Tom Ford Presentation: London Fashion Week Fall Winter 2012

In London, Tom Ford quietly showed a collection filled with fur, leather, and snakeskin. Isabel Wilkinson reports.

AP Photo

A year and a half ago, Tom Ford returned. After a six-year hiatus from the fashion industry, the designer returned with a highly anticipated womenswear collection in September 2010, which he presented to 100 buyers and editors in a highly glamorous and private show in New York City. His models included Julianne Moore, Rita Wilson, Lauren Hutton, and Beyoncé Knowles. Ford had requested that there be no tweeting and no photography during the show (aside from Terry Richardson), and, surprisingly, no reviews. But that didn’t stop several critics from weighing in—and, as The New York Times’ Cathy Horyn wrote, “You can’t help thinking that he has advantages that other designers do not have—money, experience, famous friends—but the point is, he knows what to do with those advantages.”

Now in his third season, things have loosened up. Ford, who earned acclaim as the creative director of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, showed his collection for Fall/Winter 2012 in a series of private appointments in his copacetic London showroom on Sunday. Every half hour from 8 until 6, the designer presented the collection to small groups of editors. Breakfast hors d’oeuvres—croissants, smoked salmon on sourdough toast—were circulated before our 9:30 a.m. appointment and politely declined by all. Ford mingled briefly, emerging to give each guest a kiss.

There were still no photos allowed—and no one in our group dared remove a phone from their bag to send out a tweet. But the atmosphere was casual, and editors were encouraged to circulate around the showroom after the show. “Feel free to shop!” Ford joked.

Ford narrated the show like an old-school couturier, explaining each look from head to toe. He circumambulated his audience as he talked, addressing the models directly—“Could you show us the back please? Thank you.” He summoned the women from the backstage area with a buzzer. “You can hear the bell in the back room, it’s a little embarrassing,” he told the audience.

The presentation opened with a thigh-length red alpaca fur coat over a black leather pencil skirt and over-the-knee black leather boots with a sharp toe and slender heel. There was a diverse mix of leather and skin–one full-length dress came covered in white feathers on black tulle, and was paired with an anaconda snakeskin shoe and a luscious two-toned skunk fur jacquard. Another body-hugging gold dress consisted of “every scale of a snake sewn onto jersey.”

When he returned to womenswear, Ford said, he wanted to make clothes for “every type of woman.” The Juliannes, the Laurens, the Ritas, the Beyoncés. But in doing so, he admitted Sunday, it had limited him from developing a look that was uniquely “Tom Ford.” But the 25-piece collection he showed today was a step in that direction–what he called “an edited collection with a new, cohesive view.”

In a nod to his years at Gucci, there were black cutout dresses adorned with gold plates, sparkling bras under open suit jackets, and several impeccably tailored skirt suits, which he explained came from his experience with tailored menswear.

And in true Tom Ford style, there were several dresses that would feel right at home on the red carpet at the Academy Awards next weekend. A floor-length cream column dress with a matching cape (which Ford said was his favorite because it was “dead simple”) had any one of the best actress nominees written all over it.