We Are the World | Harper's BAZAAR India
New York: It's an incubator for the best design talent from across the world. Meet the fashion stars who are living the American dream.
Ryan Lobo | Founder, TOME
Kolkata-born, Sydney-raised, and now based in New York city: This is just the subtext of Ryan Lobo's journey. One half of the acclaimed brand Tome, Lobo worked as a designer, buyer, stylist, journalist, and brand constant before teaming up with his friend Ramon Martin in 2011 to start TOME, now stocked at retailers like Net-a-Porter, Moda Operandi, and Harvey Nichols.
Lauren Norling: Tell me about your transition into design and establishing TOME with Ramon Martin.
Ryan Lobo: We met when we were 19 at the University of Technology in Sydney. I started as a buyer and became closely acquainted with the industry, which led to styling, journalism, and consulting, but it was 12 years before I moved to New York and started the brand with Ramon. The decision was literally made over a phone call one day. He was in New York, had just finished a tenure with Derek Lam, and he asked if I wanted to start something. I think that some of the most exciting designs are born out of partnership.
LN: How have these experiences led to the type of brand you wanted to create?
RL: From day one we established the DNA of the brand. It is really about form following function, looking practical and utilitarian without sacrificing the fantasy of it. Through my work, I had a well-rounded view on what fashion is, and what it could be.
LN: What is a project your are excited about right now?
RL: In 2013 we met Katie Ford, the founder of Freedom For All, which is a foundation that fights human trafficking and modern-day slavery. We wanted to raise awareness about the cause, and so we founded the White Shirt Project in 2014. Since then, every year, we've been able to contribute money to the foundation along with our partners Net-a-Porter an Farfetch.
Shivam Punjya | Founder, behno
The fashion paradigm never aligned with Shivam Punjya prior to the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh in 2013. The resolve that he either make peace with the gross negligence exposed by the catastrophic event, or actively pursue change, was the catalyst to him founding his New York-based label behno. Working in tandem with an industrialist and nonprofit, Punjya built his factory, MSA Ethos, in rural Gujarat, where he implemented 'The behno Standard' for manufacturing. Punjya believes that this standard, which incorporates six factors ranging from eco-consciousness to family planning, is their contribution towards minimizing the human and environmental costs of building a brand. "The goal is to really change the way we look at garment workers, engage with them, work with them, and elevate their craft." The outcome is an ethical and sustainable brand that, along with being lauded for its modern silhouettes (Emma Watson is a fan), has become a benchmark for ethical responsibility in the fashion industry.
Kopal | Founder and designer, Kopal
Kopal's design sensibility is as informed by her childhood as it is by the brands she's worked for, like Bottega Veneta and Ralph Lauren. While her eponymous label is based in New York's, her hand-embroidered blouses and tiered dresses are made by craftsmen in India, often via tie-ups with the nonprofit SEWA (Self-Employed Women's Association). It's this focus on sustainability and ethical decision-making that drives the vision of her label. For this graduate of Fashion Institute and Technology, New York, ethical manufacturing and sustainability aren't a matter of choice, but an obligation. Her brand is an extension of a lifestyle. "It's about comfort, love, and freedom."
Ayub Mohomed | President, Tory Sport
The perfect path to success does not exist in the eyes of Ayub Mohamed, the 42-year-old president of Tory Sport. Before his post at the global fashion juggernaut, which he took on earlier this year, Chennai-born Mohamed held positions at Zara, Levi's, Givenchy, and DKNY. Growing up in a family rooted in film (his aunt is Rekha and his grandfather is famed South Indian actor and director, Vedantam Raghavaiah), Mohamed was surrounded by creativity from early on in his childhood. That exposure left him with a predilection for fashion, although he soon realized that his strengths lay not in the creation of clothes, but rather in enabling others to design them better. Mohamed then charged into the business of fashion, beginning with running stock management at Zara. His chief principle through it all? "Absorb, learn, and adapt."
Dipti Sharma | Model
New York City is far from home for Uttarakhand-born Dipti Sharma. A self-professed tomboy, fashion wasn't a prevalent influence in her life until she was struck by the runway shows she witnessed on television. "I was mesmerized and realized this was my thing. I needed to find a way to get there." Sharma began her career on the runway for designers Rohit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna, followed by campaigns for Shyamal & Bhumika and Lovebirds. Since she moved to New York with international agency Elite Model Management this year, Sharma's retro hairdo, striking features, and towering height have garnered her quick acclaim. She made her international debut at Balenciaga's Spring 2018 show in Paris, which was followed by an H&M show in Los Angeles. While Sharma may always be a small-town girl at heart, she's ready for the big time.
Runa Ray | Founder, Runa Ray
When Runa Ray got a phone call in February 2016 at 2:00 A.M. inviting her to showcase at New York Fashion Week, it effectively ended her night's sleep. It was the moment any designer dreams of, and for Ray it was the result of years worth of effort. The NIFT graduate worked with John Galliano and the House of Dior before launching her own brand of luxurious ready-to-wear in 2012. Her eponymous label, under the umbrella of her manufacturing company Mojo Design Studio, is sustainability-centric and built off a passion for nature and a sense of responsibility towards the environment. "There are tons of waste produced due to fast fashion, and I feel it's time for the industry and consumers to try to make a change." Ray's parameters for developing collections are simple—minimize her carbon footprint. Through practices like chlorophyll printing and repurposing natural textiles, she is able to do just that.
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