Ask Australian designer Ryan Lobo the moment he believed his brand Tome had finally “arrived” and he doesn’t hesitate. “Giovanna in the trench,” he says, definitively.
He’s talking about Italian stylist (and former girlfriend of Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld, yes, Carine’s son) Giovanna Battaglia, who wore a mercurial gold jacket to New York Fashion Week in 2013. It caused a street style frenzy, and the pictures of Battaglia striding down a Manhattan sidewalk were plastered across style blogs and shared on Instagram.
“I believe that a single person can put you on the map,” muses Lobo.
Suddenly, the little label founded by two Australian expats (Lobo’s business partner is Ramon Martin) was transformed into an It-brand with heavy-hitting A-list clientele including Sarah Jessica Parker, Cate Blanchett, Sigourney Weaver, Isabella Rossellini and Emma Watson.
Magazines called the collection in for photoshoots. The CFDA nominated the brand for awards. Buyers set up appointments. And then, a little down the line, Amal Clooney – via a stylist, of course – got in touch. The boys from Oz had made it.
Clooney is a particular fan of Tome, recently wearing a striped purple jumpsuit to visit her husband on set in Los Angeles. (Previously, she has worn a white bias cut slip dress for a dinner date, and a chequered sleeveless trench to her chambers in London. When those images circulated the tabloids and blogs, the jacket immediately sold out and the brand was inundated with back orders).
For Watson, the appeal of Tome is in the brand’s ethical approach to design. On a recent trip to Malawi as part of her ambassadorial role with UN Women, the 26-year-old actress wore a top from the brand’s White Shirt collection, proceeds from which go towards funding anti-slavery charities.
“You may have noticed me talking about my clothes recently,” Watson wrote on her Instagram. “I’m trying to be conscious about where my clothes come from and also about the people who make them… (I’m not being paid by brands to do this btw!).”
On the incredible affection Tome inspires among its fans, Lobo is modest: “It’s beyond thrilling to see pictures of someone wearing [your designs] and I’m sure no designer regardless of how big they are could say that they would not receive such incredible validation through moments like that.”