Designer Interviews

Ryan Lobo Artistic director of TOME

March 13, 2018

New York City: They say that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere – and Sydney-raised Ryan Lobo has done just that. As one half of the creative duo behind contemporary womenswear brand TOME, Lobo has managed to impress the like of US Vogue‘s Anna Wintour with his label’s feminine take of tailoring and crisp-but-never-cold aesthetic. No mean feat. We caught up with Ryan to delve into how his impatience helped shape his career, why he loves a runway “moment” and his sage advice to those wanting to follow in his fashionable footsteps.

Describe your official role:

Artistic director of TOME.

Describe your brand’s ethos?

TOME is a brand that speaks to the everyday needs of every woman.

How did TOME come about?

Almost five years ago Ramon Martin and I, who have been friends since fashion college days 18 years ago, decided it was finally time to begin a brand together.

Prior to starting TOME, your career centred on styling and creative direction. Did you do any formal fashion training?

Vaguely. I studied fashion for about a year but was desperate to get into the workforce. My informal training was in buying under Robby Ingham and Belinda Seper. I was never anyone’s assistant in the journalism and styling realm – I just figured it out as I went. Consultancy came naturally and led me to TOME.

Do you consider the brand to be American or Australian?

A gentle blend of the two.

How do you both balance the design and business aspects with co-creator Ramon Martin?

We try and be involved in all aspects of the brand but there are times when we have to divide and conquer.

Where do you draw your influence for each new collection from?

Women with integrity and a work ethic. Female artists. Our friends.

How do you manage the constant travel between New York City and Sydney? 

I love it – Ramon does not. It can be tough but we now have scheduling down to a fine art.

Tell us about showing at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia last year:

Incredible! We were on the front page of the newspaper!

Runway is a huge part of your DNA. What do you love about creating a catwalk show?

It is the fulfilment of each seasonal dream, that and the imagery we shoot. We often know the music for the show at the beginning of every season and listen to it through the process of creating the collection. Runway is truly magical.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned since starting the label?

Be intuitive. Listen to your heart and your gut. Everyone has an opinion about how one should run their business but it is biased by their experience. Carve your own path and create a work culture and aesthetic that works for you.

What advice would you give to a emerging designers hoping to replicate your success?

Work for other people for as long as possible.

Are business skills as important design skills?

Yes. There are a lot of brands out there that are incredibly strategic and smart but are often lacking in substance and uniqueness. There are also wonderfully creative people who just can’t make a business work. To find a balance is crucial.

What does the future of the Australian fashion industry look like?

Bright and sunny, just like the climate!

Which brands are you following right now?

All of them! It would be remiss of us to think we exist in a bubble! Our favourites are, and always have been, Dries Van Noten, Stella McCartney, Lanvin…

What is things do you value most in life?

Time. Life style. Sleep. Food.

Who have you met along the way that has impacted your path?

Yes! Morna Seres, Belinda Seper, Kylee Stevens, Holly Garber, Michelle Jank, Edwina McCann – all wonderful women who have been guardian angels.

What has been the best thing that has ever happened to you as a designer?

Hearing through many different grape vines that Anna Wintour approves.

What does the future for TOME look like?

Hopefully bright and sunny.

You can find TOME on Instagram at @tomenyc.

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