The time has arrived for designer Melissa Battifarano to display her considerable talents under the banner of own label. Dubbed Tony 1923, the effort is an affectionate reference to her dear father’s first name and his year of birth. Now departed, the brand’s essence is also inspired by Tony, who was known for his style, a very specific suave-yet-brash swagger that is the birthright off native New Yorkers of Italian descent.
Setting up the label’s DNA, Tony is described in press for “his love of fast black cars, large gold chains, anything trimmed in black lambskin, to wearing a bit too much jewelry, a bit too much cologne, fur coats and snake skin shoes, Tony was the opposite of less is more.”
Tony 1923’s debut collection consists of a total of a 25 tightly-edited SKUs dropping over the next six months. Mashing sport, street and lounge, the first drop features a cashmere track jacket and trackpants with lambskin details, velour hoodie and trackpants, New York City-inspired embroidered t-shirt and baby t-shirt and an “Italians Do It Better” tank top. Meanwhile, an upcoming drop features an insanely sexy balaclava knit dress and an equally hot lambskin bralette.
If you know, you know that Tony’s daughter’s credentials in the world of fashion are legion. The Navy knows her as Robyn Rihanna Fenty’s lead designer for Puma by Fenty and Savage X Fenty collections, roles she held for seven years. Prior to working with the Bajan Boss, she was part of the inaugural team behind Tory Sport‘s launch in 2015.
Even before Robyn, she was part of Tommy Hilfiger, Polo Ralph Lauren and Sean John‘s design team during an era of New York when the pure energy of street-inspired fashion took over and forever changed the landscape.
Talented, hard working and known for her warmth within the industry, Batiffarano is having a very much deserved moment with Tony 1923, a label her dad would no doubt be proud of.
Check out Tony 1923’s debut collection here, along with our exchange with Batiffarano below.
Snobette: You’ve had a very extensive design background working for brands like Ecko and Sean John, how did those beginning experiences shape your process as a designer?
Melissa Battifarano: “Wow. Great question. So much has changed with the industry but fundamentals stay the same. And my roots as a designer were heavily influenced by these cultural shapeshifters of the times. They broke molds and boundaries and it gave me the hunger and passion in my work. Don’t get me wrong, we worked our asses off, as sexy as fashion can be, there’s a lot of blood sweat and tears that go into it. I’d like to think I got my chops and earned my keep through my early experiences.”
Snobette: Having been at the helm of high profile design projects like Fenty x Puma and Savage X, did you learn anything new about design?
Melissa Battifarano: “I learned so much about myself and design during my tenures at Fenty by Puma and Savage X. You have to understand the evolving consumer landscape and know how to ebb and flow with their needs. You need to be nimble and fluid and adaptable. As the market continues to evolve and brands have the opportunity to speak more intimately and directly with their customers, it was important for me to move quick and make fast decisions, but do so without sacrificing on the vision for the brand.”
Snobette: One of the first things that comes to mind looking at your women’s Tony 1923 collection, which includes a catsuit, bodycon balaclava dresses (obsessed!) and a leather bra, is how sexy everything is. What did you want to express with these pieces?
Melissa Battifarano : “The balaclava dress is definitely one of my favorites. The oversized smoking jacket too! I saw an opportunity to say something different with this brand and bring a new perspective, one from a woman. We all know there’s a lot of luxury, streetwear and athletic in the marketplace. And I wanted to drive a story from my perspective that wasn’t just trendy but had a timeless and classic place in the market. “
Snobette: You’re launching Tony 1923 with 25 SKUs. Did you have to edit? And do you plan to drop the fashion calendar of seasons?
Melissa Battifarano : “I’m a really hands on designer so, I want to know everything from all elements of the process: sourcing, fabrics, ecommerce, marketing. Everything! So yes, editing was important, especially for our inaugural launch as a young brand in this landscape and challenging time. Tony 1923 is still working out our calendar and the good news is we can be fluid and flexible to meet the needs to the business and the consumer, not just a fashion calendar.”
Melissa Battifarano : The line as you described is an ode to your Italian American dad who sounds like he had a unique swag. Did he give you fashion advice? or did you learn by watching him. What do you think his favorite piece would be?Melissa: “My father had a magnetic charisma. I learned by observing him for sure, and each memory of my father sparks something new that influences my design. I think he’d love all of it; he’d find it endearing. He’d love the “Italians Do It Better” tank. He was proud of his heritage. And the track suits!”
Snobette: Lastly, when you look at your career, the ups, the downs, what is the tools, advice or personality traits that have empowered you to thrive?
Melissa Battifarano : “I’d like to think I never give up. That I believe in what I’m good at and know the areas where I need support. I lean heavily on my chosen family (ahem, friends!), who are open, honest and frank with me. A network and support system are important and I believe I am a good judge of character. I think it’s critical to be open to change, challenge yourself always and be okay with yourself when you make a mistake or have slipped a bit. We learn and we grow from every high and every low.”