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A Chat With the Ever-Evolving Tom Ford

By Matthew Schneier

“Classics,” designer Tom Ford said, looking out over his showroom. “We make classic menswear. That’s what I like on men.”

Directly in front on him was a display of evening jackets: one in a Pucci-esque swirl of psychedelic greens, another in an electric shade of pink. A few models were circling the room, some outfitted for evening, one in an animal-print swimsuit small enough to ball up in your fist. It was 9 a.m.

Ford is returning to colour. He had been in a neutral mood the past few seasons, but now colour is back, often shown in the tone-on-tone style he prefers.

“It’s a very sort of ‘70s thing to do,” he said. “There was, in the ‘70s, a moment when even a few luxury companies used to sell a tonal shirt and tie together in a plastic box. I love that.” He himself, as usual, was in his customary dark palette. “I don’t wear these kinds of colours,” he said. “You have to learn what works on you.”

His clients, on the other hand, are open to the full range of possibilities, from the boardroom-restrained to the ballroom-fabulous. Whatever the style, it leans toward the lavish. Ford showed tennis shoes but also pool slide sandals, in velvet — an ornamental if not strictly functional touch, since velvet is a fabric you might want to keep at some distance from the pool.

“I don’t know,” he said, when a reporter offered that observation. “I wear velvet all the time.”

Ford, 55, is not an uninterrupted presence in Milan, as some of his contemporaries are. He has hopscotched around the fashion weeks of the world, showing his menswear and his womenswear sometimes by appointment, sometimes in runway shows, in different cities and different time frames: He experimented with the “buy now, wear now” model of showing clothes on the runway in season and making them immediately available, which, he said, “unfortunately didn’t work.”

And although he said he maintained focus on his collections throughout, he spent much of the past few years absorbed by his second film, “Nocturnal Animals.” Today, he was greeting small numbers of invited guests for a quiet showroom presentation. The next spectacle will have to wait until his next women’s runway show in New York in September. (Ford’s runway shows tend to be as star-studded as his premieres.)

For now, for men, there are the classics, dialled up. Ford makes a full wardrobe: suits (business, swim), casual wear, jeans, glasses, boots, shoes, 39 fragrances, with timepieces to come in the fall.

“There’s not really a thing for men we don’t make,” he said.

The grace note, underwear, will follow next spring. Soon, nothing will come between the man of means and his Toms.