tom ford may not be critically lauded or be the topic of conversation about the intellectual or conceptual side of fashion as someone like miuccia prada or nicholas ghesquiere, but few can deny the enormous impact he's had on fashion as it concerns popular culture. a brilliant marketing strategist and image maker, part of the enormous popularity of tom ford is his ability to fully understand and utilize the most cliche phrase in business, sex sells. and with that mantra tom ford transformed gucci from a dusty label to one of the most profitable and recognizable brands in the world. since taking control of the dilapidated brand in the mid nineties, ford infused a sexually charged image to the sedated house. his inaugural collection with its low-waisted, skin tight, and mod-influenced clothes, an image he collaborated with with future french vogue editor carine roitfeld immediately propelled ford and gucci to the forefront of fashion. the image ford proposed was a direct opposition to the wave of minimalism that was currently predominant in fashion.
as the popularity of gucci soared, so did ford's superstar designer status. and with that he became bolder and more aggressive with his designs. using gucci's tradition as the uniform of the well traveled jet set in the seventies, ford channeled the sensuality and sexuality of that era that culminated into possibly his most groundbreaking collection for gucci in the fall of 97. with a shimmering golden eye, velvet pant suits, military jackets, and long jersey dresses with ingenious cut-outs held together by golden buckles, ford cemented his position at the top of the fashion food chain. realizing that in the sea of minimalist blacks, he was the one to dress the noveau riche suddenly emerging out russia and new entertainment personalities in america who wanted to flaunt their new found status and wealth.
in order to appeal to these new potential customers, ford followed the example of the father of modern day fashion advertising, calvin klein. klein was notorious for using sex as a vehicle to push his products. enraging the public from everything including promoting eating disorders, to child pornography. while klein's approach was more subversive and keeping in line with his minimalist theme, ford's was more direct and in your face. the ad campaign that followed his blockbuster fall 97 collection featured the face of gucci for the nineties georgina grenville. although fully clothed, the suggestive images of some of the pictures including a model sliding his hands inside grenville's sweater was just a preview of the visual assault that would follow during tom ford's reign at gucci. a reign that saw buttocks just slightly covered with a g-string connected by an interlocking "g" or a model crawling under a male model wearing only pants with the outline of his genitalia obviously visible. the most controversial ad campaign however would trump all that came before. for spring/summer 2003 ford showed a picture of a model pulling her panties down to reveal her pubic hair shaved and shaped into a "g". although the explicit nature of this picture would have surely not been allowed to run in magazines, in fact it became one of the most visible ad campaigns of the year. it ran on all the major magazines and not once was it pulled out.
perhaps due to the firestorm of controversy that followed after that ad campaign and a new found sensitivity that followed 9-11, the ad campaigns that followed were more sedate and less abrasive. maybe because after years of in your face sex, ford maybe finally realized that he didn't need any more antics to secure gucci's position on top of the ladder. he brought gucci back from the grave and with that became one of the designers to lead fashion out of the minimalist nineties and into a new direction that brought back sexuality and over the top fashion back into the limelight. i personally am not a big fan of tom ford, but i will say this. there are two types of people in fashion, one who absolutely loves tom ford, and one who absolutely hates him, but everyone loved him once. including me.