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Tomme Studio

January 06, 2022

We sat courtside with Kelly from @tommestudio who aims to combine elements of masculinity and femininity through handcrafting basketballs into handbags - creating statement pieces to accessorize and uplift any outfit. Kelly shares with Sneaker Surge - what inspired her to begin this creative venture of uniquely designing and creating basketball handbags which are no less than an art piece, I mean just look at this!

Our bags are not just for one person or one group, they are for everybody. That's the best thing about basketball culture.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your company?

I come from a small town and moved to London. I have studied music and worked in a big record label company and considered that my dream job. With wanting change I wanted to celebrate a blended version of masculinity and femininity and came up with handcrafting basketballs into handbags.

2. How well do you know your customer? Who are they, do you cater to more of a female or male audience?

I have got a range of customers, when I started the brand it was mainly for me. I am a millennial and my core customer is someone between 25 to 35 years, they wear streetwear and were early adopters of what I was doing and really into sneakers. As the brand expanded I was able to reach a younger audience somewhere between 16 to 18 years who seemed to love the Pink Nike Mini bag. I’ve got the fashionistas who like luxury bags like the Prvda or Nada ? or even the Louis Vuitton Monogram bag. I’ve even got customers who are above 50 years and have great style and want to rock the bag. Our bags are not just for one person or one group, they are for everybody. That's the best thing about basketball culture.

3. Where do you draw inspiration from and how many pieces do you produce per design?

As the bags are made to order, I normally create a “1 of 1”. However there are times where I have received an order of 5-10 pieces and occasionally even 30-40 pieces per design. With newer pieces that I am experimenting with - I definitely start off small to check if my audience are vibing with my design. When I created the Pink Nike bag, I made 10 pieces and they sold out instantly. So I incrementally produced more and have even made up to 50 - which all sold out. There was a similar response for the Louis Vuitton bag.

4. How long does each bag take you to make as all of them are handcrafted?

Because I inflate my own balls - I have to allow it time to get in shape after it's been pumped - depending on the ball it could go from a few days to a week. They are all made from composite leather and each one's quality is different and I've learned this over the process of making these bags. Once I cut into the bag I start with the process of removing the dents that can take some time as well. I don't make the handles and straps myself anymore. I get them made for me which definitely shortens the time and helps me a lot otherwise the straps would take me a day or half to make them myself. The cutting, sewing and the construction of the bag takes me a few hours. After the are balls inflated - It takes me half a day to make one bag from start to finish and I do this full time now.

5. Do you ever run into copywriting or trademarking issues?

No, it's actually been okay because the Nike basketballs exist. I just rework on the basketball so I'm not putting their logo on something I made. There has been a trend  in the sneaker culture to rework Nike products - most of the time, it’s embraced by the brand. I'm not trying to slap a brand's logo on my bags or sell fake products so it's been okay till now. I've even had Nike’s social team comment on my work and how they like what I've done.

6. Do you have any dream collaboration?

Yes, I would love to work with the Jordan brand, Melody Eshani or Aleali May. The latter two are both prominent women who have created beautiful sneakers and it would be amazing to collaborate with brands/people like that. Or something out of the box like Porsche or any lifestyle car brand.

7. If you weren't the founder of Tomme Studio what would you be doing instead?

I’ve already had my dream job - while I was growing up I studied music and always wanted to work in the music industry. I moved from a small town to London the moment I could and worked for a big record label. I felt like that was my dream job and never thought I would leave but I did some amazing things when I worked there. So I kind of had my dream job but then Tomme Studio happened and it's been great!

8. What aspects of sustainability are incorporated in your bags?

I am 100% conscious of this when it comes to making these bags. I try to reuse lining fabrics as much as possible. I really like the fact that I'm reworking products and personally I like the worn look - it's like giving a new life to something that has been well loved and nicely used before. I make my own basketballs so even if there are any damaged pieces made by the factory I get them sent to me so I can use them for smaller personal projects. As long as the basketballs can still hold air we can repurpose the used basketballs.

9. What has been your biggest challenge owning your own company?

Finding the right team to help you. I can’t do everything so I need people to help me with social media, paid advertisements, PR, etc. At the moment I handle most of the social media. However, it is important to find the right people to help me with the various aspects of the business so I can focus on the production.

10. What can actually fit in the bag?

Hahah we can fit quite a lot in the bag, for example in the Mini I can get my Iphone, set of keys, lipstick and mascara. What else does a girl need? The Mini can surprisingly fit a lot in there. Even in the size 1 that's like a 16inch circumference you can fit a lot except your Iphone.