Wait, we’re doing this again? Where did the summer go? September should still be a couple of months away, or so it seems. Certainly, temperatures across most of the US still feels like the height of summer. Are we really ready to talk about what to wear next Spring?
The calendar says September, so here we go, starting off another NYFW season with Tom Ford, who has abandoned the see-now, buy-now concept and returned to the traditional seasonal calendar. In some ways, though, one could argue that this was a Gucci collection from the 90s rather than spring/summer 2019. Ford even references that period of his life in some of the most extensive designer notes I’ve seen in a while. He misses Gucci and the things he did there. He misses a pure design form rather than the commercial-driven pablum that has been plaguing the runways the past several seasons. The quote everyone’s using is this:
“I became a designer because I wanted to make men and women feel more beautiful and to empower them with a feeling of confidence. A feeling of knowing that they looked their best and could then present their best selves to the world. I wanted to make clothes that were flattering. That make one look taller and slimmer and more beautiful or more handsome.”
On one hand, Ford references 1920s Berlin and one can see a touch of that influence in the draping, string-filled evening gowns. However, looking at the faux crocodile jackets and the lace slips peeking out from under ruched pencil skirts, the aesthetic is much more ’90s Gucci than anything that ever came out of moody Berlin. Ford’s take on women’s wear for the spring is as brooding as a thunderstorm: wild, sexy, and at times a bit unpredictable.
Ford also insisted on tossing in a handful of men’s looks, despite the fact his menswear line walked a couple of months ago. His lamé jacquard dinner jackets have women wondering if their favorite male friends could ever be cool enough to actually wear something so sophisticated. What no one is talking about, though, are his tech-geek looks that are not from the 90s but fly all the way back to the 70s. With the jersey jackets, v-neck sweaters, and sharp-creased trousers with broad cuffs, most notably done in khaki, the only thing that separates these looks from the much-maligned computer science employees of the pre-Internet era is the missing pocket protectors. Even the over-sized glasses scream 1970s. I know this because I have a high school photo from 1976 of me wearing those exact same frames.
Even Ford’s front-row guests say something about this longing for the way things used to be. Sitting next to Vogue’s Anna Wintour, who came to her position in 1988, was Tom Hanks, who was the king of RomCom throughout that same decade. On the other side, though, sat Henry Golding and Cardi B., whose presence represents at least some desire to connect to the present.
Ford’s moodiness hangs like a heavy fog over the entire collection. One gets the sense he still wishes it was him, not Allesandro Michele, at Gucci. A casual observer might also get the impression that Ford is feeling a bit out of touch with his design roots. Amateur psychologists could even go so far as to suggest that the designer is feeling disconnected from the current fashion scene and perhaps feels as though his best days are behind him. None of those perspectives are necessarily incorrect.
If there’s one look that seems to epitomize Ford’s state of mind, it’s look ten: a white ribbed t-shirt over a white ruched pencil skirt with lace at the hem. There’s a roughness that shows there’s still some willingness to fight, to create fashion that is provocative and original. At the same time, there’s a reluctance to let go of what’s worked in the past. All the baggage from the past 20 years is crammed into the large wide-strapped bag the model carries on her shoulder. This is where Tom Ford is at for the moment.
Ford’s start-of-the-week shows are rarely precursors for what’s to come over the next few days. Tom’s never been one to give too much into trends unless he started them himself. Don’t be surprised if this moodiness prevails over the whole week, though. More than a few people are wondering out loud if NYFW has left its best days behind it. We could be looking at a very dark and interesting season ahead.