Tom Ford, Autumn/Winter 2016
Tom Ford, Autumn/Winter 2016

The litany of events we normally refer to as fall fashion weeks doesn’t kick off officially until 9:00 Thursday morning. There is a carnival-like atmosphere around Manhattan this season, though, and the circus arrived a bit early on Wednesday with a set of not-quite-official presentations that were difficult, if not impossible, to ignore. Chief among those was Tom Ford, whose decision to skip last season and save his Autumn/Winter collection for now created more than a few waves throughout the fashion industry back in February.

Tom Ford shows have never been exactly like the normal runway presentation. Being LA-based and a Hollywood favorite, Ford plays directly to his consumer base rather than courting buyers and editors. To be sure, his PR team has worked hard to make sure that Ford was getting plenty of pre-show interviews, but when the doors opened to the lavish dining room in which the presentation was set, the number of editors were few. Instead, it was Hollywood that was present, including major box office names such as Tom Hanks, Julianne Moore, and Uma Thurman sitting alongside Anna Wintour, Cindy Crawford, and Karlie Kloss. Hosted at New York’s Four Seasons, the only thing missing was the red carpet, which someone seems to have left off the to-do list.

Whether or not one is going to like the clothes is very much a matter of taste. First, one has to make the mental adjustment to seeing current-season clothes walking down the runway. I’ll admit, I didn’t think it would be that big of deal, but my mind had trouble adapting. I kept wanting to ask, “Didn’t we see this back in February?” To some extent, we did. Ford continues the trend of borrowing heavily from  1970s looks, especially for men. Men were dressed in crushed velvet sports jackets, flared leg tweed pants, and ankle boots. Helping to nail the look, several of the male models were also sporting afro-style perms and amber-shaded sunglasses. When he sent out a coat with large circles on it, I might have thrown up a little.

Women fared a bit better.  Three elements stand out: tweed, wide belts, and sculptured neckwear. Almost all the daywear looks have tweed in them somewhere. Where there’s not tweed, there’s leather. Where there’s not leather, there’s mohair. No, I’m not kidding. The silhouettes are relatively trim but not unforgiving. Hems on skirts and dresses fall just below the knee where they meet calf-high leather boots. One wants to be careful about those boots, though. The styling is unique, with the back support placed in the middle of the arch, right behind the ball of the foot, rather than back at the heel. Aesthetically, the look is different enough to get plenty of attention. Realistically, however, they could do some serious  damage to one’s foot. Fashion is not known for its practical footwear,  but this seems more dangerous than usual.

The wide belts on many of the women’s looks are more attractive and probably safer than those boots. The pieces have a loosely woven look to them, with multiple buckles running both horizontally and vertically. A few of the pieces are broad enough to act more as waist cinchers than belts.  Ford also manages to place the belt-like elements in various locations on several of the women’s suits. Again, the element is tasteful and attractive.

One might need a strong core to handle the neckwear. When the piece you’re wearing has to be secured with a leather strap rather than a little gold chain, you know there is some heft involved. The sculptured pieces are modern and attractive, but they are also large enough that they might potentially overpower the look on women with more diminutive torsos.  However, they might also make good weapons if one is challenged on their way back to the car.

Everything had that Hollywood feel to it. Eveningwear was dominated by sequins and unquestionably designed for the red carpet, which makes it all the more curious that there wasn’t one outside the venue. While I’m not personally a big fan of mohair, the pairing with sequined tops does sort of work. They’ll be easy to spot at next season’s awards shows and holiday galas.

As promised, everything was available for sale at tomford.com immediately after the show.  Well, almost everything. Ensembles are numbered by their placement in the show and as one scrolls down the page one notices that a few numbers are missing. In fact, roughly a quarter of the women’s looks and nearly half the men’s looks are still not online as of this morning. This is one of those challenges in showing current-season clothing. Sending a sample down the runway is one thing. Actually having a product to sell is often difficult. Whether anyone cares about the missing looks remains to be seen.

Tom Ford’s show represents the beginning of a tremendous change in how fashion is presented and made available to the public. His effort seems to have gone off better than some of the others who showed on Wednesday, but Ford has a considerably larger budget than most. Whether everyone can successfully make the jump to current-season shows remains to be seen. We have a full month to find out.

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