Robin Givhan on Tom Ford's beautiful -- if secret -- new line

Fashion designer Tom Ford.
Fashion designer Tom Ford. (Gus Ruelas - Associated Press)
By Robin Givhan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 16, 2010; 4:41 PM


The best and worst thing about Tom Ford's premiere collection of womenswear -- the first under his own label -- was that the designer released no pictures.

The decision is frustrating because words alone can't fully convey just how beautifully the tailored pieces fit his celebrity models and how seductively the silk-fringed gowns moved around hourglass figures. It would have been nice to have a picture capturing the pleasure on the faces of audience members who listened as the designer narrated his own show like a dashing, tongue-in-cheek lounge impresario. It would have been a delight to have an image of Beyoncé Knowles reveling in her own rear view.

But in these days of Internet immediacy and inappropriate leaks, it's also refreshing to know that everything about the collection wasn't made plain right away.

We are a culture that has forgotten how to wait -- for something as basic as the morning newspaper or as complicated as Wall Street reform. We'll happily take our facts unvetted if we can have them right now. And we are quick to declare a new administration a failure if it doesn't produce magic overnight.

In some small way, Ford struck a blow for patience. One hopes that no runway images emerge between now and their formal release in the winter. Patience breeds maturity.

Ford, the former creative director at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, is one of the few designers who could make this industry wait. Indeed, people have been holding their breath for six years. After Ford left those two legacy brands, he launched a menswear line under his own name and directed his first film. Still, folks hung around, tapping their well-shod toes in expectation. Where are the women's clothes?

In preparation for the show on Sunday evening at his Madison Avenue boutique, Ford didn't go so far as to ask his guests, about 100 editors, friends and a few retailers to sign non-disclosure forms. But he politely requested that they put away their cellphones and any recording devices. Whether it was out of respect for the designer, or out of fear of being embarrassed if a security wrangler appeared to wrestle their iPhone away, people seemed to comply.

The show unfolded over two small salons with Ford -- dressed in a tuxedo -- introducing each model with a flourish and a Cary Grant accent. The women wearing the clothes ranged from the elegant swans who worked closely with him during his time at Gucci, to today's most popular and graceful mannequins. His friends Rita Wilson and Lisa Eisner modeled for him, as did actress Julianne Moore, who starred in Ford's film "A Single Man." And Beyoncé, who has never walked the runway during New York fashion week for her own label -- House of Deréon -- did so for Ford.

The variety of women served as a declaration of Ford's intended customer base. He recognizes that the women who will be able to afford his new line -- with prices sure to induce vertigo -- are not a bunch of gangly teenagers.

The clothes themselves were a joy -- collectively the most glamorous, sexy and desirable garments shown on the runways here for spring 2011. Ford has always known how to woo a woman -- and a man, too, for that matter. His secret? He inherently understands that people fall in love with those who make them feel good about themselves. And Ford, with his sure hand for tailoring, his teasing eye for nudity and provocation, and his ability to make a pair of legs look like they go on forever, knows how to make a woman feel very, very good about herself.

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