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Tommy Ton: Shoe Fetishism in Toronto

The Jak & Jil photo blogger, who is currently exhibiting in Toronto, talks about his love of Céline, Anna Dello Russo and SingStar

Tommy Ton - a.k.a. the photo blogger behind Jak & Jil - must've seen the symmetry (some would say irony) in being fêted by Holt Renfrew, the Toronto luxury department store where five years he ago he was the holiday help. But he didn't mention it. Instead, on the opening day of Pic Me Tommy Ton! at Holts, the editor's pet talked candidly about internet fame, the blogger backlash, and fashion crushes old and new. Plus, giving new meaning to the term 'fashion nerd', he compared fashion weeks to Hogwarts...

Dazed Digital: Your Phoebephile posts have been great. Can’t get enough.

Tommy Ton: Well, a) I am obsessed with her and b) everyone else is. I just felt like no one has shown it visually, the impact of Céline. Karla Otto [the fashion PR company] just sent it to Phoebe and the CEO. I’m like, kill me now.

DD: Are you still shooting everything during fashion weeks?
Tommy Ton: My blog is 95% shot during fashion weeks. People say, oh, he’s not really a street-style photographer. I know! I never wanted to be one. I wanted to take the excitement that I feel at fashion week and share it every day.

DD: And you never even trained as a photographer. How do you think 'real' photographers feel?
Tommy Ton: I would totally be pissed off if I were one of them, looking at me. I use an automatic camera and automatic settings. But what photographers tell me is that I’m doing so well because I have an eye. You can’t go to school to learn how to see things. It’s also me, someone who’s a fashion enthusiast, capturing things in a fashion-focused way, not a documentary or artistic way.

DD: Can we talk about Anna Dello Russo? Is she for real?
Tommy Ton: I love her. I just shot her country home. It embodies that 'dolce vita' vibe, with tomatoes on the vine hung over the railings and all these gaudy little sculptures all over the place. She goes there for a month and hardly brings anything, just wears maxi dresses. What people don’t see is that she’s actually really having fun with fashion. She never used to be that crazy.

DD: You made her crazy!
Tommy Ton: It’s a combination of me and Scott and Garance. But she laughs at the fact that she’s an internet celebrity. She’s ADR.

DD: You’re grouped with all Scott, Garance, the superbloggers, but do you consider yourself one?
Tommy Ton: I don’t really do the act of blogging. I’m more a photoblogger.

DD: What do you really want to see this season?
Tommy Ton: Reed Krakoff. And Celine, of course. But more than anything I just love the feeling you get of being at fashion weeks, surrounded by all the freaks. It’s like being at Hogwarts.

DD: Harry Potter! That’s not even fashion-nerdy. That’s just nerdy. OK, so talk about when you fell in love with fashion for the very first time...
Tommy Ton: I was taping FashionTelevision for my sister and the Gucci ’97 heroin chic show came on. All the girls had smudged kohl eyes and slick hair. Then Tom [Ford] came on, and the way he was talking, he was seducing the audience. It’s not poetic, just sexual. I felt like, wow. I want to do what he does.

DD: We talk about editors being celebrities now, but so are the bloggers who shoot the editors. There are almost more photographs of Scott and Garance than photographs by them. They’re street-style icons. But you’ve gone the opposite way: since you got internet-famous you’ve been dressing down and down.
Tommy Ton: Well, because no one takes my picture! I have a job to do, so I dress very comfortably for that. I would rather be known for my work than for who I am.

DD: Are there fashion editors who still feel that way, too? Who are tricky to shoot?
Tommy Ton: Rarely, but yes. I like it more when I don’t know who the person is, or they don’t know who I am. It’s the initial intrigue that draws me. That’s how I develop crushes, like how I became obsessed with ADR.

DD: So who are your new crushes?
Tommy Ton: I don’t think I have any! I love meeting the lesser-knowns, the people who work for the designers. For instance, my friend Tara Vasev who used to work at Alexander Wang. I love the people who aren’t as out-there and obvious. Stevie Dance, the fashion editor at Russh, is great. She’s what every fashion blogger wants to be.

DD: We have to talk about one of your favourite things, which maybe everyone doesn’t know about yet... You’re addicted to Singstar.
Tommy Ton: You heard about that? I had a SingStar party in Paris last month. The police came twice or three times. We were singing Lady Gaga and Lionel Ritchie at the top of our lungs in the heart of the Marais, so you can imagine... Rad Hourani was there. He’s obsessed. You know who else really good at SingStar? Agyness Deyn. She does, like, the Cure. And “Bohemian Rhapsody.” If I could have fashion parties with SingStar, I would.

DD: You could! Do it at Regine’s or something.
Tommy Ton: Yeah. They’re adding a dance component, like Wii, so we could do 'Poker Face' under that giant disco ball. I’ve never really used my internet fame, but I figure I might as well now. So I’ll put this out there: I would totally be the international spokesperson for SingStar.

Tommy Ton portrait by Hanneli Mustaparta