Tom Ford : Life after Gucci #2
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Join Date: Mar 2006
Tom Ford Disses Fashion World's Cult of Immediacy
NEW YORK ó Tom Ford: Film directoró check. Fashion designer ó check. Entrepreneur ó check. Is he also this decadeís Helmut Lang? Thatís Helmut as in the man who single-handedly changed the international fashion system because its then-current schedule didnít work for him.
In a conversation on Monday, the morning after his no-photographers-allowed show (except those hired by the house) that nevertheless had the entire industry buzzing as instantly as one can say tweet, Ford looked as handsome as he did the night before. Then, he had stood next to one of the pair of huge dark vases, his soldierly posture in counterpoint to the perfectly meandering tree branches (bare magnolia branches with pink cymbidium orchids individually attached, to be precise) that flanked the modernist fireplace of his Madison Avenue store, the spot from which he narrated the fashion show that marked his return to the womenís arena.
Ford is well known for his savvy, but even by his sky-high standards, this was a coup: a genuine hot ticket filled with magnificent clothes that felt like the party of the season. It ran completely counter to the more-is-more, huge-venue, any-and-all-celebrities-welcomed, beam-instantly-around-the-world current that defines so much of fashion today. And everyone lucky enough to be there lapped it up.
Yes the clothes were news: gorgeous, commercially viable, unmistakably Tom Ford sexy. Karen Katz, who assumes the chief executive officer slot at Neiman Marcus Group Oct. 6, called it ďamazing.Ē
Though the collection will make its debut for spring only in Tom Ford stores, Neimanís and Bergdorf Goodman have secured it for fall 2011. ďIt was more than we could have ever imagined,Ē Katz said. ďThe suits were remarkable; the fabrics and details, just beautiful. The special evening pieces were extraordinary, but as a retailer, to see the suits is so important. The presentation was unique and so special ó Iím just sorry more of our team didnít get to see it. We were overwhelmed. It exceeded our expectations by a lot.Ē
Unlike those collections of Fordís legendary Gucci/YSL reign, this was not of the single-focus school of staging a show. Rather, it celebrated individual style, a point Ford made by casting a lineup of real women. Make that ďidealized versionsĒ of the real customers heís targeting (not even he can convince you completely that Beyoncť Knowles is just BeBe from the block), a lineup that included a rainbow of ages, ethnicities and ó drumroll ó body types. (Mind you, he didnít exactly cast a house, but not everyone had the body of Chanel Iman.)
But if youíre reading this now, chances are you already knew all that. The bigger news is that Ford plans to put the X (as in X, youíre out) back into the notion of exclusivity. Thus, while he has released a few stingy ambience photos, including the one seen here, thatís going to be it for months. Save for phone photos his guests may have gotten away with, he will remain in complete control of all images until he deems their release in the interests of the consumer.
ē No full-look photos to run alongside fashion reviews. And, by the way, he no longer gives a hoot about fashion reviews.
ē No complete run-of-show anywhere on the Internet.
ē No magazine coverage until January issues, to whet the consumer appetite for February deliveries.
ē No celebrities wearing the clothes until December.
ďThis fashion immediacy thingÖif you can see them and press a button and they can be shipped to your house, I get fashion immediacy.ÖI donít get the need for this immediacy. In fact, I think itís bad.Ē
Here, Ford elaborates on why heís back on the womenís circuit.
WWD: At long last, Tom Fordís return to womenís.
Tom Ford: When I first got back into fashion with fragrance and eyewear, I wasnít sure I was going to do anything more than that. The whole thing has developed organically. Menís developed organically because I didnít have anything to wear, and still at that point I didnít think I would ever do womenís [again].
It wasnít until probably two years ago that I thought, OK, I will actually do womenís again. To tell you the truth, I was watching a film with Tilda Swinton ó Iím not going to say which one ó and she had some good clothes. It was Christmas. I was in Mustique and I get all the Academy screeners. I was watching films and I picked up the phone and called Domenico [De Sole] and I said, ďI want to do a womenís collection. Iím ready to do it.Ē And I thought he was going to jump through the roof with joy. But I had started working on my film and I knew that it would take time to set up manufacturing and all that because we are doing this all ourselves. This is not a licensee. Weíre manufacturing and producing everything ourselves with factories in Italy.
I was doing the film and I actually thought that I could sort of throw together a design studio in L.A. really fast, sew these clothes up really quickly and get them out. Then I really quickly realized, no. As of March, I didnít have a design team. I hired my entire design team in March, set up my design office in London, signed some manufacturing deals with the factories in Italy and produced this entire collection between April and July ó shoes, bags, clothes, jewelry, every single bit of it. Weíre moving into new offices in London next week. Iíve taken a great 10,000-square-foot space, which will be my design studio and selling showroom.
WWD: For everything ó menís and womenís?
T.F.: No, just womenís wear. Iíll be selling and showing menís in Milan, but Iím going to be selling womenís in London.
WWD: Why did you decide to do that?
T.F.: Because this is the next 30 years of my life. Iím tired of flying around all over the world. I live in London a good part of the year. My design studio is in London. Iím migrating my showrooms to London. That way, I can make a movie in London, I can edit in London, I can have my design studio in London, I can sell in London, I can put the collections together in London and I can have a real base and a real life and spend less of my time on an airplane. Obviously Iíll keep my L.A. and Santa Fe [N.M.] bases. Iím expanding my offices in Los Angeles. Weíre opening our L.A. store Oscar week. Iím expanding my store in Las Vegas. All of our free-standing stores, including our franchisees, are right now being converted to hold this womenís collection for spring 2011.
WWD: How many freestanding stores?
T.F.: Twenty-eight. There will be, like, 30 by the time we open, and I own a good deal of them. For example, we had a partnership in Asia and that didnít work out as well as we wanted so we took it back. So when I sold my nice big Warhol at Sothebyís, I paid for Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai. I built the stores and own them.
WWD: What was the Warhol?
T.F.: I sold a big self-portrait that set a record for $32 million. I took it off my wall in London, sold it, and with that money built those three stores. I think it will be a better investment over the long haul.
WWD: Youíre not at all sentimental about that?
T.F.: I am sentimental about paintings. I happen to have a lot of Warhols and I happen to have a really good friend who said, ďNowís a great time to sell a Warhol.Ē I actually do have sentiment about those things. But weíre all on this planet for a short time. We donít really own anything. We get to enjoy it. I enjoyed it. Itís gone. Fine. Iíve got three stores and theyíre beautiful.
WWD: Back to this womenís launch.
T.F.: It happened organically. I told myself I would not come back to womenís until I felt I had something new to say, and I decided Iím only going to do it if I have fun. Which means Iím going to do it my way. If itís successful, great. If itís not, Iíll close it. But I think it will be successful. Iím probably not going to show [on the runway]. I will do just what I do with menís ó showroom presentations for magazines. I donít want to design collections for newspaper reviews. I want to concentrate on real women and the real customer. That was also one reason last night I showed on idealized versions of our real customers, all different women of all different ages. It was all about individuality, individual style, different body types, women who have their own style.
WWD: What is it that you want to say in clothes? What is the new?
T.F.: Iíve been watching fashion for the last five or six years, obviously on the side, but I think weíve strayed away from real clothes. I think that there are fashion designers who are artists. Alexander McQueen was an artist. He was a breathtaking, spectacular, go-down-in-history artist. What I do, and Iíve always said this, is commercial design. I want to make beautiful clothes for women and men who appreciate detail, quality. Thatís what I do. I felt that I wasnít seeing that coming from anywhere else. And I wanted fashion to be fun. I think all the funís gone out of fashion.
WWD: What is fun to you?
T.F.: Last night was fun. I had so much fun and I think the audience had fun. I think the girls had fun. I think that people need to smile, I think people need to laugh, I think fashion needs to make you enjoy life.
WWD: Are you saying that girls showing clothes should smile?
WWD: You never had smiles on your Gucci runway
T.F.: Different time, different thing. I used to do one look and that was the look ó the hair, the shoes, the bag. Also, you know, shows slowly evolved into that thing of a bank of cameras at one end of the room. If you look back at shows from the Seventies, they looked like what you saw last night. I wanted that intimacy. My clothes ó some of them might not have held up on a runway. I wanted everyone to see the details.
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