Tom Ford eschewed his usual spot in the historic Park Avenue Armory building in New York, instead inviting guests downtown and underground, for his first show as head of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).
In the decommissioned Bowery Street subway station, MTA workers in high-vis flanked the platform , which became a makeshift catwalk.
In characteristically extensive show notes, Ford described key inspirations for the collection, including: “Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick coming out of a manhole cover in NYC in 1965”, “images of Isabelle Adjani and Christophe Lambert in Luc Besson’s Subway set in the Paris Metro”, “the clean and sharp tailoring of the Beatles in their Berlin years” and Bond girls.
He also talked of a newfound interest: “This season for me is about simplicity. Which is not to be confused with simple. I think that it is a time for ease, and in that way a return to the kind of luxurious sportswear that America has become known for all over the world.”
If last season Tom Ford deemed it not the right time to be sexy, covering clavicles with polo necks and sacrums with cardies, this season he deemed it time to undo a few buttons and plunge a few necklines. The show might have opened with models in oversized full-length skirts that stood stiffly apart from their bodies, but there were flashes of the high-wattage sex appeal for which Ford has been known since his time as creative director of Gucci in the 1990s.
Knee-high boots gave way to sheer tights with trompe l’oeil seams. Models including Gigi Hadid wore bras and tops made to look like breastplates – or solidified, lacquered nail polish moulded to skin. Ford explained his inspirations, which included, “The breathtakingly beautiful YSL Lalanne breastplates from 1969, and a photo of the Jeff Koons polished steel bunny.”
The season’s omnipresent animal print found its grazing ground on men’s blazers in electric blue and lilac tiger, and pink and green cheetah print, going in for the kill on one skimpy leotard that looked like it had been slashed through with a big-cat’s claws.
The broad-shouldered jackets Ford introduced from his menswear collections into womenswear a few years ago appeared in the colour of Parma Violets, tangerine-orange and, on Cindy Crawford’s daughter, model Kaia Gerber, the colour of milky tea with peaked lapels. They were worn with nylon basketball shorts of the kind, that, Ford wrote, “torture me. I’m always fascinated by things that ‘torture me’.”
Ford has talked in the past about the immediacy of fashion compared to films – he has directed films including Nocturnal Animals and A Single Man – and the way it gives him a voice in popular culture. So far this fashion week he has been using his platform as CFDA head to talk about diversity, having recently announced the addition of Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond, Maria Cornejo, Carly Cushnie and Virgil Abloh to its board, rotating four existing members to “emeritus status”.
It is early days – and long overdue – but there seems to be an air of optimism in New York when it comes to inclusion in the industry. With last season’s shows the most diverse yet, this season so far has seen what the Business of Fashion is calling “the most important thing to happen to American fashion in years, maybe even decades.” One of Ford’s new appointees, Jean-Raymond, used his Brooklyn show on Sunday night to reclaim black history, specifically to examine rock and roll through an African-American lens – with the help of a 65-strong gospel choir.