A brand offering eternal sunshine (and good fashion)
Words by Koibird Fashion Team
There are some brands out there that make life seem better by their very existence in your wardrobe. With its idiosyncratic ‘inactivewear’, Tombolo – founded by Chris Galasso and Michael Sard – is one of them. We asked the founders everything you could possibly want to know about it.
Tombolo's co-founders Mike Sard and Chris Galasso
What was the process of designing the exclusive KOIBIRD collaboration? How was it designing something that was more obviously womenswear?
Collaborating with Koibird was a dream come true! We were on the same wavelength from the get-go, so it felt easy. You led us into creative territory and colour palettes that we hadn't explored before and very much enjoyed. In general, women's silhouettes can be a lot more adventurous. It was fun to really go for it, all while still being true to the Tombolo aesthetic, which tends to be a bit nostalgic and boxy.
Who is the Tombolo customer? What do they do? What's their outlook on life?
At the end of the day, Tombolo is for everyone. Our products are intended to be, above all else, fun. And fun is for everyone. The smiles when wearing a Tombolo are just as big whether it’s an octogenarian or a twenty-something doing so. If we had to put more of a point on it, we’d say Tombolo customers don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re lighthearted and open to veering off the beaten path.
“At THe EnD Of THE DAy, TOmBOLO Is fOR eVERyOnE.”
How does sustainability factor into Tombolo?
We want our brand to be fun but not frivolous. Underneath all the kink, irreverence and whimsy is a conscientious foundation, including always trying to lessen our environmental impact. In our experience, some of the most meaningful positive shifts you can make are the simplest. The most basic of these is material selection. We try to use materials with eco-friendly profiles whenever possible.
The mainstay of our business is cabana shirts, which we make from organic cotton terrycloth, which requires significantly less water to grow than conventional cotton and ensures no herbicides or pesticides harm the environment and workers. Our second most common fabric is Tencel, which is made from wood fibre sourced from sustainable forests. It actually requires less energy and water to produce than cotton and is also biodegradable. In addition to eco-friendly fabrics, we also use recycled and biodegradable packaging materials wherever possible. To help offset our impact even further, we joined 1% For The Planet, a commitment to donating 1% of sales to approved environmental charities.
What inspires you when you are designing?
We love to trawl the past for inspiration: old hotel logos, luggage tags, matchbooks, nautical flags, sardine cans, woodcuts and book plates. The motto we coined is ‘don’t get dusty exploring the attic’, the idea being that you should reach for relics from the past for inspiration, but always find a new twist to make them fresh. We try to imbue this in everything we make –the apparel is nostalgic but new.
What distinguishes Tombolo from its peers in the fashion world?
To be honest, we’re not even sure if we’re in the fashion world! We don’t come from a fashion background, we don’t follow a traditional wholesale calendar, and don’t have any formal training. We’re at a very happy intersection between travel (our collaboration with Positano’s Le Sirenuse and Bali’s Hôtel Magique), art (our collaboration with artists like Ana Leovy, Rachel Sard and Maggie Stephenson), charitable initiatives (shirts for which 100% of sales are donated to causes like GlobalGiving’s Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund, The Arctic Ice Project, and Oceanic Global), a bit of sweaty drunk dancing, and, tying it all together, the clothing itself.
“dONNINg a TOmBOLo ReALLy Is An eXpERIENCe iN AnD Of iTSELf.”
When you were first starting out, what was your vision? Has it been fulfilled, or has it turned out completely different?
The vision has definitely evolved. We started out planning to refresh Hawaiian shirts by making them a canvas for self-expression and boundary-pushing again like in the golden era of Hawaiian shirts back in the 40s and 50s. Today, our best selling category is terrycloth cabana sets. We never would have guessed if you asked us in 2018.
What do you want your customers to feel when they wear Tombolo and what's the perfect scenario for wearing a Tombolo piece?
We want our customers to feel light and happy when they put on a Tombolo. Donning a Tombolo really is an experience in and of itself. It transports you and puts a smile on your face. One of the most rewarding parts of our job is seeing customers try on our shirts and instantly grin and strut. The beauty of a Tombolo is that it can make a mundane moment feel special. Of course, it works for the special moments too, and we’re honoured when they’re donned at birthdays, engagements, and even memorials.
How have your backgrounds influenced the brand?
We came from wildly unrelated fields. Mike worked in geopolitical risk analysis, and Chris worked in crisis PR. We think our lack of formal training probably helped us stand out from the pack — for better or worse, depending on who you ask! We also grew up together — from age six through university we attended the same schools. We have a weird sense of humour that can only be borne out of a friendship that long-lasting. We think that probably gets expressed in how we communicate with our customers.
What's next for Tombolo?
We’re excited to be opening stores again now that the world is returning to some semblance of normality. We just opened one in Montauk on Long Island, and another is in the works, but we won’t say where just yet! We’re thrilled to also be partnering with Koibird to bring Tombolo to our friends in London for the first time. We can’t think of a better partner to give customers a feeling of escape and make shopping fun!