Los Angeles-based lifestyle expert Tobi Tobin was in Toronto just before Christmas, promoting her latest fragrance “Dark Chocolat” at both her Queen Street and Yorkdale Hudson Bay stores – the first of a country-wide rollout of Tobi Tobin store locations in partnership with the retailer.
Ms. Tobin has been coming to the city for 20 years, and calls Toronto “a better version of New York”. The Toronto Film Festival helped shape the image of this town, and from her perspective, the fashion industry quickly followed.
“People are beautifully dressed on the streets here,” she told us. “Toronto is such an under-rated fashion city. But now the word is getting out. We can do better luxury here.”
Tobi Tobin is a luxury brand rooted in design and architecture. Their focus is to work with individuals looking to live an affordable luxury lifestyle. The brand consists of candles, fragrances, and chocolates.
Tobin’s clients and customers include Keanu Reeves, Taylor Swift, Reese Witherspoon, Renee Zellweger, Sean Combs, Robert Downey Jr., Chelsea Handler, Leonardo DiCaprio, Hilary Clinton and Bob Dylan.
RL: What distinguishes you from other “lifestyle experts” in the field?
TT: I think it’s credibility. You see a lot of faces associated with brands these days that have no credibility in the field. When I talk about myself as a lifestyle expert, I have several covers of Architectural Digest, when it comes to design. I was a very well known celebrity chef for eight years in Los Angeles. I am a published author. I am credible in all areas of design and lifestyle. I walk the walk.
I create all my own products. I wanted to create products that I love. I am allergic to everything so I wanted a clean brand – no toxins, natural oils, gluten-free chocolate, candles made of soy and coconut blends, all natural fragrances. I started from the bottom, 30 years ago, and it wasn’t an easy road. We incubated the brand in LA for eight years before releasing it to wholesale. I took my time, made sure the products were well received by the customers. It wasn’t overnight. I have done things my own way, broken a few rules. I finally got the attention of these large retailers.
RL: What’s a secret to success?
TT: People today don’t focus on the product as much. We are living in a time when Generation Z (born after 1996) and Millennials (age 20-35) are great marketers, but they are not necessarily great brand builders. My generation – in their 40s and 50s, they are great brand builders. If you can put those two together, and form a company, that’s where success lies.
RL: What is “affordable luxury”?
TT: It’s about a lifestyle, not price point. It’s about making choices that bring you happiness and joy. I can remember when I didn’t have any money, and I was struggling. I was getting the brand going, but every week, I would go to the grocery store and buy white roses, no matter what. I would spend that $10 because they brought me so much joy. They were by my bed. It made me feel so luxurious. It made me feel rich. It’s about doing the small things – being in the moment, being conscious, of luxury. Luxury to me is walking on the beach with my dog, sleeping in the best sheets, a great cup of coffee.
RL: Why is Toronto a “luxury epicentre”, according to you?
TT: Every city has its own identity. A lot of that is determined by weather. What I noticed right away, with Toronto, were the people on the streets. They really cared how they looked. There are so many good-looking people here. They dress well. There are so many great luxury brands coming here. LA is very open, free-thinking, artistic, accepting. But that city doesn’t have the community thinking and identity that you have here. It’s more about individuality in Los Angeles. We are more trend-setters in LA, style-makers and brand-makers. Our individuality creates those trends that spill out into the world. We are not wrapped together as a great style community in LA, like here.