Chronicle of Experts - Tommy Ton

From renowned thought and culture leaders, to members of our community, we learn about what gives meaning to what they do.

Happy Monday and a great week to everyone! I am thrilled to have a good friend, and someone I admire deeply as a master of his craft, Tommy Ton, as a guest speaker this week on MYKIGAI. I met Tommy two or three lifetimes ago, when he was the lone photographer at Toronto Fashion Week taking photos outside of shows. It took courage in an industry obsessed with image to do something no one was doing. He took his self-funded hobby to other cities to become the biggest street style photographer in the world - GQ’s tagline - not mine.
Move forward a decade later and when I saw Tommy’s first Deveaux New York presentation as creative director, he was at it again, changing the norm by his having an incredibly diverse cast that had a great number of stylish older models. Uber cool Montrealer and silver influencer, Grece Ghanem, has appeared so many times on their campaigns, she feels like a muse. I love brands that celebrate the power and importance of an older demographic, even more so of women over 50. That someone, like Tommy, who is accustomed to setting trends was doing so, spoke volumes of a potential shift in mentality.
I look forward to discussion this on our talk this Wednesday. In the meantime you can read more about him on this profile feature by Leanne Delap.


The magic of women who have lived a long life

Tommy Ton

At the heart of his work, Tommy Ton is above all else a fashion fan. He began his runway ringside street style blog in 2005. The idea of turning the camera around--watching the watchers--was new then. The whole scene outside fashion shows has become what Tommy calls a "circus" of celebs and influencers, who show up just to be photographed.

The early days were about pure fashion and unadulterated style. He turned the fashion elite of the early 2000s--the top editors and international fashion pack--into online stars. "It's like fishing," he says of his natural hunting grounds, "you go where the big fish are."

He amplified his message when he moved to (now part of Farfetch) followed.  Today, Tommy is both creative director of the New York luxe womenswear brand Deveaux New York, as well as a freelance photographer doing portraiture and working with commercial clients. 

Tommy brings wit and a knack for capturing clothing in motion and highlighting details to his role as visual style arbiter. He has also been ahead of the trend in terms of admiring the innate chic of the older woman. "I started realizing that the people who had the most unique sense of style understood what works for their body. A woman of 22 doesn't have much of a story yet, they are just starting to learn about themselves," he says.

Grece Ghanem for Deveaux New York

So he set about casting his Deveaux New York shows a couple of seasons ago with models of a consciously diverse age range. He speaks about how older women are fashionable and inspiring with MYKIGAI this Wednesday, October 28th at 1pm ET.

"I find more inspiration just knowing these women have lived a longer life. Grounded in reality," Tommy says. He prefers women confident wrinkles and authenticity and all. "Some women are so comfortable in themselves reaching a certain age, that they can something simple like a sweater with jeans in such a remarkable way speaks volunes rather than someone who wants to be eternally youthful."

A few of his early jobs in Toronto--working with designer Wayne Clark, and vintage maven Linda Latner, as well as in the buying office at Holt Renfrew, helped hone his eye, and he draws on those experiences today. He is using his editing skills on his own body of work.

Tommy's pandemic project was beginning to assemble some of his 2.5 to 3 million photos from his street style shooter years to boil them down into a book that will clarify the visual story the frenzy of that street style moment.

Dame Judi Dench, as Tommy Ton’s screen saver.

Join our talk with Tommy Ton on “Designing an Ageless Style” this Wednesday, October 28th, 1pm ET.


Interviews by Leanne Delap who has been both the Fashion Editor and Fashion Reporter for the Globe and Mail and was the editor-in-chief of FASHION Magazine.