Tom Ford has never been short on audacity. His much-anticipated directorial debut “A Single Man” premiered in January to rave reviews. Perhaps even more momentous to the fashion world was his stunning return to the women’s arena for spring with one of the most talked-about shows in recent memory. At a time when everything — fashion at the top of the list — is tweeted, posted and blogged about in near-real time, Ford refused to go with the cyber flow. Rather, he did what common wisdom says is now impossible: He controlled his message absolutely and completely.
To do so, Ford rejected the full-press-and-bloggers-welcomed type of presentation that now dominates the fashion calendar in favor of a hyper-intimate affair at his New York store: 100 guests, including friends and a tightly edited contingent of the traditional fashion audience of retailers and press. There was not a photographer in sight but for house photographer Terry Richardson, his several assistants and the videographer filming for Ford’s own Web site.
Ford showed not on a lineup of blandly beautiful models du jour but on friends he considers “some of the world’s most inspirational women.” Impeccably turned out in a tuxedo, he thus narrated the event, describing in camp detail the looks on each member of his glamorously diverse cabine that included, among others, Beyoncé, Lauren Hutton, Karen Elson, Marisa Berenson, Daphne Guinness, Rachel Feinstein, Rita Wilson and Lisa Eisner.
They made news with their fabulous, real-life clothes. Yet the bigger news was Ford’s all-out assault on the current fashion system — from the immediate worldwide access to imagery to the near-immediate loaners to virtually any starlet with a party invitation months before the clothes become available at retail.
Ford said that in upcoming seasons, he will show only to long-lead press, shutting out both print newspapers and cyber outlets. “I don’t get the need for this immediacy,” he told WWD the day after his show. “In fact, I think it’s bad. The way the system works now, you see the clothes, within an hour or so they’re online, the world sees them…They’re overexposed…I’m holding everything back, controlling all the photography…and [will] then put those images out at a time that they serve the customer.”
Whether Ford will ultimately triumph with his daring agenda as fashion’s debonair, anti-immediacy iconoclast remains to be seen. But he’s a tough guy to bet against.