The fashion icon and honored movie director’s rise to prominence, the inspiration behind his Fall 2017 collection and what we can expect in 2018. For over the past couple decades, Tom Ford has been one of the most—if not the most—brilliant and fearless minds in the fashion world. The 56-year-old designer might be known for being camera shy, but his work on the runway (and in the cinema) has spoken volumes to his innate creative ability; turning what once began as leap of faith, into one of the most sought-after labels on the market.
Beyond his vision, Ford has always been unapologetically himself—in both fashion and film. He knows his customer and while he may experiment from time to time, it’s an attribute which has kept discerning individuals coming back since long before launching his own brand in 2005.
The Texas-born Ford made his bones in the fashion world in the ‘90s, when he relocated to Milan with his now husband, Richard Buckley. Ford took a job at Gucci, which at the time was flirting with bankruptcy. The brand was in trouble, and everyone knew it. It had failed to reach the heights of other Italian names like Versace and Armani. Key players on Gucci’s design team began to step down, but Ford remained—ever devoted to his vision. And by 1994, Ford would be named creative director.
Over the next couple of years, Ford would show some of his most celebrated collections—debuting nuanced garments like velvet hip-huggers and tailored satin shirts. Not long after, brands all over began emulating Ford’s collections. Revenue was increasing exponentially for Gucci and with Ford at the helm, cleverly steering the brand’s identity, it would only continue to grow—putting Gucci back on the map in a big way.
By 1999, Ford had propelled the brand from its erstwhile tarnished image to a sexy, modern label that was worth an estimated $4.3 billion. Part of his success, aside from his unrelenting ambition, was to bring things up-to-date—looking at styles past and giving them a sort of contemporary refurbishment. Fashion is more or less a wheel that spins, styles come and go, and come back again in a newer, sometimes brighter, form meant to capture the eyes and hearts of the day’s consumer. Understanding this, Ford built the brand up by reviving Gucci classics and giving them a modern vibe. He did things other designers weren’t necessarily doing, took risks and became known for his sexually provocative ad campaigns and commercials. And even after Gucci bought stake in Yves Saint Laurent, and Ford was named creative director of YSL’s ready-to-wear line, he still continued to shock and wow editors and consumers alike with his designs for Gucci.
In 2004, at age 42, Ford found himself without a job. After leaving Gucci, and all he’d worked for in his expeditious rise to the top of the fashion world, he was left to battle his inner demons of depression and alcoholism. But never one to sit back and wait, Ford soon announced the inception of his film production company, an area of interest for the designer since he was a boy. Very shortly after, the designer also returned to fashion, and by 2005, “Tom Ford” became a label of its own—beginning with eyewear, menswear and beauty.
It wasn’t long before the designer and his company became one of fashion’s hottest brands. Distinguishing his consumers as “international” and “cultured” (and someone possessing disposable income), Ford grew to know who his customers were. Someone who knows their style. Over the last decade, the designer has dressed everyone from Beyoncé and Anne Hathaway to Johnny Depp and Will Smith. Even former First Lady Michelle Obama was spotted sporting a Tom Ford evening dress while attending a state dinner at Buckingham Palace in 2011, which at the time made complete sense as the American-born designer was headquartered in London. Ultimately, the ivory ‘goddess’ gown garnered Obama praise from the British press, in what some might say was one of her best looks.
Though some of his ad campaigns over the years certainly brought about controversy, Ford continued to do things his way—all the while crossing over to film. His first movie, “A Single Man” and 2016’s psychological thriller “Nocturnal Animals,” went on to be critically acclaimed, earning numerous nominations from the Academy Awards and Golden Globes among others. The shift to film speaks to the rarity of Ford’s creative genius, one that’s undoubtedly kept his brand (and its designer) draped in fame.
This year, after moving his atelier from the sometimes dreary city of London to sunny Los Angeles, Ford was inspired by the West Coast weather, using bright colors and tight-fitted garments in his Fall/Winter 2017 collections. Ford showed a different set of looks from his Fall 2016 collection which featured darker, looser fitting numbers. This year, Ford is gravitating towards more of what he used to do, and in addition to that, the Ready-to-Wear Fall 2017 collection is more indicative of what Ford knows his consumers want—a tighter fit. The line, touting colorful accents, features shorter dresses—an ode to the style Tom Ford buyers aspire to.
As always, rather than be true to traditional “runway” fashion, this fall’s RTW outfits were a mirror of what Ford knows his customers want to look like on a day-to-day basis. And although Ford recently said goodbye to his stint with see-now-buy-now—a strategy in which while the runway is happening live, the featured collection is made instantly available on the online store—it’s sufficed to say his Fall 2017 collection has been one of his most vibrant in recent memory. Ford even worked in an abundance of skin-tight leather skirts and pants—trends which have seen strong results for the brand overall.
This month, we will see Ford take to New York City’s Fashion Week, for which he will showcase his Spring 2018 Collection. He has taken stock of several recent collections which are a callback to the work he did during his time with Gucci, and he wants to bring some of that ‘90s flavor back. In a recent, candid interview with New York Magazine, Ford expressed his willingness to “go back” and reference the past. “That’s what this September’s show will be about,” he said. “I hope that I’m returning to what I’ve always believed in, but in a new way.” And like everything the designer sets out to do, we can’t wait to see it.