Tommy Ton is one of the premiere street style photographers working today. His shots regularly appear on GQ.com and Style.com, as well as his own blog, Jak and Jil.
Are you based in Canada?
I live in a little town called Oakville, which is outside of Toronto. Whenever I have a chance to come home, which is currently right now, I come home. But basically I live out of a suitcase.
If there were a city you could choose to live in what would you choose?
Probably New York. I’ve been trying to move to New York but I haven’t had a chance to pick up and leave yet. My schedule is pretty much planned out for the next 4-5 months, so every time I have a free opportunity I go home instead of moving.
I do spend a lot of time working in New York so, we’ll see.
If you were to say that there was one city that you like photograph the most, would you say New York?
I love New York but I would say Paris only because during fashion week it’s just so exciting — everyone dresses up to the nines and it’s almost like the Olympics of fashion. It’s just the most exciting time to shoot. But I think on down time New York because of all the cliques and mixes with people everywhere. I think its more common to find more interesting people in New York than Paris or anywhere.
Do people get annoyed when you’re taking candid shots of them? How is the response?
No, I’ve never run into any issues. I guess people are more aware they are being shot during Fashion Week. I only really shoot outside the shows because I find if I shot without asking anyone it would be more invasive. But, I do try to make sure the photos that are published are flattering and I don’t put anyone in a bad place.
Do you feel at this point people are getting dressed for you?
People are more aware, they do dress up to be photographed. It also helps them to build their brand image and can help your career if you’re hoping to be exposed.
Are there any sites that you generally look up to get your fashion news?
I’m a huge Tumblr addict! What I like is you look at one image and it takes you to 10 other sources. Everyday I pretty much read The Cut and Fashion Copious. I’m more interested in menswear than womenswear and I feel a lot of guys tend to create more mood boards for fashion on Tumblr.
I know you recently designed a bag for Club Monaco. Was that a men’s bag or unisex?
I created two bags — one was a backpack and the other a messenger — but both are unisex. It was just a bag for whoever wanted to carry it could carry it.
How did the collaboration come about?
We were at a meeting two years ago talking about different things we could do and in a kind of a selfish way I said I could create my own bag to carry around at the shows. This was my first time being able to collaborate with anyone so it was fun working with the design team and choosing different fabrics and references.
How did you end up choosing navy?
I’m more of a fan than navy than black. It’s just such a nice richer color. Black would have rubbed off on a lot of peoples clothes, so navy was more waterproof and functional.
Do you have any accessories in mind that you would want to design?
It would be fun to design a shoe or another bag but I am not in a rush to do anything. I’m just focusing on photography and hopefully some day I will be able to do some other things. If the right person comes along I might do it again.
You’ve been shooting a lot of ad campaigns, correct?
A lot of brands are doing online projects like mini editorials. I’ve been shooting editorials for Harpers Bazaar as well. I would say I’m not doing international campaigns.
And those are more organized shoots in studios?
I actually don’t shoot in studios. They like me to replicate what I do at the shows.
Do you find it challenging posting on your own site Jak and Jil?
Yes, it’s really hard. Readers are disappointed because they don’t see as many updates on my site, but I have to focus on Style.com and GQ because that really puts my name on the platform and gets me exposure to work between the seasons. But I try to focus on my blog as much as I can. I’m grateful for it.
Are you allowed to use the pictures that you shoot for Style.com and GQ on your own site?
There’s an exclusitivly with certain images and they would be disappointed if I posted the images right away on my blog, but I’m allowed to repost everything. I’m trying to archive everything I’ve shot on GQ and Style.com.
Do you think you would ever publish a book?
I was approached, but I think I should wait because my photos are a documentation of what goes on outside the shows and it’s changed quite a bit over the last 5 years. I think I will wait another 5 years to see how much the shows have changed since then.
Who are your favorite people to photograph?
One of my favorites is Anna Dello Russo. She’s all over the place and you can expect her to wear something really outlandish. For men, I like to shoot Nick Wooster. He’s a badass guy that pulls off looks most of us wish we could. I love shooting some of the models, and my favorite is Hanne Gabby Odiele.
I really like shooting new people I’ve never shot before. That’s one of my greatest highs: shooting someone you’ve never seen before and admiring their style.
Are there some of the shows your favorite to get to every season? Are you required to attend certain shows?
I work on my own schedule, and I generally know what shows to go to that will attract the right people. I think the show that’s probably the most fun is Valentino. It’s really turning into a red carpet for a lot of socials and up and coming girls.
How do you see Jak and Jil evolving?
I’m happy as long as I’m still doing what I’m doing now. I don’t know if I see it evolving into more. I would like to maybe doing consulting or maybe even designing, but I’m going to continue to focus on what I’m good at.
What are your other pastimes other than fashion?
Ha! Uh, probably karaoke? It’s kind of hard. This has taken up a lot of time — even when I’m not working I’m editing and updating my blog.
Lastly, is there any one trend you really saw this past fashion week that really stuck with you?
I really like the fact that even the establishment is embracing comfortable footwear.