Friday, September 23, 2011

A Firsthand Account of the Show and a Reflection on Why Tom Ford is Keeping It Exclusive

LONDON–What’s a London experience without a little rain? And so it was that around 6pm last Sunday, a sunny afternoon surrendered to light drizzle as several black cars queued to drop just 55 guests off at Tom Ford’s showroom on a side street near Victoria Station for his intimate spring 2012 fashion show. Several male models clad in black three piece suits ushered them inside under enormous umbrellas, a scene more suitable for an embassy dinner than a runway show.
Inside on the second floor showroom, the reception desk was temporarily converted into a bar where waiters served vodka tonic, champagne and still waters. “It has an air of the old Gucci shows with Domenico Desole greetings guests and waiters serving Vodka,” Hillary Alexander told me as we sipped on drinks and waited to enter the main room.
In the late 90’s, in addition to a large bouquet of white flowers and a handwritten note to welcome us to Milano, some of us would get a bottle of vodka, or, on occasion, a 25 year-old bottle of whiskey from Mr. Ford at our hotel room. Then, the designer’s debauched sexy and slinky styles ushered a revolution in fashion. Now, we are in a different moment in time. In this digital age where images from fashion shows hold the attention span of a click to the next page, there is a need for designers to apply a different approach to how fashion can be seen and evaluated.
But back to the show. The showroom was lined with floor length mirrors and three small rows of chairs flanked the sides of a carpeted catwalk. On each of the chairs was a small printed rectangular card that simply says “No Photography Please.” Indeed there were no photographers in sight save for one commissioned by the house [Ed. Note: And Candice Swanepoel's on her cell phone before the show].

As for the clothes, well, you will have to wait until mid-January when the collection arrives at the stores to see images from this show. I sat so close to the models that I could actually see the detailed work of each garment. I can assure you that the w
omen who buy these clothes will have a wide range of Mr. Ford’s signature silhouettes to choose from. Furthermore, I will say that customers will not see dramatic changes from one season to another–instead this collection seemed to progress from the one before (albeit at a slower pace than what is now expected of designers to churn out new collections every two months).
At the end of the show, Mr. Ford appeared to applause and remained to greet guests. “There is no backstage area so I can’t invite anyone back,’ he said over the last fragments of music.
Since launching his womenswear a year and a half ago, many have questioned Mr. Ford’s methodology–limiting guests to his presentations, no photography of the collection allowed, no written reviews–all these coming from a man with a propensity for marketing and publicity drives. But isn’t there a cardinal rule in entertainment to never satiate the audience; to leave them wanting more? Have the explosion of fashion and the seemingly endless well of fashion information in the digital age enriched the fashion experience in anyway? I am sure these are some of the questions in Mr. Ford’s mind as he conceived of how to bring his clothes to his customers so that they won’t be suffering from the fatigue of seeing the dresses they love Tweeted and re-Tweeted a million times before they have a chance to try them on and own them.
In going rogue, Mr. Ford, and also Azzedine Alaïa in Paris who has shunned the fashion system, may have provided an alternative to fashion’s current obsession with cacophonies over substance.
Fashionista contributor Long Nguyen is the co-founder/style director of Flaunt.

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