Learn all about the founder and creative director behind T.O.N.Y, a Toronto-based modern luxury brand incorporating classic Canadian iconography with Italian luxury.

Founder and Creative Director of T.O.N.Y

James Elmhirst, Founder and Creative Director of T.O.N.Y

James Elmhirst is the founder and creative director behind T.O.N.Y, an up-and-coming Toronto-based modern luxury brand, and is sitting down with HOLR to discuss the brand’s incredible success to date. Keep reading to learn all about T.O.N.Y’s beginnings, the latest F/W 22 launch, and the brand’s exciting runway event planned for Toronto later this year.

Tell us about yourself and how you founded your Toronto-based modern luxury brand, T.O.N.Y.

T.O.N.Y was founded about a year ago, in the middle of the pandemic. Launching my own brand during COVID was definitely a risky move, but one I was determined to make possible. I created T.O.N.Y with three motives in mind.

The first was that I wanted to use fashion as a creative outlet for myself. With T.O.N.Y, I’ve been able to express myself through colour scheme, fabric texture, unique silhouettes, and all of the other tedious elements to design that I take great pride in. To this day, every one of my designs is hand-sketched and that’s a testament to how organic my creative process is- if I can think it up in my head, I’ll make it happen!

After discovering my love for fashion design, I started an internship abroad in NYC with the luxury womenswear brand, Lapointe. I worked under an amazing mentor by the name of Isabelle Hua- someone I still contact to this day for any fashion-related advice. While interning at Lapointe, Isabelle and Sally Lapointe herself, really taught me the foundations and basics to running a successful luxury brand. I was so inspired by Sally’s leadership and creative freedom that I decided I wanted to start my own brand. Shortly after this experience, I launched T.O.NY!

The second motive behind launching T.O.N.Y was to bring more recognition to the Toronto fashion scene and build my brand to be Toronto’s first globally recognized luxury brand- one the city can call its own! I wanted to build the foundation of T.O.N.Y in Toronto and continue to embrace this city as the brand grows. I want to show the fashion industry that Toronto has a lot to offer and we are being heavily slept on right now.

The final motive behind launching T.O.N.Y has been my wonderful support system; my mom, dad, and amazing girlfriend. In fact, my girlfriend shot much of the photography for my F/W22 collection! None of this would be possible without them cheering me on and supporting me every step of the way!

T.O.N.Y campaign shoot

How does T.O.N.Y incorporate Canadian iconography with Italian Luxury?

T.O.N.Y incorporates these two elements through our fabric, designs, and collection themes! For instance, in my most recent F/W 22 collection I introduced the Canada knit sweater made from 100% Italian merino wool. Blending textiles from some of the best mills in Italy is where Italian luxury fuses into the Canadian-inspired designs and clothing themes. I’ve also sourced all of the denim, merino wool, and silk from Italy for my F/W 22 collection. Quality is always at the forefront of everything I do, which is why I source most materials and fabrics from Italy- I’ve always considered Italy to be the epicenter for luxury goods.
With Italian fabrics in use, I’ve simultaneously remained true to keeping my design inspiration Canadian-based. I wanted to combine the uniqueness and story of Canada with the luxury and quality of Italy. Doing so will help to build a Canadian-made brand that can compete and even surpass the biggest competitors in the global luxury goods industry.

T.O.N.Y campaign shoot

Talk to us about the latest F/W 2022 lookbook launch, Collection6ix.

Collection6ix is a coming-of-age collection for myself and the brand. Prior to the success of my first collection, Dear Summer, I wanted to create a collection that captured my take on Toronto style. I was also able to experiment with more patterns and textiles for Collection6ix. Everything from Italian selvedge denim, merino wool, Italian floral silk, faux fur, to suede! I was also able to experiment with more unique silhouettes and trimmings. This experimental creative process really allowed me to further develop a signature style for T.O.NY, one that I feel is reflective of Toronto style as a whole.

Some of my favourite pieces from the collection included the denim cape, floral wrapped jeans, and of course the merino wool Canada sweater. This collection has also allowed me to collaborate with some incredible creatives that I greatly admire. Florence Pugh, Ant Clemons, and Jesse Royal’s teams have all been in touch and will be wearing T.O.N.Y very soon, as part of my inspiration campaign.

The lookbook itself was shot in a beautiful park right here in Toronto! Shooting here was exactly what I envisioned and perfectly contrasted against the striking colours and patterns within Collection6ix.

T.O.N.Y campaign shoot

We hear you’re also planning a big fashion show here in Toronto for your next collection- can you give us any hints as to what we can expect?

Yes, I am- something I’m very excited about! I always envisioned presenting my next collection on a runway. Though I did have a few offers to present my next body of work, such as NYFW, Australian Fashion Week, Vancouver fashion week, and even Pitti Uomo in Italy- my heart was always set around the city that T.O.N.Y is inspired by: Toronto! I then decided to produce my own independent show here in Toronto. This city has been deprived of so many fashion events since the cancellation of Toronto fashion week and I want to give the Toronto fashion community something of their own. I want to use this show as an opportunity to strengthen the Toronto designer community as well; by showing and inspiring them to go beyond the global fashion calendar and re-write the story.

Dates and locations are still in the works and will be kept a surprise for now! However, I can indefinitely say that the show itself will be one of the biggest the city has seen and representative of a new designer culture I hope to inspire; one that writes its own rules!

T.O.N.Y campaign shoot

What’s next for you and T.O.N.Y?

You can expect to see a whole new collection to go along with the show. It is currently in the works and inspired greatly by Wes Anderson movie visuals! I’m taking a bit of his world and fusing it with my own- something I can’t wait for everyone to see. I am working to collaborate with Wes himself, which would be a dream come true!

I’ve also been in communication with Raz Fresco; a dope artist from Toronto and the founder of Bakers Club. We’re planning to collaborate on a capsule collection for the spring! You can expect to see a mix of vintage and minimal silhouettes with a unique splash of colour! With the designs still in the process, my focus is to ensure my first collaboration will be authentic, special, and representative of the city.

Beyond my own brand, I’m extremely excited about the future of Canadian fashion in general! I’m determined to become one of the biggest designers in the world and I truly believe it will happen! I feel like I am building something truly special with T.O.N.Y. The whole industry will be shocked when a young Canadian designer takes over and rises to the top!

Published by HOLR Magazine.