Fashion Weeks

Tom Ford and the Fashion of the Smile

The American designer pays tribute to Pat Cleveland and the culture of optimism. Fashion that makes us feel good and smile, he tells it in a long personal message to his audience
Reading time 6 minutes

Tom Ford has chosen perhaps the most original of ways to present the new Spring-Summer 2021 collection. A letter to his audience in which he told how, during an emotional quarantine, he thought how frivolous it was to think about fashion. And then the lighting. As frivolous as it is, we need it for a reason unlike any other, to feel good. Smiling, dancing, putting on make-up, looking in the mirror and going out, rather than being glued to the PC for endless Zoom calls.

"When I started working on this collection, we were under strict control. The Coronavirus pandemic was in full swing. Social unrest filled the news every day. I had been wearing the same dirty jeans, jeans shirt, t-shirt and sneakers for weeks. I hadn't left the house for months. I was irritated when I had a Zoom meeting, because it meant washing my hair and maybe cutting my beard. At that time, the thought of designing a collection seemed frivolous when so many important and disturbing things were happening in our world. Our shops were all closed and fashion itself seemed like an extravagance. It was difficult to concentrate, concentrate and be inspired. My sample rooms in Italy and Los Angeles were closed for months. I was honestly not sure I could make a collection even though I felt inspired to do so. Since all this was dragging on from spring to summer and since I think we could all feel a worsening of the global depression [both financial and psychological], I thought I would skip the season altogether. After all, when nobody can leave the house, who needs new clothes? If you can't go to the office, why do you need a new dress? If there's no dinner or party to go to, why would you need a new dress? And the heels looked completely absurd. I mean, why would anyone walk around their flat in a new pair of heels or sit down and instruct their children in a pair of bejewelled wedges? I felt that honestly fashion should have simply hibernated for a year.

As this terrible pandemic progressed and the social unrest became even more shocking, 24-hour television broadcasts on CNN and MSNBC began to make me feel physically ill as the news became more and more terrible. I found myself increasingly attracted to old Hollywood movies on MTC or even the constant stream of renovation work going on HGTV, where the solution to all life's problems seems to be "blowing up a wall" and creating "an island" in the kitchen. Quite simply, I found myself wanting to escape. Once the full lockdown was loosened up a bit in LA and I was able to have close friends more than 2 at a time for a dinner out at a social distance. I started thinking about a slightly more dressed up world. A world that was still informal but where I wanted to make an effort to get dressed and I noticed that our guests seemed to feel that way too. Caftans [yes, I live in LA] or simple clothes and flat shoes but at least it was a start.

Even the men seemed to want to wear a clean shirt, a pair of well-cut trousers and wash their hair. There was a light at the end of the tunnel. Or at least an imaginary light: the hope of a happier time to come. That's what this collection is for me: the hope of a happier time to come. It's still a bit casual when it comes to fashion, but it's definitely the time when we need clothes that make us smile. Clothes that make us feel good about ourselves. One of the hundreds of TV shows and films I have seen in the last six months was a documentary about fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez. This film came out several years ago, but somehow I never had time to watch it. It was brilliant and inspiring.

I was the most inspired by the smiles of 70s models like Pat Cleveland or Donna Jordon. The exuberance of those years, between the pill and AIDS, when life seemed to be more carefree. I was lucky enough to have photographed Pat Cleveland once and her energy literally left me high and dry. We finished shooting around 2am and it took me hours to calm down enough to sleep. I felt like I was doing cocaine all night long and that was years after I got sober. Pat is an inspiration. Her energy is an inspiration. She is joyful and inspiring. Her makeup from the 70s was also inspiring. I think months and months of watching people on Zoom without make-up, dirty hair and bad lighting made me want the pleasure of full makeup. Not only did I want to see smiles on the models' faces, but smiles with full makeup lips. I opted for vivid makeup in this collection as an expression of joy and happiness and a kind of extravagance that is not extravagant at all as even in jeans and makeup can be a relatively inexpensive way to feel like maybe there is a party to be had, and you go even if there isn't. And of course it looks great on Zoom. Unfortunately, not much has changed in our world as I show this collection: the social unrest is worse than ever and the pandemic seems to have simply stopped for a moment waiting to pounce again in autumn in what many scientists predict will be an apocalyptic winter.
 

Hopefully a vaccine will start to change our lives at the beginning of 9pm. So I can only hope that when these clothes hit stores in the spring of 21st, it will be a more positive time. A time when perhaps we can all breathe a sigh of relief and start returning to our lives as we knew them. The global zeitgeist always influences fashion and for me this desire for a spring full of hope translates into relaxed clothes that are a bit classic, but clothes that make me smile. Get dressed for some fun. " TOM FORD

"Hopefully a vaccine will start to change our lives at the beginning of 9pm. So I can only hope that when these clothes arrive in the shops in the spring of the 21st, it will be a more positive time. A time when maybe we can all breathe a sigh of relief and start going back to our lives as we knew them. The global zeitgeist always influences fashion and for me this desire for a spring full of hope translates into relaxed clothes that are a bit classic, but clothes that make me smile. Clothes to have some fun." -TOM FORD

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