In 1994, Tom Ford, the newly-appointed creative director of Gucci, invented sex. People had technically been procreating for thousands of years before, but the Texan designer managed to popularise tectonic-plate-shifting levels of rich bitch lust. He then did the same thing at his own brand, which became synonymous with a mad, bad, and glamorous approach to dress. Now, after nearly 13 years at its helm, Ford has announced his final collection: an archival retrospective of his best hits, which revisit his signature leopard print pant suits, spangled football jerseys, molten breast pieces, and bias-cut gowns draped in aqueous swags of fabric.
In a sparsely-worded press release, the swansong collection was made in “homage” to the Tom Ford woman and is embodied by longtime muses Amber Valetta, Joan Smalls, Karlie Kloss, Karen Elson, and Caroline Trentini in an accompanying campaign shot by Steven Klein. Whispers of Ford’s departure had been escalating since he sold the label to Estée Lauder for $2.8 billion in November – a decision that would offer the designer a change of pace after the tragic passing of his longtime husband Richard Buckley in 2021. Though the brand has yet to announce a successor, Ford is rumoured to be replaced by menswear design director Peter Hawkings, who will reportedly oversee womenswear, too.
The news follows a slew of high-profile changes within the upper echelons of the fashion industry. In the last six months, Raf Simons quit Raf Simons, and Jeremy Scott quit Moschino, while Pharrell Williams was appointed to head of Louis Vuitton. At 61 years of age, Tom Ford helped to define the point and purpose of luxury – just as his brand became shorthand for high-gloss movie stars, Ford himself became an avatar for the 21st-century fashion designer – his high-maintenance routines and peaked-lapel uniform was the stuff of endless columns on what it means to be a true aesthete. While his exit seems to have been announced without fanfare, Ford has positioned himself as the director-protagonist: raising a silent hand to his cult of models, who have been preserved like mourning mannequins in neon-lit glass vitrines.