"Everyone is so serious in New York," art director, entrepreneur and, as of today, NoLIta boutique owner Ramdane Touhami laughed on a September afternoon in SoHo. "Everyone needs to learn how to enjoy and have fun!" Touhami is a person who generally speaks in exclamation points.
Touhami travels either by motorcycle or a walk so quick it's nearly a sprint, and seems to have no intention of slowing down anytime soon. Upon first introduction, he nearly kicked in the door of the restaurant in which we met, his greeting a guttural exclamation of triumph, a vocal flag planted at your feet. He's hard to keep up with, conversationally: his stories are riddled with French phrases and punctuated by violent, enthusiastic hand gestures. He was seemingly at every party in Europe in the past 20 years that you heard about and wanted to go to, and some that you didn't. He has three children and one of the most interestingly decorated townhouses in Brooklyn (there are a pair of full-scale oil portraits that he commissioned of Hello Kitty done in historical battle scenes -- a la Napoleon -- bookending his dining room table). Also, he never stops working. What does he do? Well, everything, mais bien sur.
There is seemingly no profession that Touhami has not tried at one point or another in his career. The 37-year-old import (from Paris, by way of Morocco, and plenty of places in between) has a curriculum vitae that spans the worlds of art, interior design, fashion, music, journalism, filmmaking and perfume. He also cites plans for a restaurant in the works for downtown New York.
Attempting to follow Touhami's career trajectory is headache-inducing. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. "I launched the first French skatewear brand," Touhami offers of his 1994 line, King Size. For the subsequent decade and a half, he seemingly zigzagged across the world. "I can't ever stop," Touhami offers by way of explanation. "I'm just always...going. Different things, different products, different places, people! Let's go!" In 2001, he and wife Victoire de Taillac founded La Parfumerie Generale, a scent company that cites "true alternatives to all those mass market products with their bland, standardized formats aimed at winning over vast numbers of consumers." Touhami followed that with creative-direction stints at Le Bon Marche in Paris, Tokyo's And A and Liberty in London. While working for Liberty, Touhami launched two clothing lines: an upscale ready-to-wear line called R.T. (carried at Barneys New York and Nom de Guerre in New York) and Resistance, which Touhami explained as being "inspired by a more urban universe, with a dissenting tone."
In 2006 he helped relaunch venerate candle company Cire Trudon and sold it five years later. In 2008 he was living in Tangier, where he started a lounge and restaurant called L'Africain, which he describes as "an African neo-brasserie...the place to be for two years, in Tangier."
Now, he intends to swing back to the sartorial, partially because he's bored of the volume of uninspiring boutiques that line the streets of SoHo. "I'm changing the rules," Touhami exclaims, explaining, "The store will have wool on the storefront and granite on the furniture. It's going to look like a UFO!"
Touhami's designs are modern takes on classic items, often with a touch of Gallic charm. A Barbour-inspired waxed jacket is offered in lipstick red and a smattering of military-esque gold buttons. Easy Scottish angora wool sweaters are for sale in a multitude of flattering shades. Price points are accessible, "everything is for everyone!" Touhami exclaims, as he always is, though the line is only available in the New York flagship.
And what's on tap for him after this latest opening? "Well, first the party, of course, the party that night! But then I'm directing a horror film based around the line," Touhami laughs in the fashion of a cartoon maniac for effect. The film in question? A short written and directed by Ramdane, a sort of surrealist horror/fantasy film that will also serve as advertising, as the victims wear Ramdane. It is set to debut at the end of the month, or as he exclaims with more than a little wicked glee, "Just in time for Halloween!"
Ramdane, 64 Kenmare Street, New York
Opening party from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 27.