Latest Stories

Robin Tomas: ‘Filipino upbringing, New York exposure–that’s my formula’

Designing for his compatriots, says the New York-based designer, offers a ‘different fulfillment’


Robin Tomas is upbeat in a recent e-mail from New York.

“There are a lot of things lined up in Manila,” he writes.

This May, nearly three years since he debuted his eponymous clothing line in Philippine Fashion Week, is the launch of his capsule collection for Penshoppe, the casual clothing brand’s first-ever designer collaboration.

Tomas will also dabble in costume design for the first time, for Atlantis Productions’ local staging of “Nine,” the Tony award-winning musical, in September.

He arrives in Manila just as his Spring 2012 collection hits the racks at Myth boutique in Greenbelt 5. Tomas, who has lived in New York City since 2001 when he was a student at Parsons School of Design, still carries a Philippine passport, and comes home at least twice a year.

Level-up mode

Penshoppe, which is aggressively upgrading its image with recent campaigns featuring Hollywood actors Ed Westwick and Zac Efron, approached Tomas following his win last year in a T-shirt design tilt that had his winning piece reproduced and sold at Bloomingdale’s.

Penshoppe’s brand director, Alex Mendoza, knew Tomas from way back, when the designer still worked in advertising.

“We’re in a level-up mode, and we felt Robin would be the right fit for what we need. This is part of our campaign for global recognition,” says Rocel Roque, marketing specialist of Golden ABC, Penshoppe’s mother company. “He’s very New York, his style is high-end, but he’s Filipino.”

The Tomas for Penshoppe collection, 12 styles each for men and women, will hit some 30 stores across the country on the second week of May.

Designing for his compatriots has a “different fulfillment,” Tomas says over iced coffee on a sweltering afternoon a day after his homecoming. It echoes his statement in 2009 about wanting to launch his brand here for sentimental reasons. “I want to bring my clothes here, so it’s not just available there.”

While his line, simply called Tomas in the Big Apple, is carried by three Manhattan boutiques, he says it excites him to see his clothes on Filipino women.

“We consider ourselves blessed and lucky that Robin chose to work with us,” says Ruby Gan, one of the owners of Myth, which is carrying Tomas’ line for the second season. “He has a steady clientele that regularly looks for his creations, and he never fails them because you can count on him to deliver… And the best part also is that whatever he showcases in New York is immediately available here.”

Slow but steady

Tomas’ rise has been slow but steady. But whatever uncertainty he had from three years ago is now replaced with confidence and dogged determination.

“You learn to be resourceful,” he says when asked how an unknown designer can stay afloat in a setting like New York. The economy is sluggish “but New York is New York,” he adds. “There will always be people [who buy]… I also want to reach other markets. I want to highlight my Filipino upbringing plus my New York exposure; that’s my formula. I want to use the good points of being [trained] in New York and serve other markets.”

He chose retail because “that’s the name of the game in New York, not couture.” But he wants to visit Manila more often so he could take on couture clients and, perhaps, dress up a few celebrities and socialites. “I’d really like that! Red carpet is more LA, New York not so much.”

ROBIN Tomas 2012 collection for Penshoppe

This designer’s goal is to set up his own boutique here, and also make his clothes available in key Asian cities. He owns his business, but admits he’s open to working with an investor.

“Is there anyone out there?” he asks in jest.

Tomas, 35, chuckles when I point out that he’s finally out of his mom’s shadow. “Mom,” of course, is popular actress-comedienne Tessie Tomas. “She says people now refer to her as ‘Robin Tomas’ mom,’ in the same way my lola became known as ‘Tessie Tomas’ mom.” His grandmother, Laura Hermosa, was a popular radio talent.

“I’m a happy son to see a proud mom,” he says. His early exposure to clothes and costumes is owed to his mother, but Tomas feels that carving a name in fashion is all his own.

Having a famous parent, however, has its advantages: “It’s not just the fashion press here that covers me, even the show-biz press is interested.”

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Clothing , fashion , Lifestyle , People , Philippine fashion week , Robin Tomas

  • http://noypistuff.blogspot.com/ Noypi

    Excited for the Penshoppe collection… :D

  • OneScorp

    congrats noypi robin and to your mom for bringing up a very good son.

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  4. This is not just a farm
  5. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  6. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  7. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  8. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  9. Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  10. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  1. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  2. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  3. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  6. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  7. France makes work beyond 6 p.m. illegal
  8. Ever heard of HydroBob?
  9. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  10. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?


  • Magnitude-7.5 earthquake shakes Mexican capital
  • Title of new Hillary Clinton book: ‘Hard Choices’
  • Filipinos, Dutch re-enact crucifixion of Christ
  • 14 killed in car bombing in Homs
  • 57-nation group plays key Ukraine monitoring role
  • Sports

  • Nadal ousted by Ferrer in Monte Carlo quarters
  • Pacquiao shorts in Bradley fight sold for P1.7M in LA auction
  • Ryu pitches Dodgers past Giants
  • Alonso sets the pace in Chinese GP practice
  • Heat seek Three-peat but Spurs, Pacers top seeds
  • Lifestyle

  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • Entertainment

  • EXO postpones release of mini album ‘Overdose’
  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Whoopi Goldberg debuts as marijuana columnist
  • ‘X-men’ director accused of sex assault on teen boy
  • Business

  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Barbie doll has a problem
  • Oil prices mixed ahead of long Easter weekend
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Filipina accomplice arrested for fake bills in Malaysia
  • DoH denies Filipino nurse no longer positive for MERS virus
  • WHO warns vs spread of MERS-Cov, urges vigilance in taking precautions
  • Last call for nominations to ’14 Presidential Awards
  • San Francisco business coalition slams proposed tax on sugary drinks