T H E   I N T E R V I E W
Tommy Ton
His show for emerging label Deveaux was the buzziest of NYFW. Megan Hayes talks great casting and clothes that give confidence with the multi-hyphenate man of the hour.

T H E   I N T E R V I E W
Tommy Ton
His show for emerging label Deveaux was the buzziest of NYFW. Megan Hayes talks great casting and clothes that give confidence with the multi-hyphenate man of the hour.

Tommy Ton has spent over a decade behind the camera, photographing the pieces of fashion that catch his eye. What may have been less apparent is that during that time he has been quietly observing the women on the other side of his lens, developing a particular affection for those whose confidence comes from dressing in a way that’s natural and anything but put-on.

In what was the most talked about presentation of NYFW—a choreographed performance set to piano music—Ton put his understanding of women and how they want to see themselves in their clothes into practice. With Deveaux, he seeks to give them the kind of pieces they can rely on endlessly. And as someone whose early dream was to be a designer, his second season as creative director dovetailed beautifully with his childhood passion. We sat down with the man of many talents to get the scoop on multigenerational casting, the loss of Phoebe at Celine and more. Read on.

Tommy Ton has spent over a decade behind the camera, photographing the pieces of fashion that catch his eye. What may have been less apparent is that during that time he has been quietly observing the women on the other side of his lens, developing a particular affection for those whose confidence comes from dressing in a way that’s natural and anything but put-on.

In what was the most talked about presentation of NYFW—a choreographed performance set to piano music—Ton put his understanding of women and how they want to see themselves in their clothes into practice. With Deveaux, he seeks to give them the kind of pieces they can rely on endlessly. And as someone whose early dream was to be a designer, his second season as creative director dovetailed beautifully with his childhood passion. We sat down with the man of many talents to get the scoop on multigenerational casting, the loss of Phoebe at Celine and more. Read on.

Megan Hayes: Congratulations on what was the most beautiful presentation of clothes I have ever seen. It felt like these small moments in a day choreographed so perfectly—real life lived in real clothes. Was that the intention?

Tommy Ton: It was kind of reflective of my love of people-watching and doing the job that I do [as a street style photographer] and also just traveling a lot on my own. And also it came from my love of this movie called Her.

M.H: I love that movie!

T.T.: The music played during the show was actually from the movie. It was that part when Scarlett Johansson’s character said, "I wish we had a photograph so I wrote you this song." When I hear that song it makes me think of that moment when you stop and you think about the connection you have with the people in your life. So I also wanted to make sure this presentation was very intimate and gave people an opportunity to see the clothes in movement. I wanted to make sure that the models were reflective of the clothes that we want to project up there and also our consumer. Every show has the same 30-50 girls so we wanted to make sure we cast a group of really unique men and women. I look at their Instagram page and get a better understanding of who they are.

M.H.: I was very wrapped up in the storytelling! Some of those older women—the one who was walking with the guy who put the coat over her shoulders...I was moved by it.

"It’s the stories behind the models I love."

T.T.: They’ve actually been together for I think 18 years, they met at a J.Lindeberg afterparty [laughs], but they’ve been together as a model couple since then. It’s also the stories behind the models I love. Some of the women were models at a certain point and then they went through a different career and now they’re models again. Or in some cases they’re an acupuncturist or tea-maker by day and then they’re a model as a side job.

M.H.: I remember for Spring/Summer there was the woman who was a construction worker and she had the short hair and didn’t want to show her hands...I got so wrapped up in that story because I feel we have become very narrow in our understanding of beauty or what gets photographed. For me, that really reflected your sense of being able to see beauty maybe others aren’t.

T.T.: Well, I guess so. I’ve been very fortunate to meet so many people and I believe when you’re very comfortable in your skin it’s generally at a certain age where you’ve been through so much. You learn so much in talking to these people. I just think they bring so much more to the clothes than a younger model because a young woman hasn’t really come into her own and doesn’t know who she is as a person just yet. Whereas you know someone who’s between the ages of 30 and 50 is so comfortable.

M.H.:  Tell me a little more about the casting. I feel like there was such an incredible mix.

T.T.: The idea of the show was definitely a metaphor for an intercrossing, or just sitting in the park. In order to capture that you need to have a group of beautiful individuals, but in the most ideal setting. When you go to a fashion party I think you see a group of very well-dressed people but it’s not reflective of everyday life. So in the process of casting we laid out everyone’s photos but we wanted to make sure we were representing people of different backgrounds. The older man is 82, the asian male.

Megan Hayes: Congratulations on what was the most beautiful presentation of clothes I have ever seen. It felt like these small moments in a day choreographed so perfectly—real life lived in real clothes. Was that the intention?

Tommy Ton: It was kind of reflective of my love of people-watching and doing the job that I do [as a street style photographer] and also just traveling a lot on my own. And also it came from my love of this movie called Her.

M.H: I love that movie!

T.T.: The music played during the show was actually from the movie. It was that part when Scarlett Johansson’s character said, "I wish we had a photograph so I wrote you this song." When I hear that song it makes me think of that moment when you stop and you think about the connection you have with the people in your life. So I also wanted to make sure this presentation was very intimate and gave people an opportunity to see the clothes in movement. I wanted to make sure that the models were reflective of the clothes that we want to project up there and also our consumer. Every show has the same 30-50 girls so we wanted to make sure we cast a group of really unique men and women. I look at their Instagram page and get a better understanding of who they are.

M.H.: I was very wrapped up in the storytelling! Some of those older women—the one who was walking with the guy who put the coat over her shoulders...I was moved by it.

"It’s the stories behind the models I love."

T.T.: They’ve actually been together for I think 18 years, they met at a J.Lindeberg afterparty [laughs], but they’ve been together as a model couple since then. It’s also the stories behind the models I love. Some of the women were models at a certain point and then they went through a different career and now they’re models again. Or in some cases they’re an acupuncturist or tea-maker by day and then they’re a model as a side job.

M.H.: I remember for Spring/Summer there was the woman who was a construction worker and she had the short hair and didn’t want to show her hands...I got so wrapped up in that story because I feel we have become very narrow in our understanding of beauty or what gets photographed. For me, that really reflected your sense of being able to see beauty maybe others aren’t.

T.T.: Well, I guess so. I’ve been very fortunate to meet so many people and I believe when you’re very comfortable in your skin it’s generally at a certain age where you’ve been through so much. You learn so much in talking to these people. I just think they bring so much more to the clothes than a younger model because a young woman hasn’t really come into her own and doesn’t know who she is as a person just yet. Whereas you know someone who’s between the ages of 30 and 50 is so comfortable.

M.H.:  Tell me a little more about the casting. I feel like there was such an incredible mix.

T.T.: The idea of the show was definitely a metaphor for an intercrossing, or just sitting in the park. In order to capture that you need to have a group of beautiful individuals, but in the most ideal setting. When you go to a fashion party I think you see a group of very well-dressed people but it’s not reflective of everyday life. So in the process of casting we laid out everyone’s photos but we wanted to make sure we were representing people of different backgrounds. The older man is 82, the asian male.

Deveaux Creative Director, Tommy Ton

Deveaux Creative Director, Tommy Ton

M.H.: It's so incredible the ages span 30 to 82.

T.T.: He is a furniture designer and he’s also been in the Brioni ads. He has a certain regal-ness and elegance and he is just very quiet. And then there is also the tiny older women in the blue jumpsuit and trench coat. I‘ve had an instagram crush on her for a long time. She was actually a personal trainer and now she has become an influencer—but we have a connection over her her love of Celine and how she wears her clothes.

M.H.: Your eye feels attuned to beauty in a different way than what we are seeing constantly in magazines.

T.T.: Yeah, I mean don’t get me wrong I love these Insta-girls or the influencers but I've been doing this for 12 years and I feel the women that I respond to the most are the ones that are just so comfortable with themselves that they can wear just a white shirt and a pair of trousers, you know? I don’t want to see clothes that have been curated specifically to wear to one show. I want to see someone wearing something that they love over and over again. Simplicity can be hard to pull off and I think if you are just so graceful and comfortable in your own skin then that's just enough.

M.H.: How important do you think it is for women to be able to see themselves in the clothes?

T.T.: Oh I think 100%. We make a conscious decision that we put an image out there that is reflective of our customer. The reason why street did so well for me is because the imagery that I put out there was aspirational and not just another model wearing it, you know, on the runway.

"I love an editorial piece but if it’s not going to make sense in real life then what is the point?"

M.H.: Right. You’ve spent over a decade photographing women. How does that experience inform how you design?

T.T.: When we are designing I think, does this make sense or can I envision a friend of mine wearing this because they are the true muses of this brand. Do I see like a Tamu wearing this or an Aimee Song wearing this? Does this make sense in real life? I love an editorial piece but if it’s not going to make sense in real life then what is the point? We’re not the McQueens or Gallianos here, we leave that up to them. What we’re trying to do is just real American sportswear.

M.H.: How would you describe the ethos of the brand? I've heard it said this idea of the perfect wardrobe?

T.T.: Yeah. I think that's what we try to strive for each season. We take previous items we have done like a simple coat and we just tweak it a bit more. We just try to give people the same options every season to continue building their wardrobe. I mean, we do like to have fun here and there but it's more about focusing on fabrication and making sure that the fit and proportion makes sense for a man or a woman.  

M.H.: And to that point I feel there is this idea of mixing and matching. My understanding of this collection is that specially in the outerwear it’s tailored for men but can be worn by women.

T.T.: Yeah because I find out more recently that women tend to feel more comfortable in men's tailoring and those proportions make sense. The other way around doesn't always work but, surprisingly, the blanket coat on the guy with the dreads was made for a woman.

M.H.: It's so incredible the ages span 30 to 82.

T.T.: He is a furniture designer and he’s also been in the Brioni ads. He has a certain regal-ness and elegance and he is just very quiet. And then there is also the tiny older women in the blue jumpsuit and trench coat. I‘ve had an instagram crush on her for a long time. She was actually a personal trainer and now she has become an influencer—but we have a connection over her her love of Celine and how she wears her clothes.

M.H.: Your eye feels attuned to beauty in a different way than what we are seeing constantly in magazines.

T.T.: Yeah, I mean don’t get me wrong I love these Insta-girls or the influencers but I've been doing this for 12 years and I feel the women that I respond to the most are the ones that are just so comfortable with themselves that they can wear just a white shirt and a pair of trousers, you know? I don’t want to see clothes that have been curated specifically to wear to one show. I want to see someone wearing something that they love over and over again. Simplicity can be hard to pull off and I think if you are just so graceful and comfortable in your own skin then that's just enough.

M.H.: How important do you think it is for women to be able to see themselves in the clothes?

T.T.: Oh I think 100%. We make a conscious decision that we put an image out there that is reflective of our customer. The reason why street did so well for me is because the imagery that I put out there was aspirational and not just another model wearing it, you know, on the runway.

"I love an editorial piece but if it’s not going to make sense in real life then what is the point?"

M.H.: Right. You’ve spent over a decade photographing women. How does that experience inform how you design?

T.T.: When we are designing I think, does this make sense or can I envision a friend of mine wearing this because they are the true muses of this brand. Do I see like a Tamu wearing this or an Aimee Song wearing this? Does this make sense in real life? I love an editorial piece but if it’s not going to make sense in real life then what is the point? We’re not the McQueens or Gallianos here, we leave that up to them. What we’re trying to do is just real American sportswear.

M.H.: How would you describe the ethos of the brand? I've heard it said this idea of the perfect wardrobe?

T.T.: Yeah. I think that's what we try to strive for each season. We take previous items we have done like a simple coat and we just tweak it a bit more. We just try to give people the same options every season to continue building their wardrobe. I mean, we do like to have fun here and there but it's more about focusing on fabrication and making sure that the fit and proportion makes sense for a man or a woman.  

M.H.: And to that point I feel there is this idea of mixing and matching. My understanding of this collection is that specially in the outerwear it’s tailored for men but can be worn by women.

T.T.: Yeah because I find out more recently that women tend to feel more comfortable in men's tailoring and those proportions make sense. The other way around doesn't always work but, surprisingly, the blanket coat on the guy with the dreads was made for a woman.

M.H.: Right. Well it feels more modern that way. This idea of the perfect wardrobe: for women, what do you think is in that?

T.T.: Um, [laughs] if I had the answer we’d be doing really well. Our focus most importantly is obviously well-tailored trousers, great knitwear, nice shirting... We did focus a little bit more on tailoring this season just because I think tailoring has been a little bit less formal and people are wearing it more casually on both the women’s and men’s sides.

M.H.: I feel like the styling is so important to this. The way it came together was great—I loved the penny loafers. My mom would be in heaven. I wore them to grade school.

T.T.: We were worried about how it was going to work with men’s and women’s shoes and just like a week before the show we stumbled upon a pair of the slides. Then I was like, “You know what? Let's just put everyone in those shoes. It makes sense.” I mean we are not making shoes, so we just wanted to feature something really classic that you could imagine anyone of any age wearing just like how you can wear Keds.

M.H.: You hosted an afternoon for the women last season mourning the loss of Phoebe at Celine. Do you feel that because of that there is an underserved group of women looking for real clothes for real life?

T.T.: Yeah absolutely because there is a void now. They do feel abandoned. There was such a loyal customer. The woman didn’t even have to be a fan of fashion, she just felt safe and secure.

M.H.: Which I think is such an interesting point because there are women who just want to feel great in their clothes and derive a sense of confidence and it has nothing to do with a love of fashion. Phoebe really spoke to that woman.


"[Phoebe's Celine] was never screaming or shouting, it was always whispering."

T.T.: I won’t lie, she does inspire a lot of what we do. Just what her and her team did...they just had such a clear understanding of how women want to dress. And it does take time, you can’t be this amazing brand without understanding better what people want to wear and you look at the brand model and it was always right. It was never screaming or shouting, it was always whispering. So I loved the idea of everyone gliding at our presentation, which is why everyone was slowly pacing. We need people to see our clothes and you want to see it from different perspectives and see it moving and see different types of people wearing it.

M.H.: It does feel well-timed. I just think that idea of clothes that function, with a sense of purpose…

T.T.:  It has more lasting power. We love to buy fashion but at the end of the day the clothes that we invest in like a beautiful cashmere sweater, that’s what you’re going to put on every day when you don’t know what you’re going to wear.

M.H.: Right, and also, certainly the way you’re putting things together, it’s not just a cashmere sweater. There’s a thoughtfulness to the way things are designed and i think it’s probably because your starting point is real women.

T.T.:  There is, for sure. Lee, our pattern maker, always questions, “Why is there a pocket there?” And, "Does it function?" [Laughter in the studio] I think the most successful designers are women—if you look at Miuccia Prada or Phoebe Philo or Rei Kawakubo—because they get into the psyche of the woman and that’s a challenge and also a goal of mine, to have a better understanding of women and what they want to wear.

M.H.: And how do you see yourself doing that? As someone who is consistently photographing women on the street is it by having more conversations with them?

M.H.: Right. Well it feels more modern that way. This idea of the perfect wardrobe: for women, what do you think is in that?

T.T.: Um, [laughs] if I had the answer we’d be doing really well. Our focus most importantly is obviously well-tailored trousers, great knitwear, nice shirting... We did focus a little bit more on tailoring this season just because I think tailoring has been a little bit less formal and people are wearing it more casually on both the women’s and men’s sides.

M.H.: I feel like the styling is so important to this. The way it came together was great—I loved the penny loafers. My mom would be in heaven. I wore them to grade school.

T.T.: We were worried about how it was going to work with men’s and women’s shoes and just like a week before the show we stumbled upon a pair of the slides. Then I was like, “You know what? Let's just put everyone in those shoes. It makes sense.” I mean we are not making shoes, so we just wanted to feature something really classic that you could imagine anyone of any age wearing just like how you can wear Keds.

M.H.: You hosted an afternoon for the women last season mourning the loss of Phoebe at Celine. Do you feel that because of that there is an underserved group of women looking for real clothes for real life?

T.T.: Yeah absolutely because there is a void now. They do feel abandoned. There was such a loyal customer. The woman didn’t even have to be a fan of fashion, she just felt safe and secure.

M.H.: Which I think is such an interesting point because there are women who just want to feel great in their clothes and derive a sense of confidence and it has nothing to do with a love of fashion. Phoebe really spoke to that woman.


"[Phoebe's Celine] was never screaming or shouting, it was always whispering."

T.T.: I won’t lie, she does inspire a lot of what we do. Just what her and her team did...they just had such a clear understanding of how women want to dress. And it does take time, you can’t be this amazing brand without understanding better what people want to wear and you look at the brand model and it was always right. It was never screaming or shouting, it was always whispering. So I loved the idea of everyone gliding at our presentation, which is why everyone was slowly pacing. We need people to see our clothes and you want to see it from different perspectives and see it moving and see different types of people wearing it.

M.H.: It does feel well-timed. I just think that idea of clothes that function, with a sense of purpose…

T.T.:  It has more lasting power. We love to buy fashion but at the end of the day the clothes that we invest in like a beautiful cashmere sweater, that’s what you’re going to put on every day when you don’t know what you’re going to wear.

M.H.: Right, and also, certainly the way you’re putting things together, it’s not just a cashmere sweater. There’s a thoughtfulness to the way things are designed and i think it’s probably because your starting point is real women.

T.T.:  There is, for sure. Lee, our pattern maker, always questions, “Why is there a pocket there?” And, "Does it function?" [Laughter in the studio] I think the most successful designers are women—if you look at Miuccia Prada or Phoebe Philo or Rei Kawakubo—because they get into the psyche of the woman and that’s a challenge and also a goal of mine, to have a better understanding of women and what they want to wear.

M.H.: And how do you see yourself doing that? As someone who is consistently photographing women on the street is it by having more conversations with them?

The Casting: Meet The Women

The Casting: Meet The Women

T.T.: It’s conversations but also being very observant and watching. I mean, we’re just lucky to have Instagram where you can stalk people [laughs].

M.H.: Do you feel that it’s changed the scope of things? Because when we started talking it was that idea of being in a park and observing. Do you feel like Instagram and social media has expanded the way we can observe?

T.T.: Absolutely. What I really love when I shoot street style is when there’s a sense of mystery about someone. It’s kind of like that thing when you want to date someone: you’re intrigued by them but yet you don’t know too much about them and it’s all about the hunt.

M.H.: And what about women are you responding to? Is there anything consistently catching your eye?

T.T.: The funny thing initially is that it was always about shoes and accessories and as the years go by your tastes change and you start to realize that simplicity is really difficult and only a certain person of a certain confidence can pull it off. But then I don’t always love simplicity. I love Italian women who have a certain way of mixing and matching, like that “Marni” woman. I like very character-driven people that like to take chances or that know exactly what works well for them like a Vanessa Traina. She’s just so elegant and chic.

M.H.: Well I think there’s a certain authenticity across all of them and that innate confidence that comes from knowing yourself and what works well for you. And not having to feel a certain way based on the clothes you put on.

T.T.: Exactly. You don’t want to get caught up in all the noise. You should just listen to your gut instinct and know what works best for you.

T.T.: It’s conversations but also being very observant and watching. I mean, we’re just lucky to have Instagram where you can stalk people [laughs].

M.H.: Do you feel that it’s changed the scope of things? Because when we started talking it was that idea of being in a park and observing. Do you feel like Instagram and social media has expanded the way we can observe?

T.T.: Absolutely. What I really love when I shoot street style is when there’s a sense of mystery about someone. It’s kind of like that thing when you want to date someone: you’re intrigued by them but yet you don’t know too much about them and it’s all about the hunt.

M.H.: And what about women are you responding to? Is there anything consistently catching your eye?

T.T.: The funny thing initially is that it was always about shoes and accessories and as the years go by your tastes change and you start to realize that simplicity is really difficult and only a certain person of a certain confidence can pull it off. But then I don’t always love simplicity. I love Italian women who have a certain way of mixing and matching, like that “Marni” woman. I like very character-driven people that like to take chances or that know exactly what works well for them like a Vanessa Traina. She’s just so elegant and chic.

M.H.: Well I think there’s a certain authenticity across all of them and that innate confidence that comes from knowing yourself and what works well for you. And not having to feel a certain way based on the clothes you put on.

T.T.: Exactly. You don’t want to get caught up in all the noise. You should just listen to your gut instinct and know what works best for you.

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