Were you always really interested in fashion growing up?
No, actually. I went to performing arts high school and studied drama for 8 years, so fashion didn’t come until a bit later. I always had my own sense of style and was always interested in it, but the idea of having a career in that space was certainly after high school.
You were actually taking classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology when you were in high school. How did you balance it all?
Yes, I was taking a textile design and accessory design class, as well as a fashion illustration course. Going to school in NYC, most of my peers were involved in so many things, so it wasn’t too overwhelming!
Your first job was a boutique in Fort Greene—you started as an intern and worked your way up to a buyer position. Tell us a bit more about what you learned from that experience.
They showed me all of the behind the scenes stuff—buying and just creating relationships with different designers. I felt really exposed to all of it and really connected with it. After that experience, I realized what I wanted to do as a career—I wanted to open a store.
So after that, you went on to Chanel and Aritzia. What did those spaces teach you about opening up your own space?
Aritzia taught me more in terms of actually running a business, because I had a management role there. I interacted with the sales people and did a lot of the backend for the actual store. At Chanel, I was in operations and not in the store that much. They're both run so differently, but from those experience I learned different ways to interact with customers and created a unique shopping experience that was then applied to my store. I found things I knew I wanted to have—I can’t say that one was better than the other. Although, I certainly knew after both of them that I didn’t want to work for someone again!
When was Sincerely, Tommy born?
What was the inspiration that made you want to start your store?
My grandmother has had her business for over 30 years now and my mom has worked for herself for a long time. So I’ve had the entrepreneurial spirit in me from a young age. When I presented them with this idea of opening up a store in our neighborhood, they were both really excited and they’ve always been my biggest supporters, so it wasn’t a struggle in terms of finding a space and having all of the right pieces.
As far as design, what are you most inspired by for your in-house line?
Comfortable, easy, classic—stuff that I would wear. I certainly think I’m at a phase in my life where I don’t have as much of an interest in the idea of clothes and trends—I buy what I need or will wear consistently. It’s nice to have a line where I can make staple pieces that I can wear for anything. Whether it’s a wedding or hanging out with friends or just walking down the street to the store, I want to throw something on and not put too much thought into it.
As far as other designers you carry, do you have specific values or design aesthetics you’re always drawn towards?
At this point, we’ve really been focusing on female designers. I just like to hear women working on their own thing, so I’ve been attracted to that—not to say we won’t carry men designers. Overall, I just love unique pieces and easy/reusable pieces that you don’t have to put a whole lot of thought into.
You have a very diverse site and many of the e-commerce models are women of color. Is that something that’s really intentional for you?
Oh yes. We always try to use real girls. It’s important to show the type of women who have supported us and shop at the stores. It’s also faces you wouldn't see if you were on mainstream sites. These are the women that we hang out with and talk to—it’s more of a real life version of us.
That’s amazing. And you also have a coffee shop with the store—what was that inspired by?
The coffee shop opened at the same time as the store. Some people think it came later. I wanted it to just be a place where people could come hang out and not feel pressured to buy something from the store. We’re still in a neighborhood that’s on the edge of being fully gentrified—there are a lot of people who have been here their entire lives and they know what they know, so I didn’t want it to be an intimidating space that only catered to the new demographic coming in.
As far as, what’s up next, where do you see your brand growing and what do you want to do next?
When I first opened, I thought it’d be a second store. But now I just want to create, whether it’s events or initiatives. I want to create more moments where people can connect. We’ve started doing this bi-monthly series called ‘Sanctuary’ and it’s a space place for women to share their stories and to get together. So I want to do more things like that, because I personally see that there is a void in human connection and everything is really accessible right now. The way we communicate is so different than how it was 10 years ago. It’s needed for the human spirit to feel a connection between other human beings and dialogues that inspire growth and a positive, productive change—whether that’s in a social or political climate or locally or on a global scale.
Last question, can you tell me about one woman who has inspired you in your life? And a particular moment where you felt inspired by this person?
Oh, that’s kind of easy. I just got back from Kenya, and I was staying with 72 women in an all-female village and they were some of the most remarkable spirits I’ve ever met. I can’t say I would choose one—there were five women in particular I became really close with. I think them as a collective and their purpose for creating this village was inspiring and heartfelt. Experiencing them made me realize how important the work is that I’m doing in terms of trying to create a space that creates dialogue and allows people to connect, because they’re so selfless and they live with such joy even under some of the most adverse circumstances.