Tom Ford Final Women’s Collection Releases

It’s the end of the runway for Tom Ford.

The designer just dropped his final fall women’s ready-to-wear collection on his website, which consists of reproductions of his favorite looks from the past 13 years shown in three Tom Ford Archive videos shot by Steven Klein.

Like the film director he has become, Ford orchestrated his exit in cinematic style. With his models in glass vitrines, he stands in front like a conductor, animating them as if they were mannequins coming to life in a museum display. (Coming out just days before the Costume Institute’s Met Gala, it begs the question: after this year’s tribute to Karl Lagerfeld, could Ford be next?)

Amber Valletta, Joan Smalls, Karlie Kloss, Karen Elson and Caroline Trentini strut and strike poses for the maestro, crescendoing to an operatic finish. A black-veiled Kloss clutches her head and Valletta wails — in mourning and poking fun at the designer’s departure. He walks off set in his perfect suit, his brogues clip-clopping.

Ford was never quite able to bring the same fashion magic to his eponymous women’s collection that he did to his menswear, or to Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent during his tenures there in the ‘90s and early 2000s.

But he was able to use the Tom Ford runways to expand his cult of personality and his celebrity fan club, which was unrivaled until the European conglomerates began turning their fortunes on Hollywood. That was its own magic, stoking the success of Ford’s beauty brand, and driving the value of his company so high, he was able to sell to the Estée Lauder Cos. for $2.8 billion in November.

A collection of Tom Ford's favorite archival looks throughout the years recreated for his final runway show and shot by Steven Klein.

A still from the Tom Ford Archival collection videos, featuring recreations of the designers favorite archival looks throughout the years and shot by Steven Klein. Steven Klein/Courtesy of Tom Ford

Seizing the power of stardom from the start, when he first launched his womenswear in 2010 during an intimate show at his Madison Avenue boutique during New York Fashion Week, he tapped Beyoncé, Julianne Moore (who costarred in his 2009 directorial film debut “A Single Man”) and Rita Wilson to walk the runway, among others.

And it’s those famous women who spring to mind when watching his final ready-to-wear videos.

It may be the models on the screen, but it’s the famous figures who wore the clothes in real life that are seared in the memory.

There’s the white cape gown Gwyneth Paltrow wore to the 2012 Oscars, the 2014 sequin athletic jersey minidress inspired by Jay Z’s love of Ford, and subsequently rocked by Beyoncé on stage during the Mrs. Carter World Tour, and the fuchsia-chromed breastplate and evening skirt debuted by a “Euphoria” ascendent Zendaya at the 2020 Critics Choice Awards.

There’s also the cobalt blue fringe dress Elson wore at Ford’s first show, a denim jacket and skirt with animal print paneling, and a sequin gown with a swirling, ’70s-inspired modernist motif, both looks timeless and very L.A.

Always chasing the zeitgeist, and aiming to innovate in the show space, over the years Ford flirted with the see now, buy now model. He bypassed the runway altogether one season, presenting his collection via a music video starring Lady Gaga, and eventized his runway another, enlisting a Golden Globes cameraman to film his star-studded red carpet, dinner, runway show and Leon Bridges performance, so fans livestreaming the presentation on his website had a fantastic view. 

He brought his runway west two times, including somewhat controversially, pre-Oscars and just after his taking on the role of chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Appearing in commercials as a child, Ford always had an affinity for L.A. and maintained a second home in Beverly Hills when he worked in Europe. After his careers at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, he initially said he was quitting the fashion industry altogether, heading for Hollywood in 2004. Intent on a directing career, he opened Fade to Black Productions in the former Geffen Records building, settling into the Hollywood lifestyle.

A collection of Tom Ford's favorite archival looks throughout the years recreated for his final runway show and shot by Steven Klein.

Amber Valetta, Karen Elson, Karlie Kloss, Jane Smalls and more in Tom Ford archival looks, shot by Steven Klein. Steven Klein/Courtesy of Tom Ford

He came back with beauty and eyewear in 2005, following with men’s and women’s soon after. After being based in London for 18 years, Ford officially moved back to America in 2017, taking up residence in L.A., buying Betsy Bloomingdale’s estate, and adding to the fashion cachet of the city that’s still burnishing today.

Some wondered if he would help swing American fashion’s power center to L.A. But since his windfall, Ford, 61, has bought a $51 million waterfront Palm Beach property in tax-friendly Florida. What’s next for him — and for his namesake label — remains to be seen. The collections are now licensed by Lauder to Zegna Group, which has long produced the menswear and now has the women’s collection too. No details have been given about its plans or when a successor will be named at the brand.

What to remember about Ford’s legacy as a solo starring act?

While he may not have created runway trends like he did at Gucci and Saint Laurent, or found widespread commercial success with his womenswear, he created pop culture moments. And what is fashion now but that?

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