Brand Strategy

How Monte’s Fine Foods is embracing ‘tomato girl summer’

The Italian restaurant and food brand’s collab with fashion brand Staud sold out immediately, George Augusto, co-founder and artistic director at Staud, told us.
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Anna Kim

3 min read

After the phrase “tomato girl summer” emerged last summer, you best believe that fashion brands took notice.

Clothing retailer Lisa Says Gah partnered with Hunt’s on tomato-shaped earrings and a line of apparel, and designers like Rachel Antonoff and Tyler McGillivary are selling tomato-print pants and shirts. Most recently, Staud unveiled a version of its Tommy purse with a beaded tomato print on the front in partnership with the New York-based Italian restaurant Monte’s at the Manor and food brand Monte’s Fine Foods, which has since sold out (but will be restocked in mid-July, per the brand).

“We always love being playful with our designs of the Tommy [bag] and being opportunistic with fun trends that are also on brand for us,” George Augusto, co-founder and artistic director at Staud, told us in an email. “Tomato girl summer,” he added, was the “perfect inspiration” for the design.

PJ Monte, founder and CEO of Monte’s Fine Foods, told us his brand was working on tomato-inspired apparel long before tomato girl summer. Monte’s branched into DTC in 2020, Monte told us, and since then has sold merch and struck up collaborations with apparel brands like Noah NY and Ignored Prayers.

While fashion collabs may seem “untraditional” for an Italian-food brand, he said, the (tomato) juice has been worth the squeeze, leading to press attention and sales for Monte’s.

“That’s what keeps me up at night and up and ready to go in the morning,” Monte said. “How can we do something that innovates this space that people traditionally don’t do?”

Ripe opportunity

The first collab Monte’s did was four years ago with Noah NY on a co-branded tomato shirt and pasta sauce jar. That collaboration sold out in a day, Monte said, and it “put [Monte’s] on the map with a lot of fashion outlets.”

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“We were ahead of the curve for sure,” Monte said.

Monte said he wants Monte’s to “encompass a lifestyle,” drawing on the community and hospitality aspects of dining, which he said goes “hand in hand” with the fashion world. Bringing food and fashion together, he told us, was a “natural progression that was inevitable.”

The clout that comes from the fashion world, hasn’t hurt either. Monte said when Pete Davidson was photographed wearing a Monte’s sweatshirt while out with Kim Kardashian in 2022, it helped drive even more publicity for the brand. To date, Monte said the brand hasn’t done any paid digital media and has instead stuck to organic tactics.

“It’s just a matter of being scrappy, being smart, being strategic, but also…intentional about shooting for the stars,” he said. “We need to be in Vogue, we need to be in Forbes, we need to be in the New York Times.”

The brand has also been leaning into content creation, like in videos filmed during a May event with Staud to celebrate the collaboration at Monte’s Hamptons restaurant, Monte’s at the Manor. Attendees included Lisa Aiken, executive fashion, beauty and lifestyle director and SVP of commerce at Condé Nast, as well as actress Sarita Choudhury and creator Natalie Shine.

As for the next Monte’s collab? Monte told us that the brand is working with The M Jewelers to open a cafe at its West Hollywood location that will sell coffee and pantry items. The opening date, he said, will be “sooner than later.”

Perhaps down the line, they’ll even branch out into pasta-shaped jewelry, Monte said, pointing to his own necklace. “I’m wearing a 14-karat gold pasta wheel around my neck right now,” he said. “And I made that 15 years ago before anybody was making ravioli earrings.”

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