upper waypoint

Oakland’s TOMBOGO is Designing the Future of Functional Fashion

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

Oakland native Tommy Bogo launched TOMBOGO in 2020. His workwear-inspired fashion brand is a favorite among up-and-coming musicians and global superstars alike.  (Darren Vargas)

An empty classroom can feel like a jarring setting to return to. No one wants to relive the anxiety of not knowing any classmates or showing up unprepared for a big test. But Tommy Bogo made the high school experience something to celebrate at New York Fashion Week last month. With his spring/summer 2023 collection, “For the Truant & the Fluent,” the Oakland-raised fashion and industrial designer returned to the beginnings of TOMBOGO.

“It kind of felt like a senior year moment,” Bogo says. “That, to me, was really special. It made me think about where I started and where I’m at now.”

The show opened with playful pieces that elevated traditional casualwear, like the bungee-cord skirt modeled by singer Teezo Touchdown. Vallejo producer Hokage Simon walked down the runway — a clearing between rows of desks — with a windmill-shaped leather backpack. Finally, the collection tied back to a piece of clothing integral to adolescence for Bay Area millennials: the oversized Girbaud jeans of the hyphy era, which Bogo reimagined as Girbogos worn by rapper Guap, a.k.a. Guapdad 4000.

TOMBOGO was officially founded in 2020, but Bogo got his start selling screen-printed T-shirts out of his locker at Oakland Technical High School. Today, his products can be seen on global superstars like J Balvin, who lent his name to TOMBOGO’s safety-goggle shades with LED flashlights. Bogo’s futuristic, workwear-inspired pieces often teeter on the edge of practical and illogically elaborate, and signal a confident, comfy cool. Big brands like Saucony and Dr. Martens have tapped him to put new spins on their classic designs. And although Bogo isn’t a household name quite yet, the 28-year-old has become a trendsetter with a growing global impact.

Sponsored

“In high school, I had never imagined I’d be doing a New York Fashion week or going to Paris to debut a sneaker,” Bogo says of his success. “When we did our Paris debut of the Saucony shoe, I actually had a second to take a step back and was like, ‘Woah, I never thought I’d be here because of this.’”

While creating his latest collection, Bogo found an opportunity to reflect on his beginnings. At Oakland tech, he took his studies seriously but sometimes skipped classes. He was a skateboarder and played saxophone in the jazz band, and he immersed himself in Oakland’s do-it-yourself creative culture.

“I heard Mistah F.A.B. saying he started Dope Era selling shirts out the trunk,” Bogo says of his early inspirations.

That outside-the-box mentality extends to the way Bogo approaches his designs, which he strives to make functional and eco-friendly. “If you can make things more utilitarian and multifunctional, then that’s one step closer to these products helping you solve problems on the everyday basis, or at least making your life easier,” Bogo explains.

Rapper Guap models TOMBOGO’s Saucony shoe. (Courtesy of TOMBOGO)

Whether it was adding pockets to Dr. Martens boots or incorporating recycled materials into his designs, Bogo is conscious of how his industry creates waste and wants to curb it as much as possible.

“Being able to purchase a garment that can serve different purposes can hopefully eliminate certain overconsumption,” Bogo says. “My hope is that it really allows people to hold onto these pieces instead of going the fast fashion route and cycling through a bunch of different garments all the time.”

As Bogo’s ambitions for his brand grew, he realized he needed to leave home — a harsh reality for many Bay Area creatives. He moved to New York right before the turn of the decade, and took everything he learned at home with him. Today he is based in Los Angeles, and he still continues working with Bay Area artists who came up alongside him. “I think there is something behind Bay Area creative culture that if you have made it out the Bay, there’s some sort of unspoken pact … to really stick together in terms of collaborating,” Bogo says.

One of those collaborators is singer Elujay, who modeled and created the soundtrack for the “For the Truant & the Fluent” runway show. He’s known Bogo since their days at Oakland Tech, and both have grown into prolific artists who turn to each other for mutual support.

“He’s blossomed in the way he’s blossomed, and I was supporting what Tommy was doing, and he was supporting what I was doing,” Elujay says.

As his career progresses, Bogo continues to bring the Bay with him no matter where he goes, whether he’s collaborating with local artists or incorporating his hometown influences in his designs. TOMBOGO shows that it’s possible to come out of Oakland and create something monumental.

“I think it is important to leave home for a little and get the perspectives and community network, whatever opportunities there may be,” he says, “and then bring that home eventually.”

lower waypoint
next waypoint
‘Dolly Parton’s Pet Gala’ Is Like Taking Drugs That Never Leave Your SystemHow One Outfit Changed The Life of a Former Berkeley High TeacherIs Bigfoot Real? A New Book Dives Deep Into the LegendOakland Sports Fans Gear Up for DIY Fans Fest While A’s Strike Out in Las VegasSan Francisco’s Soccer Team Keeps Making Unusually Good JerseysOakland Chinatown Lantern Festival Embraces Tradition, Old and NewAt 102 Years Old, Betty Reid Soskin Revisits Her Music From the Civil Rights EraKorean Fried Chicken Is the Perfect Late-Night Bar SnackThat Stank-Ass Plant Is About to Stank Itself All Over Cal Academy’s RainforestOakland Museum Union Announced Amid a National Wave of Museum Organizing