He was the world’s leading fashion designer. So what did Tom Ford do next? Turn his attention to women’s faces, of course. Helen Brown reports on his supersexy new make-up range
She looked impossibly glamorous and enviably sexy — part rock star’s girlfriend and part millionairess. She wore a figure-hugging white dress that had a flesh-baring cutout running from below her breast to the top of her hip. Her eyes smouldered through dark eye shadow, her chiselled cheekbones were accentuated with matt bronzer and her lips were the palest shade of beige. It was 1996, and I was looking at an image of the model Georgina Grenville in a magazine advertisement for Gucci, the brand that Tom Ford famously put back on the fashion map. This is my first memory of the Tom Ford make-up look.
Since that time, no matter what fashion statement the designer was making — tailored trousers with spiked heels, or tight black shirts unbuttoned to the navel — his original make-up vision of smoky eyes and burnished skin has remained the perfect complement.
It shouldn’t be a total surprise, then, that Ford’s first project since leaving the Gucci Group and setting up his own company is a make-up collection. Created in collaboration with Estée Lauder, the limited-edition Amber Nude range is based on this enduring beauty ideal. It is made up of 11 individual items, all inspired by Youth Dew Amber Nude, a new, lighter take on Estée Lauder’s classic 1950s fragrance. Each product comes packaged in sleek, fluted gold packaging; the compact fastens with a sophisticated amber clasp. It is undeniably luxurious, as you would expect from anything Ford puts his name to. In fact, he has done more than just grace the range with his name: although the formulations are not new to Estée Lauder, he has had the final say on everything from the advertising of the range to the design of the shopping bag.
So why should women listen to Ford when it comes to make-up? When you consider that he admits to using tinted moisturiser and bronzer himself, plus the fact that he has been bringing his beauty vision to catwalk shows and ad campaigns for years, the idea that he is qualified to create make-up becomes much easier to accept.
How does Ford think a woman should dress her face? “I’m very much about the eye,” he says. “If there is to be visible make-up on the face, I prefer a sensual, sexy eye, with a more natural mouth. And I like shading under the cheekbones, to accentuate the architecture.” His collection has all the essential components to achieve this.
The make-up artist Mary Greenwell agrees. “To me, the range epitomises the universally glamorous, sensual, sexy, Tom Ford extravaganza. The face of the range, Carolyn Murphy, is the personification of the feline gorgeousness associated with the Tom Ford look.”
After applying foundation where needed (strong eyes require a flawless backdrop), Greenwell suggests applying The Face Gloss in Amber Nude (£30) — Ford’s favourite product — above and on the cheekbones as well as on temples as a highlighter. Then comes the bronzer. “Ford never goes for pretty, pretty blush,” says Greenwell, who advises brushing The Bronzer in Bronze Amber (£45) under the cheekbones to contour the cheek, then into the hairline and under the chin for further chiselling.
For the eyes, there is the sooty Eye Gloss in Black Amber (£30), which Greenwell describes as a “one-stop product for contemporary, glossy, smoky eyes”. Smear it over the entire eyelid with your fingertips, then add black mascara and eye pencil along the upper lash line.
In keeping with Ford’s penchant for pale lips, the lipsticks in the collection come in four graduating shades of fleshy beige. “When I see a mouth with an enormous amount of lipstick on it, I don’t find it sexy, because I don’t find it kissable,” he says. The most understated choice in the range is The Lip in Amber Blonde (£22), the palest shade, for what Greenwell terms “a Belle de Jour lip”. Finish with a dot of The Lip Polish in Amber Nude (£22) on the centre of the mouth.
All that remains is to slip on your most unashamedly seductive frock, and your transformation into a “glamorous, sensual, sexy” Ford woman will be complete.