Bagging the Supima Design Award in New York four years ago for his design of the “re-invention of the classic T-shirt” was Robin Tomas’ first major breakthrough as a fashion designer, and he has been unstoppable ever since. Still based in NYC, he continues to soar to greater heights as he just launched another successful collection last November, alongside his online store, www.tomasnyc.com, to cater to more clients in a global scale.
And being the proud Filipino that he is, he brought in his whole Holiday/Resort 2013 collection here in Manila for a one-day only sale happening tomorrow, Feb 1st, 10:00am-8:00pm at Raffles Makati. Curious to know more about this young designer? Read our short chitchat below and find out what makes Robin Tomas a cut above the rest.
What was the inspiration behind your Holiday/Resort 2013 collection?
The inspiration of this collection are the period rooms of the Metropolitan Museum. The period rooms are the French rooms from way back that they transported to New York into the museum so it has a lot of brocade and very rich tapestry. I injected that flavor into the collection. Most of the pieces present a very French undertone.
You mentioned it was launched last November in New York. How was the response?
It was good. We had a launch party in a gallery in Chelsea and it did really well. We even shot a film because we also launched the online store, which is tomasnyc.com. It was well-attended and they really loved the pieces and thought it was a very strong collection.
That’s great news! Does your online store offer international shipping?
Yes, they can just go to the website, it’s accessible all over the world. We’re looking into offering free shipping to the Philippines.
What’s your fave piece from the collection?
I love the brocade dress. I also love that printed keyhole shift, and the ruffled black opera gown. I named them after women’s names. So in the website it’s named as the Laura gown, the Amanda dress named after my mom’s character, Amanda Pineda. (laughs)
Where do you produce your clothes? Do you have a big team in New York?
They are produced here in Manila, Hong Kong, and India. It’s all over, but most of them are done here, centralized here in Manila.
How has your design aesthetic evolved through the years?
I think it’s just organically doing its own growth. I’m very, very happy with how I learned a lot in every season that I do a collection. I think I’m at a point where I just have to keep on growing and growing but I feel like it's doing good so I’m happy with it.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about your brand?
Maybe they think it’s too expensive. People think it’s not accessible pricewise. At least now I have a website so I can now reach a wider market.
What do you love most about your job?
I love making women happy. I love the reception of people when they tell you that you did something good, that they look good in it and it bolsters their character. It makes me feel that I did my job and I get inspired and I inspire people at the same time. It’s like an organic inspiration. So that’s what I love about it. Making something from fabric and transforming someone who would wear that piece.
What’s the hardest part about being a designer?
The hardest part is really the competition. It’s really hard, especially in New York. It’s really challenging. You really have to be very ingenious and at the same time very careful that you don’t waste your time or people’s time. That’s the challenge because it’s a very, very competitive market.
What sets you apart from other designers in New York?
Maybe the fact that I have three backgrounds combined—I have a background in fine arts which gives me a good eye in colors and patters; in advertising which allows me to know how to capture my market; and in fashion. So I guess it’s the combination of all three. Plus the fact that I’m a Filipino (laughs). I always tell everyone that I’m a Filipino designer.
I really feel like the Filipino aesthetic is so strong. I feel like being a Filipino got me ready to be in New York because New York is a melting pot and the Philippines is a melting pot of cultures.
What do you miss most about the Philippines?
The food. (laughs) I really make it a point to be home every Christmas because my whole family is here. And there’s nothing like Christmas in the Philippines. It’s still not over, I still see Christmas trees here in the city and it’s totally fine. I also miss a lot of my friends. I grew up here so my best friends are all here.
What do you love about New York?
Being able to do what you want. It’s just like a place where you can be who you are, you can do what you want, and you know, you won’t know what’s around the corner in terms of opportunities. It’s such a big playground. It’s like a one big crowded playground. I love the energy.
What do you to unwind?
I like to travel. I think that travel is one thing that you pay for but you feel like you gained a lot.
Do you have a fave city or country to go to?
I still love Rome. There’s something about Rome that I somehow feel like I lived there before. I went there a long time ago, during the ‘90s, but it’s still my favorite.
Can you share some tips for budding designers who'd like to follow your footsteps?
Just be true to yourself. Be true to what you do, be strong, and just go on forward and use what you have. If you know that you have something within you, just give it.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned in your design career?
It’s not easy. You need to be able to have a good balance of developing good relationships with different people—your suppliers, the press, and the market. You have to be able to be very versatile.
What are your 2014 plans?
To continue to grow the line based in New York. Currently, we’re working on the next seasons. I’m also looking into selling to more stores in the US and hopefully maybe looking into opening a store here in Manila.
Click on the gallery to see the pieces that will be available for sale at Robin Tomas' trunk show happening tomorrow, February 1st, 10:00 am-8:00 pm at Raffles Makati. Prices start at P500 for blouses and P2500 for dresses. Talk about major discounts! Hope to see you there!