From Behind The Lens to Seen on The Runway

The street style photographer on his appointment as Artistic Director of Deveaux New York.

BY Sanjeeva Suresh | Feb 13, 2019 | Fashion

Toronto-born Tommy Ton was one of the pioneers of modern street style photography. Since launching his website Jak & Jil in 2005, he has covered fashion weeks for GQ and the now defunct Although he enjoyed his work behind the camera, Tommy never intended to follow the likes of the late Bill Cunningham. He wanted to design. In February 2018, Tommy Ton was annouced as the Artistic Director of American label Deveaux New York. His first collection saw the use of relaxed, genderless-layered clothing with a sophisticated runway of flowing coats in earthy tones to reflect his vision for the urban New Yorker. But what would a street style photographer know about designing clothing and running a fashion label?, one might ask. We speak to the young creative on his new role, his thoughts on menswear clichés and the potential impact of his label.

Image courtesy of Purple PR

ESQUIRE: How does a background in streetstyle photography lend itself to becoming a good artistic director of a fashion brand?

TOMMY TON: I view it as market research. Understanding what people are wearing currently, what they want to wear, and how they wear it, is how street style translates to design. 

ESQ: Who is the man you envision wearing Deveaux’s clothes?

TT: Not any man in particular, but a man that is sure of himself and appreciates fine American craftsmanship.

ESQ: “The collection is comprised of carefully considers riffs on simplicity and silhouette- creating pieces that are both city-proof and life-proof”, how is it “life-proof”?

TT: It is life-proof because we envision the collection being worn at any time in any condition. Country, city, going to work, weekend..etc. A lot of pieces in the collection are also waterproof and packable. 

Image courtesy of Purple PR

ESQ: Deveaux is a brand focused on “re-working the idea of the uniform”, how did your Spring/Summer collection accomplish that?

TT: We looked at the uniform of the various occupations in the Faroe Islands, such as the fisherman or the farmer, and we re-worked certain items like carpenter pants and utility jackets in a new setting. 

ESQ: With a studio is New York’s a SoHo, how does being in the influence you compared to that of your home city of Toronto?

TT: I actually am from the suburbs of Toronto, so the only thing around me is trees and a school, so it is hard to compare. I find a lot more inspiration in the diversity and pace of New York City. 

ESQ: Being one of the pioneers of street style photography back in 2007, how has it changed in your mind to what it is today? Has social media made it less authentic?

TT: Absolutely. Everything just seems less genuine and more curated for social media. But when you do come across individuals with a unique sense of style, it restores my faith in real street style.

Image courtesy of Purple PR

ESQ: You were quoted saying “I’m not the only one to feel less of a connection to fashion. Everyone is tired, and nobody is excited about it.”, in an interview with Business of Fashion, how does Deveaux, aim to make fashion exciting again?

TT: Our intention is not to make fashion exciting again, but for it to feel real again. Our goal is not to put on a spectacle or create clothes that are disposable, the root of what we try to do is create long lasting investment pieces and be inclusive of our entire customer base.

Image courtesy of Purple PR

ESQ: Where do you see the direction of menswear heading to, what do you want to portray with your future menswear collections?

TT: I envision menswear going back to the idea of an everyday wardrobe, and less focused on clothing curated for Instagram. 

ESQ: What is one menswear trend you’re tired of seeing that, to you, is becoming a cliché?

TT: Branded clothing. 

Image courtesy of Purple PR

ESQ: Deveaux aims to support local manufacturing and remain sustainable and committed to fair labor practice, how important sustainability for a fashion brand?

TT: At the end of day, we want to create collections that are well-made and carefully designed, but that are also made with respect to our manufacturing partners. Fair labor practices should be the norm for all fashion brands. 

ESQ: With your eye for image-making, what do you keep in mind when it comes to the how the collection is presented both through the campaign and on the online site to customers?

TT: We make sure the priority is authenticity and that we have an immediate connection to what we are presenting. And hopefully then it resonates with our customers.