Shift To West

Does the Los Angeles presentation indicate that Tom Ford is going even stronger on Hollywood glamour and downtown-LA relaxed, whatever the point might be?


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The sweatshirts with the sleeves hacked perhaps tell us that we’re not in New York anymore. We are in a city where high indeed mingles with low, and where Hedi Slimane once designed Saint Laurent. Los Angeles, we have been told, has a lively fashion scene and its own fashion week. Some of the world’s most recognisable and visible models-by-profession come from here: the Jenners and the Hadids, as well as models-by-accident, the Kardashians, for examples. And Tom Ford isn’t going to alienate the people he has come to woo. He knows what LA wants and he churns out what LA wants: high-octane glamour, even if there are sweat tops with ripped armholes. The purposely insouciant needs to pair with impossibly sleek.

Tom Ford chose to show in LA, presumably to take advantange of the A-listers of the entertainment industry, in town for the Oscars. Surprisingly there aren’t that many award-night gowns in the line-up. These are clothes for everyday—streets of the city need such amped-up straightforwardness. These are for dolling up even when there’s no reason to; for believing that gym clothes can be re-purposed when paired with a silk, bias-cut skirt; for days when a fancy blouse seems uncool at parent-teacher meetings and to show that even if there are those women who pick similar garments, they won’t look the same. Mr Ford has infused so much glamour in them that ripped edges are frays of pizzazz.

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Glamour also means that you’d need a leopard-print coat, worn with a cropped T-shirt and a pair of drawstring pants. You sense that Mr Ford designs with a fixed idea of what his women are like and what they do in their high life, glamour pervading everything they execute, even just to step out of the house for Jamba Juice. It is an idea that probably isn’t rooted in what actually takes place in wherever—and whenever and for whatever—but sounds/appears nice, just like the “crisp white shirt” that some designers still imagine women love to wear for walking their dog. Mr Ford’s sense of glamour is not quite based on the far more beguiling, the remote, the mysterious, the unconventional. Rather, it hinges on conventions of present-day, #metoo-a-mere-memory Hollywood, on actresses who can’t carry a dress if it is not slashed down or slit up to there.

Being a movie man himself—director no less— and one who, in person, personifies glamour, Mr Ford knows not only what it takes to be glamourous, but, more importantly, what’s necessary to create an illusion of glamour. The evening wear segment (and it is segmented, with a pause and change of tempo to the soundtrack), at a time just before the Oscars, is presumably to lure attendees to the biggest award show of the season. Yet, hardly anything was majorly red-carpet worthy, which is perhaps why we later see no one in Tom Ford on the Oscars Red Carpet Show. These are more after-awards party clothes than what actresses would like to wear to emerge from the limo and sashay down the red carpet and do whatever they need to do before participating in the ceremony. 

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It is hard to imagine, for example, why anyone would want to slip into that dress on Bella Hadid: a sheer, rhinestoned, halter-neck number oddly fastened with a pair of limp velvet bows, and yanked at the left collar bone to one side, exposing half the breast and leaving the neckline gaping. Or, the bondage dress with a bodice that looks like how raffia might be stored in a disorganised bottom drawer. Or, the lace gown that appears to have been dropped on model Binx Walton from a drone, exposing, a la Dior, the complete set of underclothes. 

Curious still is the need to close the presentation with a wedding dress. Is Mr Ford hoping to cash in on LA’s bridal wear business? When it appeared, the dress and the wearer look like an apparition, and could pass off as the sheet-covered (but glamourous, of course) character in 2017’s A Ghost Story. Or, is it Vera Wang costuming for James Wan? When he took the bow at the end of the show, it is hard to remember what was presented before that, except, perhaps, for those ridiculous feathered drop-earrings. Sixteen years after he quit Gucci, is Tom Ford still an accurate mediator of the collective imagination or taste? Maybe only within the realm of Hollywood. Or, the fueled-by-fantasy sprawl that is Los Angeles.

Photos: Alessandro Lucioni/