For many years we have all thought of Tommy Bahama as an iconic classic American label, but lately we have been seeing a change in the women’s division – due to the direction of the extremely talented and fashion forward Sr Vice President of Women’s Sportswear Stephen Cirona.
As a close personal friend for over thirty years I can attest that Stephen is not only one of the kindest individuals, but one of the most fashionable, creative, and smartest people I know. His new vision has defiantly shined a new light on the Tommy Bahama woman, while keeping the same aesthetic the company has been known for the past 20 years.
I caught up with Stephen this week for a Q and A to learn a little bit about his career, and about the exciting new changes he has brought to Tommy Bahama.
Can you tell me about your career in fashion, and how your journey led you to your position at TB?
I had an amazing mentor, Charlie Morrongiello, my high school art teacher, who helped me see that art and design were fields I should seriously consider because I had a very visual and creative mind. Thanks to him, I became an apprentice at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute while a senior in high school. It changed my life forever. At seventeen I was immersed in the world of fashion and costume at one of the world’s most prestigious museums. Diana Vreeland was at the end of her career there but she came into the office weekly. I remember chatting with Mrs. Vreeland on several occasions. It was like meeting the Queen of England and your eccentric aunt rolled into one. People overuse the word “divine” but I can assure you, those days at the MMA were divine for me.
After finishing high school, I studied fashion design in NY at Pratt Institute. While in school I worked for Christian Dior New York. Mark Bohan was the creative director at the time. I assisted the NY based design team – I felt so lucky to be there, learning and assisting. Immediately after college I was to work fulltime for CD but Paris closed the NY office so I was newly graduated and newly unemployed! I decided to work retail and landed at Charivari Workshop, which was the most avant garde store in NYC, selling all the major Japanese labels exclusively. Marc Jacobs worked at the store back then too. I learned so much from Barbara and John Weiser in a short period of time. Barbara had an eye like no one I had met and still to this day.
After doing the retail gig I finally started working in the world of design, eventually working for Tommy Hilfiger. That was when everything changed for me. It was there that I developed my business talents while continuing my creative journey. I helped Tommy build the women’s sportswear and home furnishings businesses. I also designed the Red Label collection for men and women, which was the exclusive, made to order runway collection. Eventually I became the EVP, Global Creative Director focusing on the men’s business globally. That work helped me understand fashion as a global experience. It taught me how to be disciplined in the creative process so that the message is clear and exciting, not broad and diluted. My years at TH were some of the happiest in my career. Tommy and I are still very close. My work with him gave me the experience and knowledge needed to build the women’s business at Tommy Bahama. I guess I have a thing for Tommies!
Can you tell me a little about Tommy Bahama as a company?
Tommy Bahama is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year. It was founded by three friends in Seattle who wanted to have a seasonal men’s shirt business. They thought it would be great to work six months of the year and take the other six off. Little did they know that their idea would grow into a global lifestyle experience including men’s and women’s sportswear, swim, accessories, fragrance, home decor, boats, retails stores, restaurants, rum, the list goes on and on. There are many businesses who like to think they are a lifestyle but Tommy Bahama truly is, because our mission is to make life one long weekend, and to help everyone relax in style, regarding all aspects of life.
Who is the woman who you design for?
I love our guest. She is affluent, loves to travel, loves fashion but isn’t a slave to fashion trends. She loves color and clean lines as well as feminine details. She is practical and fashionable at the same time. The wildest thing about the Tommy Bahama woman is she isn’t an age range or an ideal. She is multi-generational, is family oriented, she loves experiencing life and the world at large.
I visit our stores often and I see young women with their mothers and grandmothers shopping together. The youngest might engage with the collection through swimwear and accessories, her mother in the viscose jersey dresses and grandmother in our silk and linen sportswear pieces. It isn’t about age, it’s about the lifestyle she lives. Our woman loves being casual and we help her look her best all the time.
What were some of the inspirations for the current Summer 2013 collection?
I am always thinking about exotic destinations that work into the Tommy Bahama lifestyle. The summer collection is inspired by Talitha Getty and the time she spent in Marrakesh. She was a free spirit and a fixture on the swinging 60’s London scene. Her bohemian-chic style felt so right for the moment we are in today – playing with color, mixing bold and graphic prints, soft feminine layers.
In the past you have worked in high fashion. How does that experience inform your work that you do for Tommy Bahama?
Working in high fashion requires focus and discipline. I learned the importance of story telling and the power of editing for a relevant and personal expression while at Tommy Hilfiger. I’ve always said that fashion is not a democracy. Initially, there has to be a singular vision followed up with a collaboration of creative minds to realize the vision. I bring that same process to Tommy Bahama. We aren’t on the runway, but we need to have that vision and focus so that we become the trusted stylist and editor to our guests.
What do you think are the upcoming trends in woman’s fashion, and how do you incorporate them into your next collection?
I think fashion is in a very exciting cycle of individuality. I think the world has become a much smaller place because everyone has immediate access to news and information thanks to the web and social media. I don’t think women want to be dictated to the way they did ten to twenty years ago. Designers are creating distinctive points of views – more so than ever before.
I love the minimalism that has been bubbling up these past few seasons. I also love pairing masculine pieces with feminine pieces to create a very sexy, playful contrast and tension. Skirts and dresses with more volume that are casual and versatile. Color, prints and bold, graphic stripes will always be important to Tommy Bahama. It’s in our DNA. Finding modern twists for these ideas is what excites me most.
A special thanks to Stephen for taking the time to chat with me about his work, and to Dyann Hawkins at Orsi Public Relations. Be sure to check out the latest collections from Tommy Bahama through the link below, and follow them on their social media platforms.