Tom Ford's catwalk career since the OTT extravaganza that relaunched him a year ago has been as call-and-response as a gospel song. That Fall collection begat a stripped-for-action, dangerously curvy Spring, which today begat a new season of long, strong, severe lines. "It's a designer's job to react" was Ford's pragmatic post-show declaration. But still, it's irresistible to imagine the Ultimate Controller edging closer and closer to something that truly embodies his design ethos.
Ford loves London. He's often made that clear. And with the city currently surrendering to David Bailey's iconic images of the people who originally made the place swing, courtesy of an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, it was maybe inevitable that Ford would reference the mid-sixties. The show opened with a shag-cut model in a black velvet dress, a monochrome vision of the ice-cool, amphetaminized birds who'd have chirped around the Ad Lib and the Flamingo before the arrival of psychedelia in London. Ford's hooded slink would have well suited Modesty Blaise, the international woman of mystery from the cartoons who will inevitably be revived as Hollywood casts around for superheroines.
But wait Modesty was wearing cowboy boots (albeit needle-heeled). And, according to Ford, that opening dress was inspired by the velvet tunics that Native American women wore to highlight their turquoise. There were laced tops, and the dress in which Stella Tennant closed the show had a poncho attached. It was an intriguing thought that the collection might be a diary of the life Ford leads between London and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Not so much, though, when a couple of sequined dresses appeared as a riff on the football jersey Jay Z wears when he raps his ode to Ford. "That sells for $65." Ford chuckled an opportunist's chuckle. "My knockoff will sell for $6,500." (He added that the item also referenced the sports-influenced pieces that Geoffrey Beene designed in the late sixties.)
Those Number 61 outfits featured a crossed-out "Molly." Jay Z raps "no" to the current incarnation of Ecstasy, but "yes" to Ford, fashion being the ultimate high 'n' all. His acknowledgment of the "accolade" may have been intended as ironic, but it was also a reminder of Ford's ongoing engagement with excess. The flame-haired Karen Elson in her florid fox coat was another. And for one bottlenecked moment, it even looked just a tiny bit like Studio 54 outside his venue tonight.