Tell us where you are from, the early years of your childhood and what influenced your direction towards fashion?
I was born and raised in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. I had an amazing childhood, my parents exposed me to a lot straight from birth. They were very ahead of their time and I was able to benefit from that. I went to an Afrikan centered school for many years and then a performing arts high school. My parents wanted me to learn about my culture since American schools don’t teach young black kids about their history. I was also raised as vegan, stemming from my mother’s early awareness of eating healthy. I’ve always adored style, but it wasn’t until middle school when I started taking weekend classes at FIT that I really narrowed down one of the fields I wanted to work in. My first job at a Fort Greene boutique, Addy & Ferro, allowed me to develop the idea of what I wanted to do in the fashion industry.
What does Sincerely Tommy mean?
Tommy stands for Tompkins Ave, which is the corner the store is on and I also grew up on Jefferson Ave between Marcy and Tompkins Ave. The Sincerely part is like a homage to the area and the Avenue.
Why a concept store?
I wanted to provide a refreshing take on the shopping experience while also providing a “stage” for emerging designers. The concept is that you are able to find unique exclusive pieces from around the world or locally. I think the mainstream customer looks at fashion or clothing as just that, but to me clothing is an art. When I find a designer that is so laser with their vision in their brand, that’s art. They are creating something that doesn’t exist, from the textures to the silhouette. I feel like I see so much of the same nowadays so I really appreciate it when I come across a line that is innovative.
Where did your inspiration stem from or the mood you wanted to set in the interior design and layout of Sincerely Tommy
I have so many passions, and one of them is design. I wanted to create a clean and open space. I am always influenced by travels and the spaces I encounter when in a foreign land. I wanted to reflect that in the store as well. When you go into Sincerely, Tommy you don’t feel like you’re in Bed-Stuy. I play around with a lot of natural materials, while keeping hints of the original build out left throughout the store. The set up of the space also allows me to play around with the product I place in the store, especially since that is the focal point.
Photo via: vogue.nl
How receptive were individuals to your ideas before they came to fruition?
My family was really supportive, they thought it was a great idea. Although, I am not sure they fully understood what a concept store was. My boyfriend was supportive, but he thought I should get a job in corporate America first to expand on my knowledge. I think my friends just thought I was throwing out an idea, but didn’t think anything would come to fruition. I did have one friend, Jean, who was so supportive. Initially we were going to be partners then decided that she would just help me. People like that are rare and really special.
What would you say to those who don’t have the positive reinforcement of family or and friends when pursuing a passion?
Always, always, always pursue what you love. It’s one of the most gratifying experiences you will have in life. Taking that risk will allow you to grow and become a better you. I don’t think anyone should every allow outside forces to influence the choices they make because it’s no one else’s job to do that.
What does fear mean to you?
I think fear is ego. When you are fearful it usually correlates to some sort ego trip. We all face fear to some extent. Fear in the workforce, fear in love, fear in trying something new, there are several situations where we may encounter fear. I enjoy being in situations where I may feel fear because it means I am stepping outside of my comfort zone and the end result is usually liberating once I overcome that fear (and kick my ego out of the way).
Suggestions or advice for those who are afraid to take the first steps in building a business?
Do your research and utilize any sources around you that may provide business planning help. Ask a lot of questions because you are entering into something new. There are a lot of free business programs out there with counselors who will sit down with you.
What is the best piece of advice or life lesson you have learned regarding your work?
I received some advice that was probably the most influential and true, “have a vision”. Having a vision is so important because it makes the process less tedious, and when you are laser with that vision you can avoid a lot of the bumps.
What keeps you motivated?
I think experiences, as simple as it sounds, keeps me motivated. I want to experience a lot in this life and that motivates me to keep doing what I am doing. I want to travel more and experience more cultures. I want to meet new people and have conversations on topics I know nothing about.
Current music playlist and favorite book?
I have been listening to a lot mixes by Soulection, a group called Guts, Abbey Lincoln, Esthero, Sun Ra, the list could go on when it comes to music. My favorite book is Love, Freedom, and Aloneness by Osho.
Favorite restaurant and dish you would not want to live without?
Oh, that is really hard. I am a bit of a foodie and love to try new restaurants very often. My top two vegan restaurants are Pure Food and Wine and Sun in Bloom. I love the Shitaake Bacon BLT (completly vegan) and the heirloom tomato lasagna from Pure Food and Wine. When I want to cheat I will have the black truffle cavatelli from Aita.
Do you have a workout/exercise routine? If so, what is your routine?
Ha! I have attempted to workout and never stay consistent. Everyone around me in so fit too, I wish it would rub off.
Set the mood of your work space; do you listen to music, enjoy silence, turn off your phone etc…
I like to be alone when I am working. I will either put on music or one of my random 70′s horror films that you can only find on youtube. I am not a huge fan of phone to begin with, just because they allow for very little alone time, so if I am working the phone is definitely away from me.
Favorite Designer or boutique/store/space
I don’t have a favorite designer, but I love Rochas, Nanushka, Celine, Christoher Lemaire, Georgia Alice, The Row, and about 20 more! My favorite store space besides Sincerely, Tommy is the new Celine store in Soho, Acne Studios, Iko Iko space, and Maryam Nassir Zadeh
Describe your personal style
Comfortable and classic. I feel my best when I am wearing something loose fitting, usually a baggy trouser and top. I prefer pieces that are effortlessly chic and unique. I love to play around with patterns and textures. I am so obsessed with how special a piece is vs how it fits that I usually don’t try things on. I like to have fun with what I am wearing so I never take myself to seriously. My favorite body part to show off is my back, I think it’s so sexy. More recently I have become obsessed with deep v’s, the low cut dresses that don’t really show any cleavage but just the space in between. It’s such a tease, yet so elegant.
What is your favorite life lesson
I don’t have one. There is way too much to learn to be able to determine that just yet. Favorite inspirational quote? Right now I really like this quote from Anthony Bourdain “Recognize excellence. Celebrate weirdness and innovation. Oddballs should be cherished, if they can do something other people can’t do.”
I would love to design more spaces, even on a consulting basis or helping other small businesses (especially in the neighborhood) design their space. My goal in 2 years is 2 open a 2nd store in Paris. At the moment my mother and I are working on another brain child, I am very excited about it and to be working with her. - sincerelytommy.com
Kai with her Mother and Grandmother Sincerely Tommy Instagram: @sincerelytommy @kaiaventdeleon