As Tom Ford Gets A Big New Fashion Role, What’s His Legacy In The Industry?
He cut his teeth at big brands like Gucci, before going on to set up his own label and then delving into the world of film
21 March 2019
All Credits: PA
Tom Ford has officially been elected as chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). It’s a big get for the designer, who is taking over from Diane von Furstenberg.
Women’s Wear Daily reports that reinventing New York Fashion Week, and continuing on with the CFDA’s work of tackling sustainability and diversity, will be top of Ford’s agenda when he assumes the role in June.
The CFDA’s mission statement is “to strengthen the impact of American fashion in the global economy”, and it does so by various awards and bursaries aimed towards boosting American designer profiles and giving newer names a boost.
Few in the fashion world were surprised at the appointment – Ford has been a giant in the industry for years. As he takes on this major new role, what kind of legacy does he have in the industry?
Ford started his fashion career in the US, but soon made the decision to leave for Europe. He told the New York Times in 1996: “If I was ever going to become a good designer, I had to leave America. My own culture was inhibiting me. Too much style in America is tacky. It’s looked down upon to be too stylish. Europeans, however, appreciate style.” Looking back, this quote might be a little bit awkward in light of his new appointment, but maybe he’s changed his mind more than 20 years later.
He proved himself a risk-taker early on by leaving New York for Milan in 1990 to be the head designer of womenswear at Gucci. This was a bold move because Gucci wasn’t then what it is now – it wasn’t seen as particularly ‘cool’ and it didn’t have much of a presence in fashion or popular culture.
Charlize Theron at the 2004 Oscars in a Gucci gown (Ian West/PA)
Almost against all odds, Ford changed this and a few years later was promoted to creative director of the brand. He’s credited with modernising the brand and saving it from bankruptcy – he overhauled Gucci’s aesthetic and made it much sexier and more wearable.
When the Gucci group bought the ready-to-wear division of Yves Saint Laurent in 2000, Ford started designing womenswear there as well. The designer Saint Laurent was said to be rude about Ford’s work, but Ford still managed to win prizes and plaudits for his ultra-sexy and sleek designs.
He then set up his own label…
Ford brought his own label to London in 2014 (Yui Mok/PA)
He works outside of fashion as well…
Ford (second from left) and the stars of his film A Single Man (Ian West/PA)
The fashion industry is quite an insular one, and yet Ford has shown that he’s not content with just designing. In 2009 he made his directorial debut with the adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s novel A Single Man, starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore.
In 2016 he directed Nocturnal Animals, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams. Both films were broadly well-received, and showed off his background as a fashion designer with beautiful clothes and elegant cinematography.