Tom Ford’s career at Gucci Group has been of the no-guts, no-glory kind. He developed a razor-sharp identity for the house by infusing smart, chic, wearable clothes with a now-iconic audacity and sexual presence.

Ford entered the cash-strapped, calamitous world of Gucci in 1990, working in relative obscurity under Dawn Mello and Richard Lambertson. He was named design director following Lambertson’s departure in 1992, and creative director in 1994. That year, Ford showed his first flash of brilliance when he transformed the classical bit loafer into a pointy-toe stiletto. It foreshadowed the emergence of the provocative, high-drama image that has for years captivated and thrilled the fashion industry — and millions of women the world over. The breakout came in March 1995. The Seventies-inspired blockbuster catapulted Ford into fashion’s stratosphere, and those satin shirts and velvet hipster pants, into fashion’s vernacular. Times were still so lean at Gucci that the supermodels who graced his runway were paid in clothes. That, of course, would change with a velocity that became the model for — and envy of — the industry.

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