YKRA FACES: DÓRI TOMCSÁNYI
This month we sat down to talk with Dóri Tomcsányi, a true multi-hyphenate. She’s a fashion designer, founder and CEO of the brand TOMCSANYI, a co-owner and curator of the concept store and café The Garden Studio & Cafe, a teacher of Fashion Design at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, and if that’s not enough, she’s also pursuing her doctoral degree, while being a mom to her daughter, Mimi! We caught up with Dóri to see how she has time for it all.
Hi Dóri, please tell us about yourself and the inspiration behind your brand.
Sure, I’m a 34 year old fashion designer, and the head designer, founder, and CEO of my eponymous brand, TOMCSANYI, which I’ve been working on for the past 10 years. It's a small, sustainable, slow fashion womenswear brand, and all the garments and collections are made in my downtown studio in Budapest.
The essence of the brand is it's post-socialist, Eastern European and Hungarian, and it tells iconic stories and processes themes that resonate with both myself and our customers — whether it's about Kádár cubes (socialist village architecture), metro line M3, or Malév (the famous MALÉV Hungarian Airlines). I'm also inspired by things that seem insignificant, are almost unnoticeable, or even annoying to people, like mosquitoes, bugs or for example, Firebugs — and I always try to touch on subjects that are connected to my identity. All these different themes appear in the form of unique prints on our clothes, and they’re also special because the prints are made here in Hungary, and these pieces can only be bought from us.
What’s the subject of your doctoral thesis?
During my DLA, I’m focusing on national identity and pattern designs, specifically on how to use Hungarian folk, and decorative motifs — such as the Kalocsai and Matyó patterns that Hungarians use all the time, nowadays especially on souvenirs, but also on clothing, as it’s part of our national heritage. I’m studying how these patterns could be replaced with a unified visual reference that fit the Hungarian identity, but refrain from using these ornamental elements over and over again. I’m looking for a solution so that when tourists visit a gift shop, they don’t end up buying a lighter with a Matyó pattern on it. These patterns have so much value, and should stay valuable in their own right, just as they are, instead of saturating the market.
Instead, a “B version” could be used to convey national identity through design, in a way that is just as visually satisfying, but without exhausting our patterns and design treasures. It’s a challenge. The whole idea came from Marimekko — the brand just turned 70 — as they rewrote the image of Finnish design, and I'm researching their work as well.
How about teaching, what’s that experience like for you?
It's great! I love my students. I also think I’m lucky, as teaching young adults, 19- to 20-year-olds is a really good age group to be around. I can be quite strict a lot of the time, and I’m sure many of my students would say that about me. But really, it just goes back to how motivated I was during my university years, and so I expect something similar in terms of motivation and diligence from my students.
I think the hardest thing is when I see a student who’s unmotivated or lazy, and it can be a difficult situation to handle. My strengths lie in that I’m able to see through situations very quickly and solve problems fast, for example, on how to put a collection together, how to make it cohesive, and how to make everything fit, which means I’m able to help students with solutions and how they can progress — it’s the part of teaching I enjoy the most.
It's also great that I’m always able to learn something new from my students, so it's a never-ending learning process on both sides. I care about how students think about the world, about fashion, and on how to dress. I like to reflect on their ideas and thoughts, and share my thoughts with them, so we can start a discussion, which is always really exciting. I also have a very high stress threshold, which is useful when it comes to teaching and working in fashion.
What does your daily routine look like?
I'm up before 6am, and I start my day by taking my dog for a walk, followed by the morning rush of breakfast, getting ready, and taking my daughter Mimi to school. Mimi has to be in for 7:30am — she just turned 10 this summer. Most of the time I go straight to the university campus, and it’s so nice to have a few hours each morning when the phone’s not ringing, no one’s searching for me, and I have the luxury to stay focused for 1-2 hours until around 10am. Anyhow, all my days are different.
One day I'll be at university researching, teaching, or in meetings, and another day you’ll find me at The Garden Studio & Café, or running errands around town. In the afternoon I usually go play beach volleyball, and then I pick up Mimi, and that's how my day ends. When it comes to finding the time to design, draw, and think about the bigger picture rather than operational tasks, this happens in the evenings and on the weekends, when I can be alone in peace and quiet.
There’s a cyclical nature when it comes to designing fashion collections. Is the design process an intense period?
At TOMCSANYI, our new collection comes out every six months, and yes, the 1-2 months before the debut are very stressful. I spend a lot of time thinking about my inspiration, I draw a lot of sketches, and after the patterns and designs are finalised we send them to production. We also order the materials, we start sewing different styles, and there are dress fittings as well.
Fashion week is the first place where our collection is presented, and once we've debuted there, we consider the collection ready. As a fashion brand, we always work one year ahead of time, and it’s around six months after the debut of the collection, that it’s physically available in-store. It’s in this period between fashion week and our the collection hitting the store when we take photos of the collection, assess which designs are really going to be in demand, based on feedback, or where we need make changes or tweak items a little bit, so they’re more customer friendly, compared to the runway version. It's such an exciting, valuable time, although I do think that even one collection every six months can sometimes be overwhelming in terms of pace.
And what stage are you at now?
We're shooting the Autumn/Winter 2023 collection, which has already been ready for a while, but we've brought in new materials and are developing them now. Our Spring/Summer 2023 collection was also launched a couple of weeks ago. So right now, we’re in a bit of a transitional period, but generally, there are always three collections to deal with at one time, what's currently in-store, what's coming up, and the next collection that still needs to be designed and created, and really, it’s a lot, definitely more than enough for one designer to handle at once.
Lastly, what’s in your bag?
SIDE POUCH: It was a gift from Balázs (YKRA’s founder), and I really like the pattern on it, which was designed by Viola Balázs. She’s my best friend and we’ve also been working together for 10 years, so we’re very close. I’ve also been going sailing since I was young.
I’ve taken this bag with me to several countries all around the world, but I also use it a lot on ordinary weekdays. It’s useful for when I need to carry a lot of things in one bag, and it might look small but it swallows everything. I keep my keys, sketchbook, glasses, mobile and my wallet in it, and I really love these rings, to which I can attach my keys or water bottle, and I also often use the back pocket for my passport and money during vacations.
Pens: I’m always on the hunt for pens with unique colours, different from those that are generally available in the shops, and I just bought these recently in Seoul. I like to use my pens until they run out.
Sketchbook: This one is my current one but I have two or three other ones too. I often draw flowers, and my doctoral research is about flowers as well.
Glasses: I’m not getting any younger…so I need glasses. I bought this frame in Paris about 14 years ago. At the time, I couldn’t really afford it, so I felt guilty about it for a really long time, but looking back, it was such a great investment!
Scarf: It’s a piece from our Spring/Summer 2023 collection.
Lipstick: I have a very good French friend, Théo, and he works for Chanel. Sometimes I get gifts from him, like this lipstick, and it always reminds me of him, so I love using it.
Comb with a cat: This was also a present, it’s an old comb I got for Easter. These types of combs were sold in small shops in the ‘80s, and they fit anywhere, in your pocket or a small bag. I use it for my fringe.
Mobile: I’m immersed in my cell phone like everyone else nowadays.
Photos by Botond Wertán