After a long week and even longer weekend, my partner called to wake me up for a scheduled interview. “Ready?” he asked, and I gave a grunt “will be when you get here.” Of course I was not. When I finally got ready and came downstairs, the air was warmer than it had been in weeks, and the sun was very bright. What a perfect Sunday to drive to the Hamptons; but this was business, not pleasure … or so we thought.
We were on our way to South Hampton to meet Gail Toma, a scarf designer from New York. The ride reminded me of rides through Maryland as a child, the vast farm land, the sea shore and long stretches of road. When we reached the village of South Hampton, we found our way to the quaint, brown shingled house, which is Gail’s office/studio. Walking in was like visiting a beautiful garden, of, well, scarves. Within my first five minutes in Gail’s presence, I thought she was fabulous. She is the definition of classic style and grace. When listening to Gail describe her scarves, you think to the days of glamour, when women such as Hepburn (either one), Harlow, Hayworth and Dandridge were the women we looked to as stylish.
What is a scarf? A scarf may be one of the most versatile accessories; they are wearable pieces of art. They can be worn around the neck, waist, as a halter, a head wrap, a head band, etc. Scarves are designed to enhance the inner beauty of a woman, you can be a size 4 or a 40, and a scarf will fit.
Gail Toma’s fascination with scarves began when she was thirteen. Her father brought her a scarf back from a business trip. She remembers it coming in a gorgeous box and being just beautiful. She then began stealing her mother’s scarves, and laughs about being the only 13-year old walking around with scarves on. Starting in seventh grade she studied painting and believed her future was going to be in the direction of creating illustrations. Gail studied at Providence college in Rhode Island, and went on to New York University after completing her undergraduate degree. She also studied for a brief time at The Fashion Institute of Technology. She quit working for Ralph Lauren as a product manager, took various management and design positions; later she began teaching art and design at various schools, she then wrote a book called Strategic Planning for Designers. Still, Gail says, she wanted more. She endeavored to create what is now Gail Toma Scarves.
“Most woman seem really confused, the world is so casual now and women just don’t dress any more”, says Gail. You hear this statement a lot now from various designers. Gail spoke about the Hamptons being very casual, and when you’re just a little dressed up people say “well, where are you going?” She says she feels as though dressing is a “lost art” and she would like to inspire women with the confidence, to get dressed. She posits that maybe they lack this confidence because everyone is so casual.
”Women are missing ways to express themselves, and maybe with a scarf anything from casual to black tie you can expand the idea of expressing yourself,” she said.
Our tour began with the Classic Scarf reminding us of the timeless, romantic era of dressing. Each scarf she says is like a painting, “they each embody all the elements of a painting; in every scarf there is line, form, color, and rhythm.” The first scarf she showed was called “chicks”, a beautiful tribute to women – her mother in particular – who had recently died of Breast Cancer. One of the women in the scarf has no hair, but she still looks gorgeous, “that’s the whole idea that even though she was sick and losing her hair she was still gorgeous, and with a scarf like this it can give a woman confidence”. We went through all of the classic scarves and got a feel for the design and the story behind each. We then moved on to the Glamour Collection …
Think fun, think feeling like a million bucks, and think sexy robes from your favorite ’40s or ’50s movies. Keeping with the designs of the classic scarf, the glamour series adds compelling charm to almost anything. Slightly larger, Gail adds ostrich and marabou feathers with distinct looks of fox fur to give the scarves a classic Hollywood look. These pieces can be worn as full scarves with your favorite winter coat or ski jacket or an added piece to an evening gown, or just something fun to throw on with your favorite jeans or cigarette pants. There is even a great three-in-one series that allows you to create a shrug, cape or wrap. Finally there is the trademark “Scharfe,” this can be used as everything from a top to a head wrap.
Gail’s other designs include: Interpretations of flowers from her travels around the world, olives in a martini and of course the beauty and power of women. As I stated in the beginning this was more than just an interview and business trip. We spent the entire afternoon with Gail, getting to know her. She took us on a tour and from the looks of it has more than enough inspiration just in the villages within the Hamptons. Gail speaks lovingly of her father and recalls her childhood summers spent in the area in which she lives permanently now with her husband. She does admit to missing the city and usually rides in once a week, but says that the collection would be totally different if she would have designed with the city
as her back drop.
What’s next for Gail Toma? An expanded line of accessories? More artwork? Anything is possible.
On the Web:
Gail Toma’s website: www.gailtoma.com
To inquire about Gail’s scarves call: (631) 537 7021