This article was updated on November 29
In New York, family is everything. Not even your actual relatives, either: your friends, your roommate, and your bodega guy, are all part of your city support group, a necessity to stay sane in the city that never sleeps.
Likewise, Melissa Battifarano's new brand, TONY 1923, is rooted in both her family tree and a deep love for the Big Apple. TONY 1923's design ethos goes deeper than mere "I ❤ NY" tees, though.
"This collection was inspired by my dad, Tony," Battifarano said. "The irony is that TONY is an acronym for Top Of New York — I was stealing my dad's car at age 15 to come to the city to get to clubs and go shopping. I just couldn’t wait to get here."
Add the year of Tony's birth and you've got TONY 1923.
The real-life Tony Battifarano raised Melissa as a single parent in Jersey but his fatherly duties never got in the way of his personal style.
"My dad was a larger-than-life character who lived by the old-school Italian code," continued Battifarano. "From his cars with the gold pinstripes to sweaters trimmed in lambskin and gold pinky rings, he always had a look. I pulled what I remember of those textures, palettes, and hardware into TONY 1923."
Battifarano is certainly not designing in the dark.
This experience gives Battifarano the know-how to infuse seemingly simple garments with top-shelf textiles and thoughtful touches, as seen in TONY 1923's weighty knit sweaters, plush robes, and tracksuits fitted with contoured seams.
"As rewarding as it is to create for iconic labels, all I really wanted to do this whole time was create a collection that combined fashion with comfort and luxury with sport," said Battifarano.
"It was important to me to get this brand out as NYC is just coming back, and there's also a real lack of female-led streetwear labels in the industry."
But Rao's selectiveness doesn't come from a desire to be snooty. Quite the opposite: Rao's is exclusive because it only allows longtime members and their famiglia to dine at the tables that they "own" for a single day ever year.
These tables' owenerships are passed down through generations of Rao's customers.
For both Rao's and TONY 1923, family is everything. "Shooting at Rao’s was really special for me," Battifarano said. "It came about organically. I went there to eat and just fell in love with the space, the people, and the family atmosphere."
"It reminded me very much of the places I grew up going to in Jersey with my family, with those straw bottom bottles of Chianti, the red and white checked tablecloths, and the Sinatra on the speakers."
Though TONY 1923 has some especially luxe pieces — including exquisite cashmere track jackets laced with lambskin and reversible satin robes — it also has classic jersey tees and velour sweaters that'd fit into any paesano's closet.
At the end of the day, Battifarano wants TONY 1923 to provide feel-good fare steeped in an old school mentality, just like a Big Time Tommie video.
"TONY 1923 is a love letter to New York City, the city that raised me," said Battifarano.
It's the Top Of New York but also an homage to her father, a family reunion that everyone's invited to.
On Cyber Monday, TONY 1923's website will launch two loungey essentials: a reversible fur/paisley satin robe and satin boxer in matching print. The drop is accompanied by a holdover Black Friday discount.