#SuzyNYFW: Tom Ford – Seducing Clients as Much as the Camera

I feel that fashion has somehow lost its way, and it’s easy for all of us to be swept up by trends that have lost touch with what women and men actually want to wear,” Tom Ford said. “So I didn’t want to make clothes that were ironic or clever, but simply clothes that were beautiful.”

Ford’s quiet colours, introducing a dusky lilac and faded pink alongside smoky shades of black, achieved the designer’s aim for Spring/Summer 2019.

I stroked a leather jacket embossed to give the effect of crocodile and slid my fingers over the different depths of black. All around me – holding up dresses with inserts of silk and animal patterns; examining lean, body-conscious dresses; and trying on the dangerously pointed shoes, were potential clients – some of the 132 members of the audience who had watched the show, along with a raft of movie stars, at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan.

Alas, trapped on my plane from London, running six hours late, I was not one of them. But my visit the following morning to the Tom Ford store on Madison Avenue, where the collection was touchable and viewable up close, may have taught me more about what Tom was trying to say. Gone were last season’s garish colours, stretch leggings, and Hollywood glam. Maybe, if I had been sitting near Tom Hanks at the show, I would have felt a frisson of the Ford star power. But the designer has slipped away from non-stop paparazzi-friendly fashion. And he said so.

“I decided to take some time to think about why I wanted to become a fashion designer and what it was that I loved doing,” he explained. “Consequently, I thought about what I feel men and women really want in their lives. I became a fashion designer because I wanted to make men and women feel more beautiful and to empower them with confidence – of knowing that they looked their best and could then present their best selves to the world. I wanted to make clothes that were flattering; that make one look taller and slimmer and more beautiful or more handsome.”

Even the quiet palette was chosen to “soften the harshness of the world”. And both the men’s and women’s designs were unified “in colour, mood and a certain romance”.

“A softer colour palette seemed right to me this season,” Ford said. “Shades of nude and skin tones look especially beautiful. Flesh colours are sensual and have a warmth and humanity that I think we all crave at the moment. Warm white, powder blue, and the palest of lilacs and blush pink are important. And, of course, black is always a colour that I love working with. Black frames the face of the wearer and emphasises a silhouette. There is a kind of security in black.”

I felt fortunate that losing the impact of a live show was balanced somewhat by Tom’s unexpectedly frank and open descriptions of the clothes, their fabrics, and construction. He had announced earlier this year that he had become a vegan, which gave the introduction of some fake leather an extra frisson.

“Fabrics alternate between the softness and romance of lace, chiffon, georgette and even the lightest stretch leather, and the structure of harder leathers and fabrics, and the sheen of fake crocodile,” he said. “Chiffon, leather, and lace play off each other in this contrast of hard and soft. And in terms of mood, there is a certain languid sensuality and romance to this collection.”

What stood out for me was the bid for a modern elegance, with skirts just past the knee, softer, and asymmetrical. Tom pointed out that the dresses were almost always anchored by a corset, often in leather, to emphasise the waist.

So has the Tom Ford cheeky sensuality really disappeared? It seems to have slithered down to the feet, where edgy high-heeled shoes with a metal toe-cap and heel looked pretty aggressive.

As a prospective client slipped on the super-sharp footwear, a member of staff announced politely that the shoes would probably be going back to Italy so the lethal weapons could be softened up.