Whether on or off the ice, Travis James strives for excellence
When crafting the men’s apparel line Tora, Travis James, a lifelong Cos Cob resident, obsessed (“and I mean obsessed”) over everything from the quality of his ultra-soft cottons to the stitching that allows the shoulders of his tailored T-shirts to drape just so. “For the longest time, I’ve wanted to create the simplest of garments with a flawless fit,” says James, a former professional hockey prospect, who long struggled to find casual, comfortable pieces that would hang properly on his athletically broad shoulders and tapered waist.
With prices starting at around $75 for his signature V-neck T-shirt, James hopes to make Tora the go-to brand for discerningly dapper yet laid-back guys. James spent years conceptualizing Tora’s polos, hoodies and T-shirts. “I never trained as a designer but always had a knack for it,” he says. (He designed his junior hockey goalie gear, “right down to the thread color.”)
The accidental designer, now thirty-two, was influenced by the stylish menswear that captured his attention while studying in Tokyo as a University of Vermont exchange student. “They are design masters and take their clothing and fabrics seriously,” says James. Tora, which means “tiger” in Japanese, was chosen because of the nickname James’ Japanese instructors gave him thanks to his fierce and ambitious nature.
Leaving the financial industry to bring Tora to market without the help of deep pocket investors required a lot of that ambition. He launched his label online last December while also working as an assistant coach for Greenwich High’s standout boys’ hockey team.
What do his young charges think of Tora? “Some of them appreciate the quality and colors,” says James. “But it’s not something I could really stand to see them tossing on the locker room floor. I do hope they’ll be customers in a few years.” tora.com