By  on December 6, 2005

This year, the luxury industry began investing in a Ford — Tom Ford, that is.

The designer, who left his post as creative director of the Gucci Group in spring 2004 and joined forces with former Gucci chief executive Domenico De Sole, inked deals this spring with the Estée Lauder Cos. and Italy's Marcolin Group. The partners also set up offices in Los Angeles and London, with an eye to creating a Tom Ford luxury conglomerate.

"We're back, and these are the first steps in a bigger plan," said De Sole, now chairman of the Tom Ford brand, in April. "We'll be doing very specialized products [and are] thinking through more licenses and the possibility of directly owned stand-alone stores. The brand is going to be very high-end, and all of the products will be positioned at the level of Chanel and Hermès. We want to create the first true luxury brand of this century. And, as always, we're doing our own thing, developing our own business model. The process started last summer, and we've been looking at this brand from every angle and trying to see what fits and what doesn't. We're going to make this very big, but we're going to build it slowly and at a deliberate pace."

And, De Sole pointed out, the new company has just two people's money involved: his and Ford's.

The beauty deal, signed in April, has been the first to bear fruit — and early results show that the designer, who is president and ceo of his brand, hasn't lost any of his mojo. Ford's initial effort involved updating Estée Lauder's iconic Youth Dew in a 13-stockkeeping-unit collection. A new twist on the Youth Dew juice, Youth Dew Amber Nude, will remain on counter and even expand its distribution, although the other sku's in the collection are limited editions.

The Tom Ford Amber Nude collection hit 100 upscale retail doors in mid-November, and the limited-edition products have all but sold through. In fact, more than 1,000 consumers packed into Saks Fifth Avenue's Manhattan flagship on Nov. 3 to meet the designer and see the products. Ford was said to have broken the store's existing attendance records for a personal appearance with his event. Sources estimated more than $30,000 worth of the collection — including bronzer, lip polish and a $550 gold minaudière — was sold during the two-hour event.

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