It is not uncommon for fashion designers to flex their creative muscle and turn to photography — cue Heidi Slimane, Karl Lagerfeld and Tom Ford — but to switch from iconic photographer to fashion designer is slightly less heard of.
When launching blog Jak and Jil in the early 2010’s, Tommy Ton set the standard for street style photographers, carving a niche in recognising the next It model or zooming into trends well before they broke on the runways. His eye and ability to articulate fashion and make it relevant has been embraced time and time again, clients include everyone from publishers Vogue, Style.com and GQ to fashion businesses from Lane Crawford, Louis Vuitton and Gap. With Ton’s sharp vision it made perfect sense to launch a fashion collection.
Ton became Artistic Director of one-year-old label Deveaux late ’17, joining designer Andrea Tsao who was previously men's designer at Gap, and her partner, founder Matthew Breen, ex co-founder and buyer at the famous Carlson Street store. Working undercover for a number of months, Ton waited for the right time to announce his involvement and launched timely with the FW’18 season. "I’ve been an observer for a long time, and I definitely have people in mind when I design clothes" says Ton. "This first collection was really based on my first experience of living in New York. I was once an assistant designer, production buyer and then I started street style photography. So now I am going back to what I really want to do" beams Ton.
Given Ton’s knack for shooting the cool kids, one can only visualise Adwoa Aboah, Veronica Heilbrunner and Hanne Gaby Odiele wearing the artistic directors clothing. Yet this latest project centers around his decidedly classic point of view with adjacencies that include hanging in store against the likes of Celine, The Row or Jil Sander. Many of the clothes feature herringbone, tweed or wool, knits play a large part of the collection as does outerwear which is great for on-sales. Deveaux has an elevated ease and androgynous aesthetic which speaks to a diverse community. After all, who doesn’t want a generation Z minimalist wardrobe?
“I’ve been an observer for a long time, and I definitely have people in mind when I design clothes.”
What was once a niche for classic silhouettes is expanding and it’s no longer just influencers that are into Deveaux’s classic cuts. Retail has caught on, with buyers placing the collection in Totokaelo, Fred Segal and United Arrows. MatchesFashion just placed a considerably large order via their online partner, wholesale platform ORDRE.com. "This market, we have had some incredibly influential buyers coming to join us and they are very respectful of the collection's aesthetic and that’s exactly the retail partner we are looking for - those who believe in our foundations and want to tell our story" says Ton’s partner and designer Matthew Breen.
What’s next for Deveaux? Womenswear but not as we all know it. "It just really makes sense to think about how the modern customer shops and whether you are male or female. I think it's blurred now and a woman doesn’t necessarily always want to buy womenswear, they want to wear menswear as well and vice-versa. We basically design with the Deveaux customer in mind and from there we grade up for womens or grade down for men's", says Ton of their choice to move into the female sector.
And it seems that androgynous dressing is an industry movement with so many businesses embracing generation gender neutral. Commercial powerhouses Vetements, Astrid Andersen, Martin Margiela, Gucci and Ekhaus Latta are all associated with the blend of masculine feminine. "From the beginning we went against the grain in terms of how we were seen in the industry, where men's specifically was moving in a street type rebellion and so we stayed on the course of our DNA; paired back luxury. In New York specifically there is not a lot of classic dressing, so it is nice to see the pendulum swing and see a more genderless proposition start to take hold and the industry take off" says Breen.
And it was always easy to switch from the start, adds the third designer of the trio Andrea Tsao, "because Deveaux’s whole concept is genderless, there is a lot of fit considerations in terms how a woman requires clothing to sit, but as 90 - 95% of our designs overlap for the most part it has not been as challenging as I think it would be designing a whole separate collection".
The brand has a clear vision on future goals and pricing structure. "For outerwear retail prices, we open up at US$595 and go to $1,395; for pants we start at US$325 to US$525; shirts are US$395 up to US$695; and sweaters are $395 up to $1,095. It is all made here in New York city, except for the knits which are made in LA" says Tsao. "We are expanding into categories we have not had in the past such as bags, however the next step will be branching out to accessories and footwear to help sell the story of the brand and what Deveaux is about." The trio’s accessories will be hot commodities especially when promoted with Ton’s catchy artistry. It’s in that blend where sales are made.
Watch the designer interview below: