Advisory: As Halifax Water is currently undertaking work at the Fountain campus, we ask our community to not drink the water at the Fountain campus. We will update you as soon as the work has been completed.

Tori Poynton talks about selling her jewellery at Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris – and what piece Taylor Swift owns

Portrait of alumna Tori Poynton. Credit: Lindsay Duncan
Portrait of alumna Tori Poynton. Credit: Lindsay Duncan

The Halifax-based designer jeweller Tori Poynton—aka TORI•XO—is fresh back from Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris, where she spent her days surrounded by high-end wares and evenings amongst cutting-edge fashion. “I love dressing up,” she says. “Usually I’m hidden away in my studio covered in polish and compound.” Poynton was the only Canadian amongst 30 designers from around the world, showcasing her fine jewellery for European dealers and agents. “I felt really—proud’s not the right word—I felt honoured and humbled to be invited.” Poynton works primarily in gold and silver, counts Taylor Swift as a client (though she rejected Justin Bieber’s request: “if he wants to buy a piece he can buy a piece”), and has been into jewellery since she was a student in her native Australia. “I could up wake with this idea in my head,” she says, “and at the end of the day turn it into an object you’re holding.” She came to NSCAD in 2005 on a professor’s recommendation: “Halifax, where’s that?” she jokes. “But I did the research and it was one of the top five art schools in North America. I just fell in love with Halifax, it’s so friendly and welcoming. I did my exchange semester, and 18 years later I’m still here.” 

What exactly goes on at Haute Couture Fashion Week? 

It’s a little bit different than the Paris Fashion Week everyone knows. Haute couture is custom-made for people, it’s the higher end of fashion. It’s not a gown you’d wear to a film festival in Halifax, it’s a gown you’d wear to meet the queen. The who’s-who in the industry are there. Also I was using the same bathroom as Naomi Watts, for instance. It’s an opportunity you don’t often get on the east coast of Canada—it’s next level, even compared to regular Fashion Week. 

And what’s the goal coming out of it? 

The first show I did in New York I thought, ‘This is gonna be it, it’s gonna change my career.’ Then you get there and it’s the slowest thing ever. I’ve learned so much of my business from failures. Going into this event I was prepared for anything. It’s changed a lot since New York…Instagram wasn’t very big back then, and now Instagram is where most of my business is based. It’s a really nice, welcoming community. I’d reached out, just in my DMs on Instagram, and they came to the show and they were big names in the industry—it’s not like i can invite them to my studio in Halifax. I had to build these releationships over years, over covid—I spent a lot of time doing that. I met a new agent, I’m building relationships with the trade commissioners.  

Could you have the business you have without the internet? 

Jewellery is such an old trade. But to be at this level internationally—I sell internationally because of my website, in Australia, Italy, Argentina. That is thanks to the internet. I’ve got this amazing jewellery community on Instagram—the work I do with gouache is a niche community. In the early days it was me in my studio, doing pop-up shops around town, mailing invites, getting people to come to the shows— it’s changed a lot. The internet has made it more readily available. 

Drawing of a proposed necklace by Tori Poynton.
Necklaceitorial: Drawing of a proposed necklace by Tori Poynton.

What makes a piece of jewellery “fine”? 

The materials and the gems. You put more intention into it because you’re investing this gold and these gems. I love silver because it gives me freedom to work. But gold is heavier and more expensive, so you can’t go as big, you have to be more meticulous. Some of the higher-end pieces can take months to make.  

Which piece does Taylor Swift have? 

She’s got the San Telmo Key Pendant. She has one and her mom has a matching one. It was inspired by an antique skeleton key I found in Buenos Aires. This was before she was huge, but I think I sold a couple hundred of those keys! 

Read more

Visit the TOXI.XO shop to see more of Tori Poyton’s work or follow them on Instagram