Wardrobe: Ford's New Models

<< Back to Robb Report, July 2007
  • William Kissel

Ttom Ford’s long-awaited menswear collection, which he unveiled this spring, appears surprisingly traditional. Maybe the designer has become more reserved now that he is 45 years old or because his own name is on the label. For one reason or another, Ford has departed from the hip, overtly sexy clothing that he propagated during the 14 years that he served as Gucci’s creative director, from 1990 until 2004.

This is not to say that Ford’s new suits and sport coats—displaying such classic English sartorial details as ticket pockets, matching waistcoats, and wide peaked lapels—lack modern elements. Ford updated the silhouette by pulling in the waist and exaggerating the shoulders. He incorporated hidden trouser cuff buttons to facilitate lint removal, and he added well-placed BlackBerry pockets that do not sag, thus preserving the sculpted shapes of his jackets.

The designs are subtly modern, but their production, which has been contracted to Ermenegildo Zegna in Italy, is distinctly old-fashioned. Though they cannot compare with true bespoke garments made entirely by hand, Ford’s suits, which have prices that start at $3,200 for ready-made and at $5,000 for made-to-measure, feature more custom details than those from any other designer label. Ford paid particular attention to the buttonholes, which, for strictly aesthetic reasons, are cut and sewn (by hand) just a bit larger (three centimeters compared to two) than the average; each buttonhole takes as long as 18 minutes to complete. By adding a fifth working button to each sleeve, Ford distinguishes his suits from others, which typically feature four. Furthermore, suit and sport coat seams are sewn with silk thread, and linings are colored to match the coat cloth. A typical Tom Ford suit is about 60 percent handmade. In comparison, a top-tier Ermenegildo Zegna Napoli Couture suit is roughly 45 percent handmade, and only 5 percent of the work on a Gucci suit is done by hand, explains Ivan Concilio, managing director of the Zegna-owned Sabit factory in Padova, Italy, which produces all three labels.
 
Ford applied the same standards to his entire collection, which includes made-to-order Egyptian cotton shirts with collars and cuffs starched and molded by hand, footwear made of vegetable-tanned calfskin and alligator skin that is hand-hammered to the last, and loungewear fabricated from silk printed with reinterpreted 19th-century patterns. Your selections can be customized with a choice of fabrics and leathers, colors, buttons, collar and cuff styles, and monograms.

Ford’s collection is available only through his Madison Avenue store, the first of six shops that he plans to open worldwide over the next three years.  The architecture and decor were modeled on Ford’s home in London. “It should feel as if old Hollywood invented a men’s couture salon—very luxe but very chic,” says Ford of the glamorous space that interior designer and longtime collaborator William Sofield created. Sofield referenced the work of the late Hollywood set decorator Cedric Gibbons when he conceived the three-story, 8,680-square-foot space. The two-story entrance hall is paneled in gray suede; a faceted Macassar ebony oval staircase leads to the made-to-measure salon; and mercury mirrors line the walls of the octagonal perfumery, where you can formulate a custom fragrance. The shop’s antique furnishings and works of art include a pair of 1925 Art Deco urns, a Chinese Chippendale mirror, and several sculptures by Lucio Fontana and Jean Arp from Ford’s personal collection. And just like at Ford’s home, maids and butlers pour drinks and serve lunch. “It’s the opposite of the typical world of men’s tailoring,” explains Ford, “where you get little more than a stool with a curtain around it.”

Tom Ford, 212.359.0300, www.tomford.com

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