It began with a dream, as clichÃ© as it may sound. Two years ago Mikey Toledano dreamt of sugarplums and python ties. Ironically, itâ€™s the python ties that stuck. Today Toledano has created ties of all kinds, producing the samples herself using a good old needle and silk-screener. Toledano only uses a manufacturer to handle the â€œbig orders,â€ creating multiples of the same style but each being handmade and therefore one of a kind. Toledano tries to stay away from following trends by making each product a statement piece. Seeking to create timeless and unique products, she turns to her surroundings for inspiration: â€œnature and concrete.â€
â€œSo much of fashion these days is like fast food–no thought or originality.â€
Format: Who is Mikey Toledano?
Mikey: Iâ€™d say a rule breaker and a nonconformist, constantly redefining herself.
Format: How long have you been creating your ties?
Mikey: About two years now. It all started with a dream I had about a python tie. I woke up and had to own it. So I went and bought some python and began cutting.
Format: What inspires your designs?
Mikey: Anything and everything. I try to stay away from following trends, as they tend to be short lived. I like my designs to be timeless and unique. I turn to my surroundings for inspiration–nature and concrete.
Format: What is your work environment like?
Mikey: I work out of a room designated as my studio in my apartment, as well as a garage on Long Island where I have my silk-screening equipment set up. Both spaces are jam packed–one with a sewing machine, dress forms, skins, and magazines, and the other with paints, silk-screens, and a huge light box. Both spaces are flooded with light. I canâ€™t concentrate without it.
Format: What are some challenges as a young fashion designer in the world today?
Mikey: Gosh, there are so many. First of all, getting people to take you seriously and pay attention to you. Itâ€™s so hard to compete with companies that have the clout of Louis Vuitton. Itâ€™s hard to break into the industry as a new designer regardless of your age. The fashion world is so saturated right now, and it really helps to know the right people–that in itself is hard to do.
Format: How did you get involved in Behance?
Mikey: I was working on my marketing campaign with Emily Heyward and JB Osborn at Consortium. They later branched off and started Red Antler, a marketing company that is involved with Behance.
Format: What is the best piece of skin that you’ve ever used for a tie?
Mikey: Part of my collection is made from Python skin. It’s extremely expensive, but worth every penny. You canâ€™t mimic that look. Crocodile would be amazing to try. I’m not sure how that would turn out, but in my mind it looks great!
Format: Have you ever been approached by animal rights activists?
Mikey: I have never been approached by animal rights activist regarding my ties. I don’t have a problem with using leather. I did have an incident once when I was wearing a vintage coat with a fur collar. A woman was speaking really loudly behind me about how terrible it was to wear fur, but she was too scared to actually confront me. I understand if you don’t want to wear leather or fur, but I think that decision is up to the wearer.
Format: Have you created a tie that you will never sell?
Mikey: Yeah. The first python tie I created. Itâ€™s the softest skin ever. I love it, and it started everything. I canâ€™t let go of it.
Format: Who are some of your favorite fashion designers and why?
Mikey: Issey Miyake and Comme des Garcons. They are really creating wearable art, rather than following another trend for the masses. Only the brave and innovative can pull off their designs. So much of fashion these days is like fast food–no thought or originality.
Format: Do you create different lines for different seasons?
Mikey: Because my ties are made from leather and skins, which are not considered summer/spring materials, I base my seasons mainly on colors and prints. For example, orange would most likely be a fall look rather than a summer one.
Format: Do you have boundaries in regards to your designs?
Mikey: No, at least not yet. You canâ€™t please everyone. The worst thing that can happen is you make a bad design choice. So, you try again. If you never try, you canâ€™t succeed.
Format: What are three trends that you think are timeless (with regards to accessories)? Please explain why.
Mikey: 1. Aviator sunglasses. I love them. I have the exact same style Ray-Bans that my father has been wearing since I was kid.
2. Pocket watches. They are so elegant. I think the styles of the â€˜20s-â€˜40s will always be around. There was a care to detail that was just amazing, and is really hard to find today.
3. Diamond earrings. I myself don’t wear them, but most women own a pair, or want to if they don’t. My mother has a pair, my grandmother had a pair, and my sisters as well. They are truly timeless.
Format: Has the androgynous trend helped increase your sales?
Mikey: A bit; however, people tend to know what they like, and if they canâ€™t imagine wearing a tie, itâ€™s hard to convince them. The women that wear my ties tend to be type-A personalities. The androgynous look gets their attention. The extreme trend followers will probably be more timid to try them.
Format: What do you mean by type-A personalities?
Mikey: Ties are usually thought of as a man’s fashion accessory–a sign of power and strength. When a woman wears a tie she is taking on those characteristics. On top of that there is a slight rebelliousness added to it for going against the grain–perhaps, gender-bending. Not exactly attributes you would associate with a timid person.
Format: What would you like to pop off in the next year or so?
Mikey: I’d love to open up my own shop and fill the place with design everywhere. Not just mine, I’ll have artists create doorknobs and wallpaper, as well as clothing and jewelry. It will be a lifestyle boutique–a creative refuge.
More Info: http://www.mikeytoledano.com/