Tom Ford, The King of NYFW

Tom Ford was in the headlines in July when it was reported that he was exploring the potential sale of his brand. The designer has said little in the months since, but industry talk has had it that the deal could be worth $3 billion. So it’s no wonder he put on the razzle dazzle tonight, packing the room with celebs—Madonna, Chris Rock, and Ciara, among them—and sending out a collection with Hollywood Boulevard and Elvis-in-Las-Vegas vibes, heavy on the pastel lamé, Nudie Suit-style embroideries, and black lingerie lace.

This was a New York Fashion Week in which the bared body was the locus of attention. Ford wrote that book nearly 30 years ago. Tonight’s collection looked back on his different chapters, the sheer tees and black satin bra tops evoking a Gucci spring 2001 show, the deconstructed chiffon dresses reminiscent of a YSL outing for spring 2002. Friends and collaborators who have been with him since those days, like Carine Roitfeld, Elizabeth Saltzman, and Lisa Eisner, were in attendance, but he had things for the Instagram generation, too. A year ago he was talking about the ways in which social media has changed fashion, killing off subtlety in favor of high impact. The sequin patches decorating cargo shorts and the fringed cowboy shirts here certainly qualified.

The menswear was slightly more tempered, if not as traditional as the Tom Ford tux Jason Sudeikis scored in at the Emmys on Monday. A hot pink zoot suit was accompanied by a necktie that looked wider and shorter than recent examples.

For all the glossy surfaces and metallic shine, however, there was an undeniable melancholic undercurrent. When the daywear section concluded, a soundtrack of upbeat ’80s hits was swapped out for Freddie Mercury singing “Time Waits for No One.” Ford lost his husband Richard Buckley nearly a year ago. On Saturday, the photographer William Klein died, and today fashion mourned Roxanne Lowit, who was among the first photographers to romance the behind-the-scenes action at runway shows. One of Lowit’s early subjects was Pat Cleveland, a frequent model for Yves Saint Laurent, and she was in the audience this evening, too.

The pandemic has accelerated a generational shift the reverberations of which will only become more pronounced. Nothing stays the same, but Ford has his sexy extrovert signatures, and he’s sticking with them—all the way down to the cheeky lace underthings.

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