The Enduring Legacy Of TOM FORD
September 2023 was significant for hip-hop heads and fashion fans alike. It marked a full 10 years since the release of “Tom Ford” by Jay-Z, a Timbaland-produced, electro-infused ode to one of the fashion industry’s most iconic figures. Arriving hot on the heels of “Versace” by Migos and “Fashion Killa” by A$AP Rocky, “Tom Ford” heralded a pivotal moment in the history of hip-hop and ushered in the era of the high-fashion name drop. It was significant for TOM FORD, too, confirming it as one of only a handful of serious fashion labels that could claim proper, mainstream brand recognition.
Speaking to the fashion publication WWD at the time of the track’s release, Mr Tom Ford described it as “kind of a validation of one’s work, as it means that one has really penetrated and made an impact on popular culture”. And while nobody in the fashion industry would question Ford’s influence – the man was creative director of Gucci, after all – what’s striking when looking back now is just how rapidly the TOM FORD name crossed over from fashion and embedded itself firmly in the public consciousness as a byword for a lavish, A-list lifestyle.
Compared with Versace, Gucci and the other major fashion houses to have been enshrined in rap verse, the TOM FORD brand was a relative newcomer at the time of Jay-Z’s high-profile tribute, having launched in 2005 as a small collection of fragrances. Menswear followed a year later, but it was not until 2010 that the brand debuted its first womenswear collection. It took a further three years for the press to be invited to its seasonal presentations, which had previously been held behind closed doors in the style of a Parisian haute-couture salon.
If any fashion brand were destined to become a household name, then it was surely TOM FORD. That is partly due to the name itself, which has a balance and a rhythm that makes it ideal for a fashion brand. It’s as if those two crisp syllables were made to be embossed onto leather or stitched into the lining of a suit. It’s not quite nominative determinism – the theory that people’s names can inspire their chosen path in life, so, for example, a man born with the surname Baker might be more inclined to a career in breadmaking – but with those two strong words, it was surely Ford’s fate to become a one-man brand.
Far more influential than the name, though, is the person to whom it belongs. A perfect embodiment of the brand, Ford has been his own biggest source of inspiration. His jet-setting lifestyle laid the groundwork for each of his collections. Think of the languid, floral-patterned silk dressing gowns of a couple of years ago, conceived during Covid when Ford was cooped up in his Los Angeles pad. Or the refined interpretations of cowboy attire, inspired by time spent at his ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The man and the brand have always seemed inseparable.
All of which leads us to the inevitable question: where does TOM FORD go from here? Its menswear may point the way. Just days after Ford’s departure was announced with a final womenswear collection in April, an archival reissue that featured his favourite looks from the past 13 years, the brand announced Mr Peter Hawking as its new creative director. He has worked closely with Ford since his time at Gucci and has spent the past decade or so overseeing TOM FORD’s men’s collections.
What better time, then, to take a look at the brand’s latest capsule collection, which was designed by Hawkings and his team exclusively for MR PORTER? Drawing inspiration from the sharply dressed mod subculture of 1960s London, employing an almost exclusively monochrome palette and featuring English heritage fabrics and patterns such as herringbone and puppytooth check, this is an archival reissue of its own in a way. It is based loosely on the brand’s MR PORTER debut collection from 2015.
You may recognise a piece or two. The leathers and eveningwear, in particular, are sure to feel familiar. It is a dapper, urbane vision for men’s style: a timely retrospective that looks back fondly, but points to the future.