At a time when designers are rethinking brick and mortar, ditching wholesale partners and streamlining staff, Tony Melillo is moving against the current.
The founder of contemporary label ATM Anthony Thomas Melillo (which launched with “the perfect T-shirt” in 2012), Melillo is in growth mode. He opened his first ATM stores this year, in NYC’s SoHo neighborhood in February and East Hampton last month. And, following an exclusive partnership with Barneys, he’s spent the last three years building his stockists. Today, ATM is in almost 150 department store doors, including Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue.
“Our way of working [with department stores] was saying, ‘If you can give us what we need, you’ll see success,’” Melillo said. “We were never desperate, and we had requirements. We made sure we were in all these stores the right way, not just in all these stores.”
Such unexpected moves have proven successful for Melillo throughout his career: After spending five years as style director of Esquire, he switched gears from editorial to design, despite no formal training. His first line, Nova USA, earned him a CFDA Award nomination.
“I’ve never been intimidated,” he said. “It was always in my system to keep going, keep doing, keep trying — and never feel like anyone is bigger, better or able to do more.”
Within the last four months, he’s gone “full force” into digital, hiring an art director, a graphic designer and a marketing director to focus on growing e-commerce and building a social presence. “It warrants a full team, and we’re small,” Melillo said. “But we knew where we had to invest.”
Recently, we asked Melillo to document a typical workday, which included a design meeting, “the best cappuccino in NYC” and a stop at his Bleecker Street store. His diary has been lightly edited for clarity.
6:30 a.m.: Like clockwork, I wake up at this time, no matter what time I go to bed. It’s not a bad thing, though; it gives me some alone time. I usually start by checking my phone for texts, IMs and emails. If it’s all clear, I start reading the fashion headlines. Usually, I stop and do a splash of cold water on my face and put on some Colbert MD eye gel — that totally wakes me up. Then I brush my teeth and head downstairs to start the coffee.
6:45 a.m.: I have a good 20 minutes to take my first sip of Jake’s Coffee from my French press, and read through Women’s Wear Daily, Business of Fashion, New York Post and The New York Times, at least the business section. Then Max, my 13-month-old son, wakes up. He requires my full attention, so I put my phone down and have Max time until about 8:30.
8:30 a.m.: I usually eat a banana, raisin bread or a protein shake — sometimes, two of the three. By now, my partner, Lance, takes over with Max and I get back to emails.
9:00 a.m.: Our reliable nanny starts, and I usually take time to exercise. I try to work out at least two or three mornings each week with Niv, the best trainer I’ve found. He kicks my ass for an hour, and then I take a quick shower.
11:00 a.m.: I’m either at the ATM office or in the sample room for fittings. I usually have a fruit bowl and work with the design team, the production team and the tech designers to get whatever collection we are working fitted or developed. If we’re doing fittings, it goes for about two hours. If we are developing a collection, it’s fun because we see the first prototypes of our designs. Things start to really come to life when you see the first protos.
1:00 p.m.: Usually, I get some sort of lunch. Lately, it’s been green smoothies and crispy bacon from Hotel Americano on West 27th Street, which is a few blocks from the ATM showroom. I usually eat lunch at my desk.
1:30 p.m.: Time to do a digital marketing meeting with the team. I love these meetings, because I learn things — and I really like to understand what is and isn’t working. The digital team is a few months old at ATM, and it’s really an exciting area. We have seen great progress here, so it’s really paying off. I make sure we meet at least two or three times a week.
3:00 p.m.: I meet with the design team in the afternoon. In the contemporary world, we ship 10 deliveries per year — so there is always a collection that is late, according to production. These meetings are great. We really do what I love, which is get down to the design: What are the new fabrics and yarns? What are the cool outerwear pieces for the season? What fabrics go with what bodies? My design team is wonderful, and it’s the time I can really just forget about all the business stuff and focus on design.
5:30 p.m.: I make my way to the Bleecker Street store to see what’s up and interact with the customers. This is another one of my favorite things to do. Usually, I stop at Sant Ambroeus first for the best cappuccino in NYC and one cookie (my limit for sweets). That gives me the energy I need to get in the store, work with the customers, and talk to the staff and see how things are going. It’s always so helpful to get feedback first-hand from the staff, as well as the customers.
7:00 p.m.: I’m home and ready to feed Max his last meal of the day. I usually spend at least an hour with the little man before we get his bath ready and do bedtime prep: It’s a bath for 10 minutes; getting him dressed in his night clothes; reading to him with my partner, Lance (either I read and Lance rocks him, or vice versa); and then getting him in bed.
8:30 p.m.: Either Lance cooks Blue Apron (he has learned to cook via them), or we order something like Chop-Shop.
9:00 p.m.: I eat dinner with a glass or two of wine (usually red) and watch TV. We usually watch an episode of “Black Mirror,” “This Is Us” or “House of Cards,” now that it has started again.
10:30 p.m.: By this time, I’m happy to jump into bed and sleep like a baby.