By  on October 29, 2007

MILAN — Any doubt of Tom Ford’s global appeal was quickly squelched last week following a special appearance here at La Rinascente department store. More than 1,000 admirers surged the fragrance floor of the luxury retailer on Wednesday night just to snap photos of the American designer. 

Ford, in his only public appearance for the worldwide launch of his first men’s scent, Tom Ford For Men, indulged the masses by signing bottles, air kissing and posing for cell-phone photos for close to two hours. 

“It’s always great when people turn out and respond to what you’re doing and show you they like what you do,” Ford told DNR. “It’s also always a little surprising.” 

The official European launch follows the successful American one, where the clean but sensual fragrance broke a new sales record for men’s scents at Saks Fifth Avenue. La Rinascente sold more than 500 bottles during the event. 

Ford has proven himself a master of olfactory. His first fragrance, Black Orchid, with his beauty licensee Estée Lauder, continues to outperform plan, while his 12-scent collection, Private Blend, has proven a challenge to keep in stock. “It is a constant, consistent stream of sales,” Ford said of the custom juices, adding that although more units of Tom Ford For Men are being sold within his New York store, Private Blend accounts for more dollar sales. 

Ford’s aggressive foray into beauty is set to expand. The designer hinted that a men’s skincare and grooming line was in the pipeline, but declined to give specifics. 

The Texan may have been in Milan for the launch, but true to his multitasking ways, he was also firming up details on his second eponymous store set to open here in the city’s fashion quadrilateral. 

Ford will take over the former Ermenegildo Zegna store on Via Verri, just off of Via Montenapoleone. Neighbors include Canali, Dsquared, Jil Sander and Berluti. Construction on the 10,000-square-foot space is set to begin early next year, and an opening is expected for early summer 2008. 

“It’s bigger than the New York store, and we’ll have not only more selling space, but more stock space as well,” Ford said. 

While the Milan boutique will pull from the design sensibility of the Madison Avenue flagship, Ford said, the architecture would also reflect the Milanese spirit of the multiple-floor, Fascist-era palazzo.

Milan is just one of many retail initiatives. Come spring, Ford will truly turn global as Harrods dedicates what may become the largest in-store shop in its history to the Tom Ford brand. 

Ford said Bergdorf Goodman has also allotted an impressive amount of real estate to his label. His other U.S. retail partner, Neiman Marcus, will introduce the collection in five locations this spring. Ford said the collection would eventually expand to 10 Neiman’s stores. 

Ford added that he also signed a lease for the second Tom Ford store in the U.S., but declined to say where.A series of stores are under construction in the Middle East, Moscow and Hong Kong. As reported, Ford expects to open 100 stores over the next eight years. “The time is now,” Ford said. 

“Because of the fact that I am a known entity, and because of the fact of my age and because of the fact that in fashion, when you have the right thing at the right time, you have to really go with it, there’s no reason to wait around.” 

Ford hasn’t stopped since he plotted his return to fashion more than two years ago. He’s been traveling extensively, observing the men’s market and formulating his own ideas of where luxury is moving.

Like most executives in the fashion industry, Ford’s incredibly bullish on China where he’ll partner with Lane Crawford as well as roll out his own stores. 

“China is really going to be the future for men’s wear and the future for luxury,” Ford said. “This is a society that has a history of being very materialistic, and they’ve been denied materialism for a long time. Whether we like it or hate it, it is also a patriarchal society ... when these men make money, the first thing they do is put it on themselves.”

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