2013 window display at a Tom Ford store on Rodeo
Drive in Los Angeles, where the designer brought
his fall 2015 women's runway show.
ANGELES ó Fashion designer Tom Ford canít resist the
allure of Los Angeles.
a departure from showing during London Fashion Week,
Ford brought his fall 2015 womenís runway show to L.A.
amid Oscar fever.
insisted it was just a matter of scheduling and not a
branding move Whether itís a one-season phenomenon or
the beginning of a new tradition depends on the response
to the show, he says. But itís not altogether
surprising that he would be giving L.A. a try. After
all, no designer is more Hollywood than Tom Ford.
has wardrobed Daniel Craig as James Bond; dressed a
constellation of stars, including Justin Timberlake,
Gwyneth Paltrow and Julianne Moore, for stage and red
carpets; and been the subject of a Jay Z song. He even
directed an Oscar-nominated film, "A Single
Man," starring Colin Firth, in 2009, which he plans
to follow with a soon-to-be-announced second movie
the last few years, Ford, 53, has spent less time in his
Richard Neutra-designed house in Bel-Air, and more time
in London, where heís been showing his menís and
womenís runway collections as part of London Fashion
Week, and where he and spouse Richard Buckley are
raising their son, Alexander (Jack), 2 Ĺ, whoís
saying his first words with an English accent.
Fordís menswear is deeply rooted in Savile Row
tradition, one could argue that his flashy womenswear,
with its myriad cinematic and pop-culture references, is
more at home here. "Even when Iím not in L.A., itís
part of my history, my background and my visual
vocabulary," he says. "But I showed the same
collection I would have shown in London."
been 11 years since Ford started his own brand, first
launching a lucrative cosmetics and fragrance business
with Estee Lauder in 2004, followed by menswear in 2006
and womenís in 2010. And itís been what feels like a
lifetime since he left Gucci, where he defined the look
of luxury in the 1990s as creative director of both the
Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent brands and created the
modern-day archetype of the designer-businessman.
the record, those rumors that he was returning to Gucci
following Frida Gianniniís abrupt departure recently
were "totally unfounded," he says. "I
laughed so hard. Everything I read was really
complimentary of that chapter in my life, which made me
feel good. But I am totally separated from that.... My
business is going really well and Iím starting to feel
clothes are expensive even by Rodeo Drive standards ó
you only have to take a look at the $98,000 boho,
lace-up crocodile dress under a glass case in the
Beverly Hills store to know that. But so far, that hasnít
stalled growth. The designer, whose brand is privately
funded, plans to have 132 stores worldwide by the end of
2015, with new openings in Houston, Miami and Atlanta in
the next 18 months.
the menís business outpaces the womenís, which is
"still refining its focus," according to New
York-based retail analyst Robert Burke. While Ford has
developed some womenswear signatures ó including a
sexy-just-this-side-of-raunchy aesthetic and chunky
zippers and padlocks as a design motif on shoes and bags
ó he seems tentative about making reference to his own
best work at Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci in the 1990s.
Ford left Gucci, he said he would never show again. He
didnít want to worry about impressing the fashion
press; he just wanted to make beautiful, ultra-luxe
clothes. That didnít last long, and soon Ford was back
on the runway, the first time in New York in 2010, and
after that in London. He swore heíd never design
tennis shoes, but theyíve since become a bestseller
(in leather, velvet and croc). He promised heíd never
allow camera-phone photos inside his shows, and that
went out the window at the menís show in London in
January, when he set up a professional set in his
showroom for journalists to get good Instagram shots.
what fashion is about, itís all change," he says
L.A. show could signal yet another evolution, and
perhaps a refinement of his vision and customer target.
The show was notable in that it wasnít for press or
buyers. Many, like Ken Downing of Neiman Marcus, were
unable to make the trip to L.A. because they were going
to be en route to Europe. "I really hope he goes
back to showing in London," Downing says.
the show was for Fordís celebrity and socialite
friends ó in other words, the people who might
actually buy a $6,800 tuxedo jacket, $980 ankle-zip
white jeans or a $6,250 powder-pink, fringed leather
jacket. In that respect, Ford follows a luxury industry
trend of bringing the show to the customer, which was
started by globe-trotting Chanel. Ford is also riding a
wave of buzz around Los Angeles, where Dior plans to
stage its cruise show in May.
a designer or brand, a change of scenery can be a good
thing, as can a change in audience.
fashion editor looks at a piece of clothing thinking,
ĎWill this inspire that story Iím about to do, howís
it going to look on a page, and is the editor in chief
of the magazine going to like it?í" Ford says.
"This audience is looking and thinking, ĎDo I
want to wear that?í Thatís different."
having his show in L.A. on Oscar weekend with an
all-star crowd, Ford made a stronger connection in
consumersí minds between his ready-to-wear and red
carpet clothes. On the Monday after the Grammys, a
mannequin front and center in his Beverly Hills store
was clad in the same beaded and fringed, plunge front
dress Nicki Minaj wore on the red carpet the night
before, only in an electric purple hue as opposed to the
black version worn by the superstar. Ford likes to
bellyache about the red carpet, and how the clothes are
"stuck in the 1950s," but heís awfully good
at making them.
when a gown doesnít get worn, "you better believe
the reject goes on someone else," he says. "No
oneís going to make a $20,000 dress and not use
was actually one of those rejections that inspired the
spring 2015 collection in stores now, at least in part.
Last June, when Ford was honored with American fashionís
highest accolade, the Council of Fashion Designers of
Americaís Lifetime Achievement Award, he designed
several things specifically for Rihanna to wear that
evening, which she rejected in favor of the Adam Selman-designed,
nearly naked crystal fishnet dress that caused a
worldwide collective jaw drop. "She was
right," Ford wrote in a blog post on his website.
"She looked more beautiful than I have ever seen
fearless fashion sense embraced by Rihanna and Miley
Cyrus was among the inspirations for Fordís slick
evening suits with flared pants, skirts short enough for
a thigh-high stocking to peek out, and risque gowns with
little more than pasties or strips of fabric to cover
the breasts. (Other inspirations: Greta Garboís
Adrian-designed costumes in the 1931 film "Mata
Hari," Ursula Andressí breasts from the opening
sequence of the 1965 film "The 10th Victim,"
and the seductive photographs of Carlo Mollino ó see
what I mean about cinematic?)
London in October, after the spring collection debuted
on the runway, fashion critics called the pasties
"silly" and "ridiculous." Ford says
he meant no disrespect. "Iíve always been an
equal-opportunity objectifier," he says. (Itís
true; while he was designing Yves Saint Laurent, he
featured full-frontal male nudity in a fragrance
advertisement long before Rick Owens let it all hang out
on his fall 2015 menswear runway earlier this year.)
is its most powerful when it is a reaction to what is
happening culturally," he says. "Think about
pant suits in the late í60s and early í70s as
reacting to feminism by saying, ĎHey, look, we can
wear pants, too.í And now think about what fashion
today says, which is, ĎHey, we are equal and
comfortable and can choose to express ourselves by
wearing jeans, or something that shows off our body
more. We are not defined by our clothing.í"
got his revenge on the pasties naysayers in L.A. in
November, when Rihanna and Miley Cyrus were photographed
rocking the barely there dresses they had inspired, the
night he was honored at the amfAR Inspiration Gala.
created a media sensation 100 times more powerful than
anything on a runway. Which raises the question about
showing in L.A.: What took him so long?