Bespoken In The City
WORDS Jyssica Yelas | PHOTOGRAPHY Tim Sugden
MODELS Tony Iyke | Elizabeth Nguyen | Rachael Lenzini
If you’ve been to a Portland fashion event in the last year or two, you’ve likely noticed Tony Iyke. Tall, dressed to the nines, exuding confidence, and probably wearing a suit with a complementing hat – the man stands out in a crowd. But why is his look so hard to attain? His wardrobe is ‘bespoke,’ meaning created to fit a specific individual’s measurements and his and hers only. His creations cannot be imitated, and that is his craft.
Iyke is the owner and Creative Director of his company, Designs by THOR (The House of Rose). His production studio in Oregon City is where every cut, stitch, and hand picking is executed to create custom suits for men and women. Most of his fabrics are sourced locally as well, and from an initial consult and measurement to the moment your suit is finished, the process can take up to eight weeks.
One of Iyke’s most distinguishing characteristics is not simply external. He seems to possess a glow and contagious smile that he’s never without. This contagion is obvious with one exchange with him, whether in passing at the Portland Fashion and Style Awards or inside the studio. Ikye says this is because “there is nothing quite like the confidence one gains from wearing something that is custom made. It’s as if personal flaws drift away and a person is finally seen for who they are – beautifully and perfectly themselves.”
You always have such a bright outlook and often post positive messages on social media. What do you have to say about mindset and being a business owner? I’m a strong believer in keeping a positive outlook on life because I think that what you give is what you receive. I also feel deeply about pursuing what you are passionate about and not giving up even if it appears that passion may be out of sight. If you have a positive attitude, anything and everything is possible. As far as my mindset affecting me as a business owner, I am experiencing my passion and dreams coming true and I bring that enthusiasm to work every day.
What does an average day in the life of Tony look like? The average day in my life consists of greeting walk-in clients at my Oregon City shop and introducing them to the concept of bespoke clothing, meeting with clients to go over fabric samples, design concepts, and measurements and having clients come in for fittings and alterations… all before 2pm! Then it’s off to pick up the kids from school and have family time. I often finish the evening by meeting with clients that couldn’t make it out during my store hours, and, of course, sewing!
What is your process like when you work with a client on bespoke? When I work with my clients, it is a very personal and exciting process. It starts with a consultation to find out what my client is looking for, as well as to gain insight as to who they are as a person and their interests. Then the designing comes into play! Sometimes clients will choose fabrics and designs, but often times they put their trust in me to make them something. To me, this is the most rewarding part of my job. I get to put my creativity to work to design something flattering for my client, treasure hunt for the right fabrics types and colors, buttons, threads, etc. and then put it all together. There is always a first fitting to ensure that my client looks and feels incredible before finishing the piece and having a final fitting. My clients are my number one priority, so ensuring their satisfaction makes me happy.
You grew up in Nigeria and learned design and tailoring there. How does this inspire your work? Growing up in Nigeria I was always surrounded by fashion…whether traditional attires or contemporary styles, I was exposed to it on a daily basis and found it all intriguing. Now, as a designer myself, I love to experiment with those elements and have fun blending the two together to make unique designs, styles and pieces.
THOR stands for The House of Rose, after your mother. What was she like? My mother was a strong, independent African woman. She ran our household while raising 7 children. She also fostered and sponsored through high school and college level many children over the years with my father, ran her businesses while mentoring her employees, found time to give back to her community, and did it all with passion. She raised us all to have integrity and drive and didn’t believe in excuses. She taught me about fashion and how to sew at an early age and always encouraged me to pursue my dreams.
More women are opting for suits rather than a ball gown these days. What do you think this means? I think it means that women are increasingly more independent and deciding for themselves what they consider feminine and beautiful, as opposed to conforming to social norms.
You were just nominated for Portland’s Best Men’s Clothing Designer at the PFSA style awards. How did that make you feel? I am honored to have been nominated for Portland’s Best Men’s Clothing Designer and believe that I have already won by finally being recognized as a local designer.
What is missing from the Portland fashion scene? What makes it stand out? I think that the Portland fashion scene is missing diversity, both in its designers and our local designs. I think what makes it stand out is the drive of our up-and- coming generation of designers and their passion for creating work that pushes the envelope.
Do you think consumers are moving closer towards or further away from fast fashion and towards quality clothing? I think that consumers are perpetually stuck in the battle of quantity versus quality. However, what I want to do is to be a part of a paradigm shift in Portland, in which I educate people on the benefits of integrating custom-made clothing into their wardrobe as a lifelong investment as opposed to buying into seasonal trends that flood people’s closets and are ruined before the season ends.
Who would be your dream client to create a suit for? My dream client is the one who walks in for the first time wearing a suit that doesn’t fit properly, someone who has a hard time finding clothes that fit perfectly off the rack, someone who has great taste but have a hard time finding beautiful clothing that helps them stand out in a crowd…it’s always a thing of joy when they see my designs and puts their trust in me to make them their first bespoke suit.