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PARIS — Tom Ford women’s wear is getting closer to reality, despite a hush-hush approach uncharacteristic for a designer known for his marketing razzle-dazzle and celebrity appeal.

This story first appeared in the March 26, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

According to sources, Ford is quietly assembling his design team, having recently tapped Caroline Tixier, a women’s ready-to-wear designer at Givenchy, and Pablo Coppola, an accessories designer at Alexander McQueen.

Asked about the hires, a Tom Ford spokeswoman had no comment Thursday. Domenico De Sole, Ford’s longtime business partner, also declined comment.

Speculation in Europe is mounting that Ford is plotting a fall 2011 launch for his return to women’s wear, but with a presentation rather than a runway blowout. The designer, who gained fame in the Nineties for catapulting Gucci into fashion’s major leagues as its creative director, is said to be mulling an introduction in Milan or New York.

Sources also said Ford is hammering out deals for launch exclusives with key retail partners.

In October, Ford finally went on the record and told WWD he would launch his brand’s first women’s collection “very soon,” but he has declined to give specifics, including on who might fund the project.

“Financing is extremely expensive right now, so if we find financing in the right situation we’ll be able to start [a women’s collection] soon. If we don’t, we may have to wait a while,” he said at the time. “You know it will take me 18 months when I start, because [I have] to hire the team, find the factories, put everything together and then get the stores ready so there’s a place for these clothes.”

Sources said Ford has been eyeing spaces in Shanghai for a large Tom Ford unit that would have space for women’s wear.

Ford and De Sole launched the Tom Ford brand in 2005, one year after their exits from Gucci Group, starting with partnerships with Marcolin Group for eyewear and Estée Lauder for beauty products.

In 2006, Ford signed a licensing agreement with the Ermenegildo Zegna Group for the production and distribution of a Tom Ford men’s collection, and has since expanded the concept globally, with freestanding boutiques, franchises and shop-in-shops, including one recently christened at the Isetan department store in Tokyo.

Ford dabbled in women’s wear in September when he dressed Julianne Moore, the star of his first, critically acclaimed, directorial effort, “A Single Man,” in a vivid green gown for the film’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival. He also dressed the movie’s star, Colin Firth, who was nominated for a best actor award at this year’s Oscars.

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