INTERVIEW: Tommy Vowles

INTERVIEW: Tommy Vowles

from Recon News

29 January 2020

Tommy is a Berlin based designer who specialises in Vegan leatherwear. Forever influenced by his dark background he today focuses on offering high quality fashion pieces made entirely of vegan materials. With a love for the look and feel of leather, Tommy has developed his brand as an ethical statement, while ensuring his work caters for all shapes, sizes and genders.

What's your background in design and the fetish scene?

I studied fashion at university, I struggled a bit. I think I was uninspired by conventional materials and hadn't really found my voice yet.

I was around the fetish scene from quite a young age, but I came in through the goth scene going to clubs like torture garden and wearing some pretty extreme outfits. I was more interested in fetish fashion performed through goth. I love the style of Blixa Bargeld wearing strap ons and harnesses as outerwear.

How did you get into designing fetish wear?

Honestly the brand was born out of a breakdown and recovery from alcoholism, I suddenly had all this time on my hands and my head was all over the place. I'm 2.5 years sober now, and the brand was an integral part of my recovery and finding my identity again.

It took a while of me playing with ideas and prototypes before I started posting my work online. People liked it and before long I was making custom orders from my bedroom and it just grew from there.

Where do you get inspiration from?

I'm inspired by people, I like making people feel strong and sexy, that's what it's always been about for me. I take inspiration from the goth scene, periods in history, armour, John Willie illustrations and more but I think I have a strong idea of who my customer is and what's going to make them feel special. I try to keep the customer at the core of everything I do.

What was the initial aim when starting your brand and has that changed over the past few years?

The initial aim was to make things that I wanted to wear but couldn't find in vegan materials. I actually started with vegan leather jackets. I hadn't seen anything that had really impressed me, so I started making these biker jackets with huge vegan snakeskin lapels and lined in blood red velvet. I loved them but people kept asking me for accessories and harnesses specifically. I quickly became the harness guy and would make those pieces for friends and over time I built a collection. It was a lot of trial an error and playing with materials and ways of doing things. People are sceptical about vegan anything and they want it to look real, especially when you're talking about leather where the material itself is the fetish.

A further aim of mine is to be as inclusive as possible as a brand. I offer custom sizing in an effort to recognise and empower people of all shapes, all sizes and all genders.

What is your process when designing and creating a new piece?

I work backwards really; I will get inspired by one piece of hardware or a certain material and then build a piece around that. Right now, I'm really obsessed with vintage buckles and have all my friends and family keeping their eyes out for them. I've found that my customers like small runs of things and limited products, the vintage buckles fit nicely into that.

All of your products are vegan, do you think there is growing trend for people to wear more ethical fetish wear?

I would say so yes, when I first started there was only a very small scattering of fetish wear designers working exclusively with leather alternatives. The number has definitely grown since I've been doing it and that makes me so happy. Social media and alternative news have made it increasingly difficult for the meat and dairy industry to continue pulling the wool over people's eyes. Mainstream supermarkets are now packed with innovative meat alternatives and I think people are starting to pay attention to where their clothes come from as well as what they're eating.