Tommy Dorfman: ‘I’m Dating Different Brands To Understand What I Feel Best In’

On the eve of her ‘first’ International Women’s Day, Tommy Dorfman talks all thing fashion with Laura Antonia Jordan...

Tommy Dorfman at NYFW

by Laura Antonia Jordan |

Before Tommy Dorfman heads to an event, she likes to text her mum a picture of what she’s wearing. Today’s look, when we meet at a party during New York Fashion Week, is a backless Bottega Veneta number – a knitted Marc Jacobs dress having been shelved due to freakishly warm February weather. ‘I mean, global warming!’ she deadpans. ‘I’m going to take this opportunity to wear as little as possible.’

Tommy Dorfman wearing Mejuri
Dorfman wears Mejuri rings, from £125 each ©Mejuri

Despite the skimpiness, mother Dorfman’s verdict is: ‘Stunning!’ Although mums aren’t always the most reliably objective audience, she’s right. Dorfman looks cool, confident, comfortable; pretty, albeit in a punky way, with her slick bob and smattering of tattoos.

Cool, confident, comfortable has been Dorfman’s calling card since last summer. Having made her name as one of the stars of Netflix smash 13 Reasons Why, in July last year she made headlines when she publicly reintroduced herself as a woman in a Time magazine interview. ‘Coming out is always viewed as this grand reveal, but I was never not out. Today is about clarity: I am a trans woman. My pronouns are she/her. My name is Tommy,’ she said in the piece.

Tommy Dorfman in Collina Strada
Tommy Dorfman in Collina Strada ©Collina Strada

You don’t need to be in Dorfman’s company for long to know that A) she is sweet, funny and frank and B) she loves fashion. Loves it. Talking with the fluency of fandom, Dorfman name drops the designers she wears – Valentino, Jean Paul Gaultier, Loewe, Richard Quinn – with a ‘how lucky am I?’ enthusiasm. She says she ‘cried like a baby’ at her first Saint Laurent show.

Fashion has been one of the most joyful parts of her public evolution. ‘Clothing has been a key into personal development and identity and trying to understand what I feel most comfortable wearing. In the last year and a half, being more engaged in the womenswear side of fashion has boosted my confidence. I feel much more beautiful, grounded and confident now that I have the opportunity to wear all the things I always wanted to wear but couldn’t quite figure out how to. For that I’m grateful,’ she says, joking that she’s currently ‘dating different brands to understand what I feel best in’.

Tommy Dorfman at NYFW
Tommy Dorfman at NYFW ©Getty

Influential labels are hungry to work with Dorfman, who has 1.4 million followers on Instagram, but she kept her NYFW schedule tight. (‘No’ has become the most powerful word in her vocabulary. ‘I love saying no! I’m such a people pleaser. That affords me to be more present in my life because I’m not stretched too thin.’)

So, there was a FROW appearance at the Coach show, a lead role in downtown darling Collina Strada’s tongue-in-cheek film (playing a hapless intern) and a cocktail party for jewellery brand Mejuri to celebrate its International Women’s Day collection, designed in collaboration with Jenna Lyons. Dorfman stars in the campaign alongside Lyons, Olympian Allyson Felix and journalist Noor Tagouri. (‘We wanted to highlight trailblazers who have rewritten the script on the power of choice in their respective industries,’ says Mejuri CEO and co-founder Noura Sakkijha.) ‘It’s sort of my first International Women’s Day, I guess,’ smiles Dorfman. ‘It’s nice to feel included in a group of really powerful women.’

Tommy Dorfman at the premiere of The Batman
Tommy Dorfman at the premiere of The Batman ©Getty

Fashion was important to Dorfman long before designers were pitching to dress her. Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, she would scour designer boutiques in a local mall for look books, pages of which would end up on her bedroom wall. So, although she now says she tries to talk less about her identity – ‘just existing can be enough in a lot of ways...my body in a room signals something different’ – she also recognises that things like the Mejuri campaign might uplift and inspire those mini Tommys killing time in a mall right now.

‘It’s great for any other trans kid out there to see me in this campaign. Walking by a store, seeing my face, is hopefully helpful for people on some level, otherwise I’d be a lot less vulnerable, and a lot less open about my life if I didn’t feel like it could provide a certain type of service,’ Dorfman says.

Tommy Dorfman
Tommy Dorfman ©Getty

Another reason that the partnership appealed to her was because of the brand’s accessible price point. ‘I feel very fancy and luxurious in my pieces,’ she says, flashing the delicate gold bands on her fingers. ‘Things don’t have to be insanely expensive to be luxury. With a brand like Mejuri you can actually empower people because it’s actually affordable.’ It’s about raising that velvet rope in some way.

Indeed, the magic of fashion, for Dorfman, isn’t just about creativity but community. ‘I always felt out of place. When I started working in film and TV, I was like: oh, I’m around my people, people who speak the same language as me,’ she says. In 2013, when she landed a part-time job at Dover Street Market in New York, it was a similar type of synergy. ‘I felt a connection with people who loved playing dress-up as much as I [did] and also loved the history of fashion.’

For now, that Bottega dress deserves a whirl around the party. And there might be another one to plan soon, as Dorfman will turn 30 in May. How does she feel about that? ‘Babe, I don’t even know!’ she laughs. ‘But I’m very excited. Let’s just go.’

Gallery

The Highlights From NYFW AW22:

Prabal Gurung
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CREDIT: Getty

Prabal Gurung's show was a love letter to two places: where he's from (Nepal) and where he lives (New York). Writing in the show notes, the designer said: 'The beauty of my motherland is often glossed over, and with it, her women overlooked. So here, I seek to tell the visual tale of the radiant, celestial, and glorious women that define the nation.'

Prabal Gurung
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CREDIT: Getty

Prabal Gurung
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CREDIT: Getty

Collina Strada
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CREDIT: Charlie Engman

Collina Strada's casting for its short film - The Collinas - was out-of-this-world. Its protagonist, the one and only Tommy Dorfman, led a line-up that included Aaron Philip, Katerina Tannenbaum (Carrie's new neighbour in AJLT) and Rowan Blanchard, all of whom were wearing the brand's cartoonishly fun clothing.

Collina Strada
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CREDIT: Charlie Engman

Collina Strada
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CREDIT: Charlie Engman

Collina Strada
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CREDIT: Charlie Engman

3.1 Phillip Lim
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Phillip Lim knows exactly what women (or, at least, this woman) wants to wear come autumn, namely glitter platforms, sequinned tank tops and easy-breezy boilersuits.

3.1 Phillip Lim
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3.1 Phillip Lim
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Michael Kors
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CREDIT: Getty

'For this show, I wanted to bring the excitement and energy of a night on the town to life - because I think right now, no matter where you are, we're all craving that.' We're inclined to agree with Michael Kors, who presented as polished a collection as ever at Terminal 5, the city's iconic music venue, to a front row that included Blake Lively, Brooke Shields and Eric Adams, New York City Mayor. 'Michael Kors is the epitome of made in New York,' he said.

Michael Kors
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CREDIT: Getty

Michael Kors
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CREDIT: Getty

Peter Do
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CREDIT: Greg Kessler

Fashion editors are obsessed with his 'Dumpling', a curvaceous shoulder bag that can hold the kitchen sink. Now Peter Do is coming for your workwear wardrobe. For AW22, he delivered the kind of soft-power separates (with interesting layering and lapels) that would certainly create a water-cooler moment in the office.

Peter Do
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CREDIT: Greg Kessler

Peter Do
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CREDIT: Greg Kessler

Jonathan Simkhai
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It's hard to stage a 'first' at fashion week, but not impossible. Just ask Jonathan Simkhai, who, thanks to a partnership with Blueberry Entertainment, became the first designer to ever show in the metaverse. Yes, really. Simkhai's designs were transformed into digital wearables which Everyrealm, a metaverse real estate investor who coordinated the production, will host a NFT (non-fungible token) sale of today. Mind blown.

LaQuan Smith
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CREDIT: Getty

LaQuan Smith just won first prize for fashion week's biggest 'moment' when Julia Fox, one half of former couple Juliye, opened his show in a body-sculpting black dress. Smith's clothes come with serious sex appeal and were a natural fit for Fox, whose hair was styled into a gel-slicked bun and whose eyes were ringed with a similar felt tip flick that is fast becoming a signature.

LaQuan Smith
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CREDIT: Getty

LaQuan Smith
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CREDIT: Getty

Tory Burch
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Illuminated by a sign that read, 'New Yorker ❤ufe0f Tory Burch', Tory Burch's AW22 collection was another love letter to the women of the New York. American sportswear - its ease and effortlessness - took centre stage; zippered neon tops were worn with knife-pleat slacks, while turtleneck dresses almost looked like cycling jerseys with daubs of blue, brown and purple.

Tory Burch
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Tory Burch
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Coach
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CREDIT: Getty

Coach AW22 was a continuation of last season's story, with 'huggable' shearling coats worn over grungy knee-length skirts and the kind of knitted minis that recalled this season's wardrobe in Euphoria. According to the brand's Instagram, these are clothes made with this generation's cool girls in mind. 'Wear this #CoachFall22 look to sneak out your bedroom window. (Your secret's safe with us.) #NYFW #CoachNY,' the brand posted.

Coach
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CREDIT: Getty

Coach
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CREDIT: Getty

Carolina Herrera
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CREDIT: Getty

Carolina Herrera does romance like no other designer. Well, the brand did show on Valentine's Day, after all, with a slew of pink and red frocks that would make the most elaborate date night outfits.

Caroline Herrera
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CREDIT: Getty

Carolina Herrera
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CREDIT: Getty

Sergio Hudson
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CREDIT: Getty

He's dressed the likes of Michelle Obama, Megan Rapinoe, Adut Akech and Rachel Brosnahan (who sat front row in peacock blue suiting). And for AW22, Sergio Hudson gave the people more of what they wanted: punchy colours and power silhouettes. He also briefed his models to, whisper it, have fun on the catwalk - and they delivered, smiling for the cameras (smiling!) and sashaying with one hand planted on each hip.

Sergio Hudson
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CREDIT: Getty

Sergio Hudson
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CREDIT: Getty

Khaite
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Khaite's Catherine Holstein is the master of the cult buy - but her most famous is still that cashmere bra on Katie Holmes. For AW22, she gave it a twist, sending out a sequinned version - worn with an unbutton shirt and ruched silk mini - that definitely set pulses racing. Do you dare?

Khaite
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Khaite
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Ulla Johnson
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CREDIT: Getty

Ulla Johnson gave her bohemian following plenty to bookmark for autumn, but it was the patchworked and crocheted co-ord (worn over a graphic turtleneck) that really got our attention.

Ulla Johnson
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CREDIT: Getty

Ulla Johnson
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CREDIT: Getty

Brandon Maxwell
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CREDIT: Getty

Known for his extravagant looks on Lady Gaga - remember the year when she gradually derobed on the red carpet at the Met Gala? - Brandon Maxwell explored his more serious side on Saturday, with clever combinations for busy women who still want to deliver some brilliance. The corset-style top + straight-leg jeans was genius; ditto the black crew-neck knit with the ball gown skirt.

Brandon Maxwell
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CREDIT: Getty

Brandon Maxwell
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CREDIT: Getty

Christian Siriano
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CREDIT: Getty

Christian Siriano is famous for having one of the best model line-ups in New York - and he didn't disappoint for AW22. Karen Elson, Coco Rocha, and Candice Huffine wore, what looked like, increasingly elaborate inky blue latex. Natalie Chan, meanwhile, was wrapped in sumptuous midnight black velvet. 'Adore you! Thank you for making me feel like a queen. ud83eudd8bud83dudc99ud83eudd8b,' posted Elson.

Christian Siriano
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CREDIT: Getty

Christian Siriano
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CREDIT: Getty

Jason Wu
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Pretty was meted out with practical at Jason Wu, where gowns were given pockets and skirts came quilted. With the weather infamously changeable - 9°C one minute and -9°C the next - we bet one or two fashion editors would like to wear the latter straight off the catwalk in New York.

Jason Wu
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Jason Wu
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Proenza Schouler
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CREDIT: Getty

Proenza Schouler delivered what felt like the ultimate wardrobe for a certain type of woman (into dresses but not girly dresses; into tailoring but interesting tailoring). This wrap skirt over a trench coat over a pair of trousers felt particularly fresh.

Proenza Schouler
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CREDIT: Getty

Proenza Schouler
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CREDIT: Getty

Tanya Taylor
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With her digital presentation, Tanya Taylor seemed to be encouraging her customer to do something they might not have done for a long time: have fun. From the feathers to the ruffles to the minis, it felt like wearable optimism.

Tanya Taylor
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Tanya Taylor
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