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Tom Ford says old fashion system was effective, and will return

By Jackie Mallon

Feb 18, 2021

“The fashion system is driven by the consumer,” Tom Ford told Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times on Instagram Live, five days ahead of his NYFW show. He doubts that anything will come of murmurs that designers could forego precollections and do only two collections a year. “We have trained the consumer to think there is something new every couple of months.”

But responsible fashion is on his mind, both as designer and as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Ford, who became vegan a few years ago, gave kudos to Stella McCartney, his former Gucci stablemate, for her early and enduring commitment to sustainability. He sees timelessness and quality as important facets of sustainability. “My clothes and what I design are not meant to be thrown away,” he said. “When I left Gucci and YSL, I had to leave my archives behind.” He has since been buying the pieces back at considerable cost.

Live fashion shows cannot be replaced

Standing in his empty LA atelier surrounded by sewing machines, his attention focused on his upcoming digital show, he acknowledged there is no replacement for the physical fashion show. “Fashion is all about the Instagrammable moment, and for that to happen you need a convergence of people, celebrities. Live shows on a schedule are very effective.” He also thinks trends are made during the chats between attendees as they flock from one show and the next. “I hope that real life fashion shows will return,” he said, adding that September looks promising. He misses the “electricity” that cannot be captured on film. “It’s like the live experience of a play.”

Ford who has been designing for thirty-five years confessed he still loves it. However, with the current fashion week model amounting to uploading shows or lookbooks, Ford, like the rest of us, has had to become proficient at new methods of communication. Although this was his first ever Instagram Live. He can review a shoe held up to the camera in his Italian factory via Zoom, inspect the corrections via pdf, but struggles with the bigger challenge of putting looks together for a presentation. He has always allowed himself to play around with the collection right up until the day of the show. “If you think of a good idea two days before the show, you have to include it. You can’t wait until next season. You won’t want it next season.”

But despite his passion, his creativity has suffered during the pandemic, and he falls into binges of watching CNN or MSNBC. “Everyone has felt a certain depression,” he admits. “It’s been hard to feel creative with all this turmoil.”

Black Lives Matter movement has changed fashion industry

Despite the difficult year, a few positives have emerged that will remain, says Ford. Fashion professionals don’t need to travel nearly as much as they thought they did. It’s a cost-saving and planet-protecting measure. In his role at the CFDA, which this month released The State of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Fashion Report, Ford sees firsthand how the Black Lives Matter movement has dramatically impacted the industry, and he doesn’t see a return to old ways there. He took steps to rebalance the board with attention to representing both racial and gender diversity, and the CFDA now acts as a sort of talent agency for brands looking for previously underrepresented talent. “We have to stay on it,” he said. “Fashion has taken so much from Black culture. We owe a lot to the Black community in many ways.”

Photo from CFDA.com

Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry

Image: via CFDA website