Ultra-Alluring Tom Ford
by laurie brookins
“He understands glamour and doesn’t apologize for it,” says actress Rita Wilson, who walked that initial show in a curve-hugging gown of appliquéd black velvet. “He understands what women want to feel like—that the clothes on a woman’s body must match the feeling of the mood he is creating for his client, so when you put on one of his pieces, you are transported to a place of fantasy, even though you are wearing his clothes in a very real way in the real world.” While Wilson says she found the experience “more nerve-wracking” than any of her film roles—“because it was his world, not one I had much experience in,” she adds without hesitation—“I would do it again in a second if he asked me.”
Model Amber Valletta has witnessed firsthand the evolution of Ford, having played a role in another essential chapter, his 1995 Gucci show, roundly agreed to be part of both a star-making turn for the designer and the irrefutable comeback of the storied Italian label. “I’m not one to dwell on things, but I recognize the importance of that moment,” says Valletta. “Fashion has changed so drastically since then. But we knew when we saw those clothes that they were special. We all looked so incredibly sensual and powerful, and there just wasn’t anything like it at the time. I remember walking that runway and feeling the power of that room.”
Valletta notes a force of a different kind when Ford invited her to take part in his September 2010 show, which also boasted a full-circle vibe. “Tom said, ‘It makes sense you’re here; you’re a good-luck charm,’” she recalls. “That show was extremely personal, and you were so close to the audience that they could reach out and touch your clothes. And Tom announced all of us, just like old-school runway.”
What Women Want
|Ford with actress Rita Wilson at the opening of his Beverly Hills store earlier this year.|
Because of the promotion and subsequent awards-season schedule resulting from A Single Man, Ford had only three months to craft his women’s debut; he enjoyed the luxury of a bit more time for his Fall/Winter 2011 collection, now sharing space with his men’s collection in the 9,200-square-foot Rodeo Drive boutique he opened in February. “My first [women’s] collection was really about returning to womenswear and establishing a framework for what the collection will be,” says Ford. “My second collection is much more developed in its size and scope, yet it is still about individuality. It consists of real clothes for real women. I want my shops to be somewhere a woman knows she can go when she wants a great jacket, a great pair of pants, a beautiful shoe, or a great bag,” he says.
Fall/Winter plays into that idea with some of the most sumptuous, tactile pieces to emerge from the season: a masterful mix of corset-like detailing on high-neck lace dresses, peplums on severely cut sheaths of crimson velvet, and stunning tuxedo suiting for evening. The latter is referred to in the fashion vernacular simply as a “smoking,” a term originally coined by Yves Saint Laurent when he famously introduced Le Smoking tuxedo dressing for women in 1966 (Ford served as creative director of YSL between 2000 and 2004). Ford accented these feminine, forward clothes with bold jewelry in hammered gold, gold-fringed handbags, and velvet sandals that wrap like ribbons around a woman’s foot.
“Tom has evolved with the times, but he has not left who he is behind; that’s what makes him so special,” says Valletta. “He has a very clear viewpoint of women and design, and he’s held fast to that, even as you see his ideas expand. His clothes have gotten more intelligent, sharper and more focused, and more exquisite.”
While that high-profile inaugural outing was rooted in defining who Ford is as a womenswear designer, standing on his own, and not being beholden to a house or label with a DNA built by another, this follow-up is comprised of his vision for crafting the ideal wardrobe. “Every woman needs a perfectly cut, tailored suit for day; a black cocktail dress; a smoking; a perfect pair of pumps with high heels,” says Ford. “The most important key to being well dressed, however, is for a woman to wear something that suits her style and body shape. A woman who is confident and knows what looks best will always look great.”
LAC celebrates the women of its May/June 2013 issue at Palihouse in West Hollywood.