Recently born, London-based label Tove has just celebrated its most successful season. Ahead of its launch into Brown Thomas, we spoke with the co-founders about how they are catering to women who want their wardrobes to serve them in every sense of the word.
Contemporary is an amorphous term in fashion right now. By definition, it should mean being marked by characteristics of the present period, but designing for the modern woman isn’t easy. Even before the world was upended, delivering effortlessly elegant pieces that deftly blend form and function, all the while being sustainably-minded and well-positioned in terms of pricing was no small feat. It was a task however, that fashion veterans Camille Perry and Holly Wright felt up to when they joined forces to create TOVE, a London-based womenswear brand called after the Danish name which translates to “strength and beauty”.
Having amassed over fifteen years of industry experience, Perry and Wright first met while working at Topshop as head of buying and head of design respectively and quickly learned that they shared a clear vision. Eyeing a shift in the market, the pair saw space for “a modern, feminine brand with a beautiful aesthetic and clothing that fit seamlessly into busy lifestyles,” Perry says. “We knew we wanted every TOVE design to be underwritten by concepts of quality, longevity and practicality, so that dictated a lot of the pricing structure as well.” Ranging from €170 for a hand-finished silk camisole to €835 for a lambswool coat, “respectfully” is how the duo describes their approach to pricing, reflecting the quality of the materials and the level of workmanship involved to bring each item to life.
Indeed, there is life in TOVE’s clothing, or rather, the languid pieces are intended for living life to the full in, each garment designed to work across myriad contexts. “Our sensibility is that we create beautiful clothing that can transition effortlessly between occasions and across seasons,” Wright explains. “A piece needs to work hard for the wearer, so we made sure that each garment can be worn from day to night, whether you’re at the beach or in the city.” Last summer, that ideology was tested as restrictions were relaxed and warmer temperatures allowed women to don their sundresses again. TOVE’s sunflower yellow Ceres dress – made from 100 per cent cotton and featuring a breezy full-skirted silhouette – seemed to be the sartorial salve that was needed at that moment in time and was worn by just about every stylish woman on social media.
Somewhat embodying the women they’re designing for themselves, it’s clear that the pair’s personal style (clean, minimal but not androgynous) and lived experience (Wright is tall, while Perry is more petite) inform their creative process. As a result, the collections feel instinctively considerate of the female form. “The TOVE woman is kind of like us, isn’t she? We’ve got demanding careers, we both have children and we always think of her as living a full, busy life,” Wright says. “She knows what she wants from her wardrobe and we always ask ourselves, “Where is she going in this?”. Striking that perfect balance of modernity with femininity is key for us too, so we spend a lot of time thinking about women’s bodies and what’s going to feel incredible for them to wear day-to-day.” An action, the duo hastened to add, that isn’t all that commonplace in their field.
While crafting a collection of hardworking, quietly luxurious pieces might not sound like pulling off a major coup, so swift was TOVE’s ascent to becoming an enduring favourite of the well-dressed around the world that, on the back of its debut collection, Net-a-Porter snapped up the fledgeling brand for a year-long exclusive partnership. Now, launching into Brown Thomas for the spring-summer season, Perry and Wright are confident that the events of last year have only strengthened the brand’s positioning. “The pandemic caused such a shift in the lifestyles of so many women and it’s made everyone reflect on what they actually need. There seems to be a heightened focus on buying less, buying better,” Perry says. “It just cements everything we’ve been about since the beginning.”
Despite tapping into a collective yearning for always- relevant pieces, 2020 wasn’t without its challenges for TOVE. “Naturally, as a small business, the pandemic threw us a few curveballs,” Perry says. “The roadmap we set out had to be adjusted slightly because we lost a full season and had to move back deliveries.” There were positives nonetheless, Wright notes, to be taken from the change in pace. “We were fortunate that our size meant we were able to adapt quickly. Without the usual noise and distractions, we had a lot of time to focus inwardly on the brand, honing the aesthetic and brand messaging,” she continues. In an age of all things digital, TOVE saw the merit of Instagram as a way of levelling up their brand reach and deepening their connection with existing customers when lockdown measures swept the world. “We’ve always invested heavily in our imagery but with everyone being at home and on social media so much more, we knew we had this captive audience,” says Perry. “We saw such a lift in our engagement.”
Rather than looking at the mandate to design responsibly as a limitation, TOVE looks to the future more with a sense of obligation. “Sustainability is at the heart of all our decision making. We consider it very much our responsibility to operate as consciously as we possibly can,” Wright says. “Our packaging is extremely minimal and purchases come in beautiful woven bags that can be useful to our customer, rather than just being thrown away.” The duo favours recyclable or recycled when it comes to fabrics, working with mills in Italy and the UK to develop ethical fabrics that still feel luxurious, while collections are produced in Asia in limited quantities to prevent waste. Reinforcing the brand principles that each season should build on the next, for spring-summer ’21, TOVE has grown its product offering to include more elevated separates; wide-leg trousers, relaxed tailored jackets and flowy camisoles, all to provide further layering combinations and end uses for the wearer.
TOVE’s continued success isn’t merely the result of Perry and Wright’s business nous or their holistic vision, but rather lies in the brand’s easy, yet fashion-forward approach to wardrobing. “Our experience has taught us that collections need to be rooted in a season, but carefully conceived to live beyond it,” Perry says. “Our pieces are designed to feel modern today and long into the future.” And that’s a sensibility that feels very “of the moment”.