these are designs I can picture sitting in my wardrobe for years to coming, incorporating themselves into daily life and being worn with the city-girl ease I'm constantly striving for. It's evident that with TOME Ryan and Ramon are shooting for the long-haul, not any desire to be the flavour of the month.
Both seem more than settled in their New York lives, although when I ask when the city started to feel like home, Ryan exclaims, “Immediately!” while Ramon says, “Years!” They’ve come to embrace the quirks of their adopted country (Ryan seems exasperated by the continued use of fax machines), but are quick to say they miss their families, Ryan’s Elizabeth Bay apartment and those legendary Queensland mangoes.
In recent weeks they’ve launched an online shop and are toiling away on their Spring/Summer 2014 collection. Ryan mentions TOME are working on some collaborations with US brands, but when I ask him to elaborate he demurs – “Not at this stage, but we can update you once things firm up.” Whatever it is TOME are cooking up, I’ll certainly be staying tuned, continuing my obsession with the world these two talented men are creating.