"We love a confident, formidable, strong character," says Ramon Martin, one half of the design duo behind New York-based label, Tome, on what he and partner Ryan Lobo look for in a model. "We're looking for that little spark of something different that you see in them when they walk in the door."
Watching the stream of girls (nearly 350 will come through the office over the course of the weekend!) parading through their showroom on a sunny Saturday morning before Fashion Week—all tousled hair, strong walks, and "don't mess with me" glares, they each seem to embody that character. Even as a bystander, it's a little stressful trying to imagine whittling them down to just twenty five to walk in the show.
That's where casting director Adam Hindle comes in. After speaking with Martin about the collection (this season, it's inspired by artists Barbara Kruger and Mona Hatoum), Hindle and Lobo reach out to modeling agencies to get comp cards for all the models who are available, and might be right for the show. After further editing down those collections of cards, called packs, the Martin, Hindle, and the show's stylist, Ada Kokosar, host a casting. Diversity is essential to the team. "We're not going for a consistent look," says Martin. "We want a consistent spirit—a consistent force in them, which is represented by lots of different faces." With so many interesting, beautiful, cool, unusual, worldly girls at their doorstep, the collection starts to come to life.
"A lot of the time you don't know until you actually see the girl in person," says Hindle of finding the right fit. "It might be her own personal style, which maybe isn't the style we're looking for, but [personal] style is still in itself inspiring." Adds Martin: "It's not about us deciding whether someone is right or wrong. Like any person in this industry, the models are professionals, and they're bringing something to the table too."
Any notion of modeling being an easy, glamorous job is shot. Runway models are required to maintain their personal brand of cool, while simultaneously personifying the designer's vision. "This is a really inspiring process," says Martin. "You can find the right girl, and put something on her, and she comes out and she's put it on backwards, and all of a sudden we're turning half the collection back to front! It's that magic, these women are bringing the clothes to life. Their spirit is really, really important."
And about those clothes: Tome started as a line of shirting, and over the course of five years has expanded into full ready to wear, and was nominated by the CFDA for the Vogue Fashion Fund in the process. But at the brand's core is a sense of inclusiveness. "When we create a collection we make sure there is something for every woman," says Martin. "Let the big brands have a really particular customer and strong branding message. We don't have to do that, we can be all embracing and diverse, and explore new things, and be creative." Season after season, Tome's collections stand out from the rest, and now having seen a sneak preview of the fall/winter 2016 show, we're pretty sure this one will too.
For more on Tome, visit tomenyc.com, and watch our Snap story @hiwearesweet on Sunday, February 14 to see the show come to life.