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The Charm and Swagger of Tom Evan Davis

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Remember Thomas so well from the early 80’s 🌈 —Frances Hathaway
I never came across Tommy that he didn't have a smile on his face. —Elsa Reia

Early Life and Career

There is never a normal route in and out of the fashion industry, and for model turned restaurateur Tom Evan Davis, this was no different. Tom, better known as Evan in the modelling world, started his career in the late ’80s and ended in the early 2000s. While his stint in the fashion industry lasted only slightly over a decade, his presence did not go unnoticed before he entered the restaurant industry.

Davis was born on September 5, 1964 in London, Ontario. Though memories are hazy, those close to him say his modeling career started in the late eighties and ended in the early 2000s.

Jim Searle, co-owner of custom design company Hoax Couture, was a close friend of Davis’s. He says that Davis’s  modelling work varied, and though he mostly participated in runway shows and modelled designer clothes, he also did catalogue work.

According to his brother, Derek, he even once starred in a commercial. He also says that Davis’s work went international when he did a short stint in Milan. Searle says that for Davis, modelling was “just a job.” Though he stayed in the industry for some time, male modelling was an unpredictable field in his era.

Tom Evan Davis for Hoax Couture, Photo by George Whiteside
Tom Davis, Miles Tyler Roberts and Jonathan Cuthill for Hoax Couture, Photo George Whiteside

Breaking Barriers

On stage, Davis was known for his swagger and charisma. His “fun-loving” attitude translated onto the runway, and  has been described as “very cocky” and “sexy” according to Searle. He also says Davis donned the “rude boy look,” complete with tight-fitting garb. “He was up for anything we wanted him to do, so we put him in some pretty ridiculous outfits back in the day.”

Even though he branched out to do other work, much of Davis’s modelling career was spent with Hoax Couture. One of their first shows in 1988 featured exclusively Black males, which was one of Davis’s first runway shows. Searle says that from very early on the company featured Black males in all of their shows. Davis was also featured in one of their shows in 2003 outside of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.

While modelling at Hoax Couture, Davis also became involved in the local music and club scenes. His regular stomping ground was The Cameron House, where he hosted and DJed at their Wednesday soul nights. This led to him also hosting the infamous venue’s Beatnik Beatz  club nights, according to Searle. He says that people of all races, sexualities and creeds “danced the night away” at Beatnik Beatz.

Derek Davis says that he is “super proud” of his brother for his work as a biracial model. Because they were both biracial and adopted by a white family, he says this his and Tom’s “connection was unmatched,” especially growing up in the largely white city of Guelph. He says that this definitely translated into Davis’s work, both as a model and as a chef.

On stage, Tom was known for his swagger and charisma. His “fun-loving” attitude translated onto the runway, and  has been described as “very cocky” and “sexy”

Influence and Legacy

Davis turned to his love of cooking after leaving the modelling industry. In 2009, he opened The Stockyards Smokehouse and Larder in Toronto’s St. Clair West neighbourhood. Derek says that owning a restaurant was always his dream, starting when he first worked as a cook before moving to Toronto. He played with different smoking methods for years, and was determined to give people quality food for a good price.

 “If it didn’t taste right to him, he would throw it out. That’s the kind of person he was. It wasn’t about money, it was about giving people a fair price. He always said, ‘Derek, I don’t care. It’s about giving the people a fair price for high quality.’”

After running The Stockyards restaurant for 12 years, Davis tragically passed away on June 13, 2021, while on vacation in Negril, Jamaica. He is survived by Derek, father Gerald, sisters Kathy and Karma, his wife, Monique, and his daughter, Ella. Memorials poured out across Toronto, many recalling his generous spirit. Derek says that his brother was “the kind of person to give anything to anybody.”

Following his death, Lisa Josephs, who worked for Davis for 12 years, told CBC, “I have watched that man, in the middle of winter, take his coat off and give it to a homeless person.” That is the way that the people who knew Davis will remember him, a man who would do anything to help the people around him.

Archive of images at BFC:

NameThomas Evan DavisBirthSeptember 5, 1964DeathJune 13, 2021BirthplaceLondon, OntarioEthnic OriginBiracialOccupationsModel, Performer, RestaurateurShare

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