Thursday, September 6, 2018

Excess and Empowerment are Dominant Themes at Tom Ford // Spring 2019

It seems like every article at the beginning of New York Fashion goes something like this: ‘New York Fashion Week is like a cat with nine lives—it’s withstood Trump, the dearth of substantial creativity in the wake of a mass (important) designer exodus, scheduling discord, the introduction of a new New York Fashion Week in June and December.’

Here’s a brief cheat sheet of the comings and goings at this season’s New York Fashion Week: Proenza Schouler and Rodarte return after their respective short-lived stints in Paris; Ralph Lauren’s celebrating his 50th anniversary; Tommy Hilfiger continued his expedition, he stopped in Shanghai on Monday; Alexander Wang, amongst other smaller labels, have decamped to the June/December model; Victoria Beckham’s moved the show to London for her 10th anniversary; Prabal Gurung and The Row are launching menswear; Rihanna’s closing the week with her Savage x Fenty lingerie line.

Tom Ford, who likes to come and go from the schedule as he pleases, opened the Spring 2019 instalment with the first blockbuster show of the week, at the Park Avenue Armory on Wednesday night. (He told the Business of Fashion’s Lauren Sherman, in September 2017, that he’s aiming to restore the “consistency that [he has] lacked.”)

At the crux of it was a narrative, one that has become engrained in contemporary culture over the past twelve months. The soundtrack featured the opening theme, ‘Zu Asche, Zu Staub,’ from the Netflix series Babylon Berlin which charts the journey of a police inspector who uncovers the underbelly of a photography ring in Berlin in the Weimar Republic. If anything, the blindingly obvious comparison is the modelling industry’s reckoning with the sexual misconduct allegations against photographers Mario Testino, Bruce Weber, Patrick Demarchelier last year. 

“I became a fashion designer because I wanted to make men and women feel more beautiful and to empower them with a feeling of confidence,” Ford’s show notes read in an email after the show. “A feeling of knowing they look their best and could then present their best selves to the world.”

It was kind of ironic then that this was supposedly a show about confidence, empowerment, and beauty—a quiet retaliation about maintaining power and leveraging it through one’s attire—when a David Bowie song played. Bowie was accused of statutory rape. 

The clothes were standard Ford fare: pencil skirts, cropped jackets, Grecian-inspired gowns, bunched-up sleeves, lots of (faux) crocodile, corsetry, elegant headscarves, lace trimming, and point-toe high heels, channeled a distinctive 1970s sex appeal. Unquestionably, he’s mastered the art of looking expensive. (The menswear did too, even if it felt like an awkward cling-on to the womenswear.) It began at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, where he was the creative director and has continued for almost three decades. It was visible in this outing too.

The other tale he spun was in relation to last season: he toned down the gaudy Beverly Hills excess—the neon leopard prints and joggers. In its place, something more modest emerged but modesty isn’t a commonly-used word in the Ford vernacular. The colour palette was antithetical to last It belonged to the .1%, those who spend $10,000 on a dress and want to communicate their position in the class system. It’s vulgar, it’s the kind of over-indulgent excess we’ve become inured to in 2018—Paul Manafort’s wardrobe scandal and that ostrich leather jacket were the apotheosis of the moment.
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