As the head designer at Gucci for a decade, he was king of Milan and a lynchpin of the fashion establishment. Texan-born Tom Ford also tried to conquer Paris when he took over Yves Saint Laurent in 2001. But yesterday at London Fashion Week he launched an attack on the supremacy of the French capital over the rest of the global fashion industry.
“Quite honestly in terms of French culture, if you think about what the French are producing in terms of fashion or architects or painters or musicians, they are quite far behind what the British are producing, and yet when you think of fashion, you think of Paris,” said Ford, who was in the capital to judge the Fashion Fringe award held in Covent Garden, central London.
Ford described Paris fashion week, which is home to the likes of Christian Dior, Chanel and Louis Vuitton as “a global showcase – but it isn’t necessarily where talent is coming from. When you think of Paris you think of Karl Lagerfeld who is not French, and you think of Marc Jacobs who’s not French and Stefano Pilati who’s Italian.”
Ford, who left the Gucci Group in 2004, launched his own high-end menswear label earlier this year in New York and plans to open a London menswear line in 2009, with a women’s line being launched in “two or three years”.
He calls his big-budget men’s tailoring label a “new brand” but the 45-year-old designer has a slight advantage over the four young contestants in the competition he was judging. Now in its fourth year, Fashion Fringe is an initiative intended to support the most raw design talent. Graeme Armour, Andrea McWha, De-jan and the eventual winner Aminaka Wilmont all presented collections of a standard equal to the better graduate shows, but in a very competitive season none stood out as yet having star quality. The young designers produced their collections in three months, and as Ford’s current career demonstrates, even those with healthy finances need time to build a brand.
The final day of fashion week saw a phalanx of big names arrive at the last minute. Fashion eccentrics Antoni and Alison persuaded Nicole Kidman to appear in a short film that showcased their spring/summer 2008 collection. Stella McCartney commandeered a sports hall in west London late last night to show her collection for Adidas, while in one of the more unlikely collaborations Naomi Campbell had gathered together some of her supermodel pals to put on a charity show in co-operation with the Rotary Club, in aid of the victims of July’s floods.