A couple of years ago, I would never have dreamed that alongside the encyclopedia of celebrity names I keep in my head, fashion bloggers would be added to that database. But lo and behold, it's 2010 and bloggers are THE ones to watch -- so much so that at a Joyce event honouring Donatella Versace, I was starstruck to meet the great Susie Bubble... and didn't even bother staying to see or meet Madame Versace.
So it's a great honour to interview Jak & Jil's Tommy Ton, whose street-style blog is among the most popular in the world (wide web), so much so that Lane Crawford invited him to do their campaign and blog last year (and were nice enough to help hook up this interview). In this exclusive Q&A, we talk to Tommy about his experiences blogging, his fashion favourites and why Mario Testino left him high and dry front row at the D&G show last year.
Hong Kong Fashion Geek: How would you describe the content on your blog?
Tommy Ton: The content on my blog is pretty much all the photos I take during fashion month, and each day I post one to three photos from my month long excursion so that I can celebrate everyday as if were fashion week.
HKFG: How did you promote your blog initially?
TT: I only really told fellow blogger friends like Susie Bubble and Rumi Neely from Fashion Toast and it was word of mouth that really attracted new readers to my blog.
HKFG: When did you realize that you had become an online phenomenon?
TT: I'm only still realizing that to this day. I guess it really occurred to me when one of my personal twitter photos was reposted on Refinery 29 and I was surprised that someone found me fascinating.
HKFG: What other major industry attention have you received?
TT: Being acknowledged by big industry figures is all the attention I could ever want and need. Just the fact that Carine Roitfeld, Anna Dello Russo or even Anna Wintour knows about what I'm doing or who I am, that's just something I never thought I could achieve through a blog.
HKFG: What do you think you have gotten out of starting Jak & Jil?
TT: Respect and the encouragement to continue doing what I love to do.
HKFG: How much time do you invest in your blog?
TT: It basically takes over your life. You have to invest a great deal of time developing content that is newsworthy to your readers and then you have to edit what you post and monitor comments as well.
HKFG: What do you think has been the impact of the fashion blogger movement on the fashion industry?
TT: I think fashion blogging has certainly brought democracy in the industry. You don't have to work your way from the bottom to make it to the top. You just have make your voice heard and from there it's those who have a point of view that will stand out.
HKFG: One of your biggest commercial projects is the campaign you did with Lane Crawford earlier this year. How did that collaboration come about and why do you think they chose to use a blogger to represent their campaign? What has been the impact of that project on your own career?
TT: Well, in December of 2008 I received an email from Lane Crawford asking if I'd be interested in photographing their Spring/Summer 2009 campaign. I thought it was a joke because I didn't think anyone ever would ask me to photograph a campaign. Within a month, I was flown to Paris and we shot the campaign during couture fashion week. The team at Lane Crawford liked the aesthetic of my photos which I took during fashion month and they wanted to translate that into their campaign. In addition to shooting the campaign, I blogged directly from Milan and Paris. It was definitely my breakout moment and it certainly validated why I should continue blogging.
HKFG: You were also invited to sit front row and blog at the Dolce & Gabbana and D&G shows -- could you share a little bit about that experience? Your twitter also mentioned a little run-in with a photographer at the show -- would you mind sharing that story?
TT: It was definitely a surreal experience. I was already shocked when I was told beforehand that I would be sitting front row but I didn't anticipate the laptops or being seated one seat away from Anna Wintour. It definitely was a blogger power boost and it impacted my profile and I was more recognized more after that. At D&G, I was initially seated next to Mario Testino but I don't think he was keen on being seated next to the group of bloggers that were placed next to him. He left but he came back after he noticed he caused a stir and we spoke about his new website.
HKFG: What other big projects do you have lined up, going forward?
TT: Well, I have an ongoing partnership with Style.com and GQ.com. So I've basically become the official street style photographer of Conde Nast. I photographed my first feature for Vogue Paris which is in the February issue. I have a special appearance in a major fashion magazine coming up which I cannot discuss until it hits newsstands.
HKFG: What are your own favourite fashion blogs?
TT: JJJound, Fashionologie, Turned Out.
HKFG: Favourite designer?
TT: Phoebe Philo at the moment. I'm so excited that a woman's perspective in back in charge.
HKFG: Favourite item in your closet?
TT: At the moment it's a Raf Simons neoprene peacoat, which I got at Lane Crawford when I was in Hong Kong.
HKFG: Who is your style icon?
TT: Charlotte Gainsbourg and my friend Maya Villiger. They both wear clothes so effortlessly and make basics look so refreshing and modern.
HKFG: What is the best experience you've gained from blogging?
TT: Being able to contribute something to the industry that is impacting and inspiring to others.
Images: Jak & Jil, Tommy Ton portrait from Hanneli