Last Updated Mar 29, 2010 1:25 PM EDT
The rumors have been flying for a while now. Tom Ford's getting back into women's clothing. (No, not literally). Back in September, the former creative director of Gucci and Yves Saint-Laurent, was reportedly seeking a $50 million infusion to expand his eponymous luxury brand to include a new line for women. And now according to WWD and Fashionista, Ford is assembling a cast of designer heavyweights to work with him on said collection. So why the secrecy?
For the designer who made a big splash at Gucci (think how he didn't just dress celebs, he often appeared with them in ads or on the red carpet), flashed his toothy grin on multiple magazine covers, and wrote, produced, and directed A Single Man to much fanfare, it might seem counterintuitive. But if there's one thing Ford knows, it's the power of his personal and sartorial sensuality. Leaking one tantalizing detail at a time, Ford's actively seducing customers so when the collection finally debuts, credit cards will be eagerly swiped (and cigarettes can be lit). Call it smart marketing. Especially during a tough time for luxury brands.
But he's been doing that all along.
In 1994 he was promoted to the position of creative director of Gucci, responsible for everything from provocative designs (think Gwyneth Paltrow's tight and sumptuous red velvet tux) to skin baring ads and ultra-mod store interiors. By 1995 sales increased by 85 percent. Though Gucci was almost bankrupt when Ford joined, in 1999 it was valued at about $4.3 billion. That was the year the Gucci Group bought the parent company of Yves St Laurent and appointed Ford as head designer. As part of that brand's turnaround, he promptly masterminding the unforgettable ad for Opium in which a naked Sophie Dahl sprawls across an invisible bed, neck arched and lips parted in ecstasy for the, umm, fragrance.
Ford and his partner Domenico De Sole launched Tom Ford International in 2005, just one year after they both decamped from Gucci Group, owned by French retailer PPR. Ford set about immediately shoring up strategic partnerships with such strong global brands as Ermengildo Zegna for men's apparel, Marcolin Group for eyewear and EstÃ©e Lauder for beauty products. Then he infused the new products: men's clothing and eyewear and fragrances for both with the sort of sexy swagger that had become his signature.
Ford's latest well-placed peek-a-boo for his women's collection (on the heels of the funding reports) featured a radiant Julianne Moore -- the star of Ford's film -- strutting the red carpet in a body-conscious, supremely low-cut jade gown of his design. (Moore's co-star, Oscar nominated Colin Firth, was also impeccably turned out in a Ford tuxedo.) And now the fashion press is abuzz with design team appointments including shoe designer Michael Lewis (who worked with Ford at Gucci), Caroline Tixier, a women's ready-to-wear designer at Givenchy, and Pablo Coppola, an accessories designer at Alexander McQueen.
One thing's certain. When the "big reveal" happens in Fall 2011 (even if it turns out to be a simple presentation) Ford's women's collection will be a new sensation the likes of which will have investors smiling as they tuck the profits in bespoke Ford pockets.