The Potency of Tom Ford

The Potency of Tom Ford

Such a strong whiff of nostalgia can turn sour. But Ford’s decision to design with an aim to make people look beautiful, rather than obsessively catering to fashion whims, is a long-term play

 

The look of the early aughts, a prime time for Tom Ford, is experiencing its first revival. This evening, Ford leaned into that good fortune hard, as he has for the past few seasons, outfitting the Park Avenue Armory in powder pink carpet and purple lights, the air scented by Estée Lauder. (His namesake beauty brand is close to generating $1 billion in annual retail sales for the conglomerate.) A fashion show out of another era, bleacher seats and all.

Ford said every collection starts with a reaction to the previous one, and you could see how his gussied-up women from spring could find themselves comfortably easing into fall’s more relaxed vibe, replacing aggressively pointy stillettos with a steadier pump. The island platform was a bold move, given that this particular shoe shape is as divisive as a pair of bootcut jeans. It was a moment of, “Are we ready for this?” Which can only mean a full-on return is around the corner.

“I’m so glad,” he said, delighted by the idea that he might be ahead of a forthcoming trend. “That’s the goal…to create something that isn’t in the market and that people want.”

What Ford no longer seems to want is that elusive industry stamp of approval. He’s happy to remain on his own island, paying very little attention to what is happening elsewhere. This uniform he presented this evening — relaxed satin trousers, paired with silk blouses and plush velvet blazers — were cribbed from basic sentences in the Tom Ford language. His goal with such a strategy? Create fashion “potent” enough to seduce a luxury customer.

At times, such a strong whiff of nostalgia can turn sour. (And not only when Lolo’s version of the Crowded House hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over” is playing in the background.)

But Ford’s decision to design with an aim to make men and women look beautiful, rather than obsessively catering to fashion whims, is a long-term play. So is showing at New York Fashion Week, which continues to lose big-name brands and designers to Europe.

For Ford, it’s a personal choice: New York is closer to Los Angeles, where he lives, and it’s also good for sales. Fashion shows may no longer mean much to buyers and editors, but they mean something to his clients. These clothes — the slinky jersey gowns with chunky chain-link straps; the fine-gauge hoodie slid under a satin blazer, the sparkly island platforms — they’re all things that clients will want to wear, whether the fashion industry cares to weigh in.