The Evolution Of Tom Ford: From Fashion’s Risqué Force To A Beauty Mega Brand
30 plus years only to prove that the Tom Ford woman does things for herself, in beauty and in fashion.
No one does things as sharp and risky as Tom Ford. From releasing fragrances named “Fucking Fabulous” to shaving crotches on his ad campaigns, hid boldness, once deemed scandalous and profane, has now evolved to something sleek and celebrated. Maybe that’s his genius, and for some reason this perspective isn’t for everyone but bold enough to be a billion dollar brand. It all pays off, and now his wider range of beauty pieces—all with that signature Tom Ford sensuality.
Tom Ford’s risqué take on things didn’t just happen overnight. After starting out as a design assistant for designer Cathy Hardwick and the brand Perry Ellis in the late 1980’s, he couldn’t stand the tackiness of American fashion then and moved to Europe where style is appreciated and his subversive style is more welcomed. In 1990, Tom Ford hasn't even reach his 30s yet when he became the Chief Women’s Ready-to-Wear Designer of the then-ailing Gucci. In just four years his role branched out to menswear, fragrance, and even advertising for the brand—in no time, he became the Creative Director of the brand.
After four years, he turned Gucci in a full flip with pieces and campaigns that were outlandish and profane: shaving a women’s crotch into a G and heavy use of the naked body. His pieces matched the vision—Halston-style dresses, revealing satins, and provocative velvet pieces that left little to the imagination. Critics and consumers condemned his campaigns for its heavy objectification of women, but for Tom, he looked at men the same way as “equal opportunity objectifier.” He isn’t one to please all consumers, but rather, he gave them a fantasy that we all have at the back of our heads: We all want to feel sexy.
For 14 years he carried on operating with the same sexually charged perspective, even handling Yves Saint Laurent in the process. But admittedly he knew that was a different time, a different culture more welcoming of that imagery. He admittedly wouldn’t do the same today. When he left Gucci in 2004, the brand was then worth $10 billion. But two years later he created what would be his legacy, his eponymous label.
2006 welcomed the Tom Ford brand of menswear, beauty, eyewear and accessories. What’s Tom Ford without his signature sensuality? Still Tom Ford—that didn’t go away, but now edgier, a little tension-building, which actually is more exciting and rebellious even. This has been the DNA of the Tom Ford brand. He has penetrated an even wider audience by being known for his most coveted Tom Ford suits, as popularized by Justin Timberlake’s 2013 track “Suit & Tie” and even dressing up Daniel Craig in his James Bond films.
His personal foray into beauty stamped Tom Ford as not just something to covet for your closet, but rather a lifestyle and a full look. His beauty line, though, isn’t meant to make you feel just pretty—it’s meant to bring out your sexy, a little dangerous, and most of the time daring. His fashion and his beauty are one and the same. In 2006, he released Black Orchid, a now-signature scent of the Tom Ford Beauty house. And a year later came a 12-scent Private Blend collection which stamped his beauty line as a go-to for niche scents. Half of the sales of the Beauty line comes from color cosmetics, a sharp line of mostly gender fluid products with some aptly named Boys & Girls.
In 2018, Tom Ford cemented his full brand as the brand when he went full throttle releasing, my personal favorite, a fragrance called Fucking Fabulous during his Spring show. Some regions in the world censored this with asterisks in F***ing. "The more censored it is, the more people want it,” said John Demsey, the Executive Group President at Estée Lauder in an interview with the Business of Fashion. And isn’t that true? We all desire a Tom Ford product more when we want to feel rebellious, as if it’s almost not allowed. In the same year, Tom Ford Beauty penetrated the Philippine market with its first store here, making his highly coveted signature products available to us.
Just this June, Rustans welcomed the opening of Tom Ford Beauty with its Most Wanted lipstick line and has now highlighted its Shade and Illuminate Soft Radiance Foundation with SPF 50, the perfect foundation that both beautifies and protects you from the sun and computer radiation. With a spritz of the new Rose Prick Private Blend Eau de Parfum, you are set to feel like a true Tom Ford woman already.
Tom Ford offers that experience of feeling desired and wanting to be desired. In retrospect, the Tom Ford woman doesn’t do it for anybody else or to be glorified—she does it for herself. This legacy will live on, as nobody does it as bold and luxuriously as Tom Ford. So it may have taken Tom Ford more than 30 years only to come full circle that his fashion and beauty brand both herald back to the woman: She is daring, she is bold, and she is definitely beautiful, and she does it for herself. Or in a true Tom Ford manner, himself, as well.
Tom Ford Beauty is now available in the Philippine at Greenbelt 5 and online at Rustans.com
Art by Raff Colmenar
Photos courtesy of Tom Ford