Oh, Bleep!

That’s the thought bubble of everyone else staging a wear-now show this season, because on Wednesday night, the bar hit the stratosphere. But then, the man who set it just premiered his second full-length feature film at Venice to rave reviews. Would he let this intimate extravaganza (don’t you just love fashion oxymoron) fall short of spectacular?

Cecil B. De Tom Ford staged a dazzling display of confidence, skill and impressive clothes. Not inventive, daring, bring-one-to-tears clothes, but that wasn’t his intent. These days, he told WWD on Tuesday, “I’m more interested in style than fashion.” And long-term value: “Will someone wear this in 20 years?” He over-delivered.

Certainly, Ford had some advantages in the wear-now sweepstakes. Showing at the beginning of the week, his audience wasn’t yet “over it” (save perhaps those unfortunate souls who earlier in the day went to hell and back on the Yeezy ego bus). And given its ranks, 180 give or take, that audience felt valued, as if they were more than props for an extravagant Instagram orgy. Which it was — make no mistake. But Ford refused to sacrifice the live moment for the live-stream. He made both work. Fancy crowd? What do you think? Julianne Moore, Uma Thurman, Hailee Steinfeld, Cindy Crawford, Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Jon Hamm, Russell Westbrook, Rita Ora, Iman, Neil Patrick Harris, Karlie Kloss and on and on turned out.

Ford rented out a venue well-known to the fashion crowd, the former Four Seasons restaurant, which, for one more evening, pulsed with that irresistible swagger of wealth and power. Following cocktails in the Grill Room, the guests made their way to the Pool Room, where resin chairs encircled tables set with large bowls of cymbidium orchids, all in pristine white. These in turn surrounded the famous pool, covered over to create a big platform runway.

Ford’s message: unstuffy chic. Sexy, yes (they don’t call him Tom Ford for nothing), but deliberately elegant as well, on a lineup of models ranging from unknowns to knew-him-when beauties Carolyn Murphy and Amber Valletta. When Amber appeared, some in the audience (not the young people) couldn’t help but flash to her appearance under a hot Gucci spotlight in a green satin shirt and bell-bottoms for fall 1995, a defining moment of Ford’s career. Here, a reed-thin skirt anchored the prevailing silhouette. It started with a pair of gems in tweed, a major motif paired with small brown ombréd leather tops, lean but with subtle volume, one, like a scaled-down peasant’s blouse, and the other, a T-shirt with dropped shoulders and shirred sleeves. The former featured a multistrap harness effect, a recurring, faintly subversive touch. As Ford added volume on top, in trapezelike or blouson shapes, the look winked at late Fifties couture. Case in point: A billow of tweed atop a skirt of dark, moody sequined blocks. Evening was sparkly and glam.

The clothes were available immediately after the show on tomford.com and other sites, and are in store today, at Tom Ford and Bergdorf Goodman. “Fashion is about change,” said Bergdorf’s Linda Fargo, who noted that her visual team would work into the wee hours installing the collection. “We all have to be partners in exploring the changes in the way we all operate. I think these things are going to have tremendous snafus and bumps. It’s a big work in progress. I really applaud Tom for taking it on.” And for pulling it off.

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