Tom Ford goes for clean lines

NEW YORK • Tom Ford, one of fashion's most passionate proponents of sex, glamour and dressing, returned to New York Fashion Week last Wednesday night with a runway show calibrated for maximum oomph: a collection modelled by Amazons (Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Joan Smalls, among them) amply bedazzled but often without pants; stars Kim Kardashian and Chaka Khan planted in the front row; and the air thick with the heady scent of Ford's new fragrance, called, in a perfect Tom Fordism, (Expletive) Fabulous.

After the show, as the after-party kicked off, the unfiltered Ford, unruffled and suave in his customary suit, took a few minutes to chat.

You do not break a sweat anymore?

Oh, I break a sweat six weeks before, when I think. "What am I going to do?" Or when the clothes finally get finished and I think, "This doesn't look the way I thought it was going to look, what am I going to do?"

Then when you're looking on looks, something turns and you have a day where you think, "Yes, that's it." And then the next day, "That's not it." Then, by the time you get to this stage, the clothes are done, they're on the girls, you've made the decisions, the hair's done, the make-up's done, it is what it is, you love it, you feel good.

Model Kendall Jenner (above left) on the runway for the Tom Ford show.
Model Kendall Jenner (above left) on the runway for the Tom Ford show. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

I've always been relaxed. But I've been doing this for 30 years. I used to do 16 collections a year.

There has been a lot of hand- wringing about people leaving New York Fashion Week and here you are, riding in to take it over?

I've shown in Paris a lot. I lived there for 10 years. I've shown in Milan a lot. I've lived in London for the last 20 years. Shown there. I've shown in New York only a few times, but I've based my women's design studio in Los Angeles and it only made sense to show in New York.

As a brand, I've tried a lot of things and I have the luxury to do that. But at this point, what I want to do is establish a consistency. This is our look, this is what I do, this is when I show, this is the city I show in. If you want to succeed at the game, you have to be in it. So I decided to come to New York Fashion Week.

And the look will remain consistent?

The spirit, yes. I mean, you have to change the clothes. It's a new season. The spirit. Which is very similar, I hope, to the sort of spirit I had in the 1990s, really, at Gucci.

Do you feel you have taken a break from that spirit and you are returning to it?

I've taken a break from it. I've done a lot of different things. But I think in fashion right now, there's a feeling of the 1990s. And there's also been a lot of more is more is more is more is more. I wanted to take all that away, go back to something cleaner, sharper. That's what I did.

Was the name of (Expletive) Fabulous a eureka moment?

I actually said in a meeting, "This is (expletive) fabulous." I thought, "Why don't we just call it that?" (Ford gasps, imitating his audience.) "We can't say that, how would we do that, how will we advertise, we can't put it on Instagram, what are we going to do?" It's great.

In a recent interview, you said Americans were getting very prudish. Was this a way of calling attention back to what really matters?

I think we have become quite prudish. Or maybe not "we", but corporations are afraid of offending a certain segment of the market. It's very interesting. We have more personal freedom and people are so concerned with being politically correct that sometimes it actually restricts them.

So is this an opportunity to put the expletive front and centre, where you feel it belongs?

Oh, it's not even that big of a statement. (The fragrance is) not for sale any place a little kid is going to wander in and say, "Mum, what's that word?" It's available only in my stores. And it's almost sold out... I don't know how many millions of impressions we've had.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2017, with the headline 'Tom Ford goes for clean lines'. Subscribe