Tommy Ton On Designing For Himself And Those Pesky London Buses

At last night’s launch of Tommy Ton’s bag collaboration with Club Monaco, the street style photographer couldn’t help but be selfish about his reasons for designing: “For me, all I cared was getting the bag — for myself.”

Well, that was only half-true. He continued, “But something that other people would use.”

For the past two years — when he wasn’t jetsetting to London, Milan, or Paris — Ton worked on designing a messenger bag and backpack with the brand. Inspired by the simplicity of Céline, the coated canvas bags are streamlined and feature minimal hardware. This past Fashion Month, he gave the final designs to close friends like Taylor Tomasi Hill and Anna Dello Russo, and photographed them between shows.

Want one? Only 500 bags were produced and put in select Club Monaco stores. We heard that the West Coast shipment has already sold out, and at $198 and $225, we’re betting they’ll be sold out on the East Coast, too.

In between congratulatory hugs and pats on the back by other party-goers, the photographer-slash-designer chatted with us about his design process, the dangers of street style photography, and another possible collaboration in the future.

How did you get involved with Club Monaco?
It started two years ago. We had a meeting and Club Monaco was like, ‘What do you want to do?’ and I was like, ‘You know, I need a bag.’ It was fun because I never designed anything for anyone, and it’s perfect with Club Monaco because I’ve been buying their brand since I was a kid. What was so great was working with the team and bringing my ideas, they were able to help refine it and help bring this vision from scrap pieces of paper to this. It was great giving the bags out to my friends and colleagues in the industry and to be so supportive of it. For me, all I cared was getting the bag – for myself.

What about your friends?
It was great to see so many of my friends carry the bag willingly. I was so lucky that everyone was so happy to carry it. It’s funny because a lot of girls ended up carrying the backpack more than the messenger, and some guys prefer the messenger over the backpack. And from what a lot of women tell me, it’s the perfect carryall for them.

What was your favorite part about designing?
I think what I had the most fun with was the development of the bag, just seeing the samples back and forth and testing them out. You know, it’s funny, I actually liked the earlier samples, but they were able to talk me into pushing it further and trying different fabrications. Simplifying it was the most important part because backpacks and messengers are utilitarian, so I wanted it to be very clean.

Who was your favorite person to shoot?
I was really happy that Miles [McMillan] carried the bag, because I feel like the bag was very him and he was so happy to carry it. He was like, ‘I love the bag!’ That was another test, to see if people would like it. That was a mission accomplished. If fashion people love it, then consumers would gravitate to it.

If you had to design something else, what would it be?
Probably shoes. Maybe a unisex shoe?

And we have to ask, what kind of problems do you run into when you have to photograph people who don’t stop to pose?
In London, there are so many double-decker buses and they go really fast, so it’s hard to get a good shot quickly!

Check out Ton’s photos, as well as shots from last night’s party, below:

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