Spring 2015 Womenswear Inspiration

Designing a collection can be an interesting process. I generally begin by looking at the previous season that I designed and then reacting to it. If one has been in an exuberant mood then it is only natural to often react to that with a collection that might be slightly pulled back and vice versa. So was the case when I began to work on the Spring Summer Women’s Ready to Wear collection that I showed two weeks ago in London. After a somewhat pared back Autumn Winter collection I was ready for something more flamboyant. The same swings in mood can also generally be felt by my customer. If her look has been restrained for a few seasons she will most likely be ready for something more daring.

My earliest inspiration for the collection came this season when I was watching [for about the 20th time] the film "Mata Hari" starring Greta Garbo from 1931 view clip. Her costumes are spectacular in the film and to be honest, steal the show a bit for me. Miss Garbo’s clothes were designed by a man who in my mind was the greatest of all of the costume designers working in Hollywood in the 1930’s, Adrian. I have actually been referred to in the past by several journalists as being the “Adrian” of contemporary fashion designers, and while I certainly don’t think of myself in this way it is a very flattering comparison for me. Once inspired by Mata Hari, the image boards in my office quickly filled with photographs from the film, images of Greta Garbo, and images of the real life Mata Hari who was by the way a highly intelligent and modern woman for her time.

Once on the path of glamour and provocation it did not take me long to be reminded of my longtime fascination of the photos of Carlo Mollino as they were staring at me from the walls of my study at home in London. I was also reminded of their power while viewing a show of the work of Mollino by my close friend Tim Jeffries at Hamilton’s Gallery. While some might call Mollino’s photos soft porn, what has always fascinated me about them is their reliance, and in fact fixation on the tension of fashion and sexuality. Fashion is adornment of the body, and being one who has always found the human body beautiful and something that should be accentuated and glorified by fashion this was an easy point of inspiration for me to take when I was feeling a strong pull towards the types of provocative clothes that first helped me become well known as a designer in the 1990’s. Sitting next to Victoria Beckham one night at a dinner party and doing something that we never do [which was talking about fashion], Victoria happened to mention to me that her favorite pair of pants were still a pair that I designed in bronze lurex for Gucci in 1996. She also suggested that the time was right for me to look at my own work from the late 1990’s for inspiration. The next day at the office I did just that. And began to layer those images onto a board that was now covered in Mollino photos and Mata Hari images. In the end other inspiration images from films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and images of Ursula Andress’s breasts from the opening sequence of “The Tenth Victim”, a film that I sponsored the restoration of while at Gucci, also made it onto my wall and played a role in the definition of the mood of the collection view clip. One reviewer cited Helmut Newton and the film "Night Porter" with Charlotte Rampling as possible inspiration and indeed they were right as well, as Helmut’s images as well as almost every image of the actress Charlotte Rampling that has ever been captured are burned into my hard drive and have become part of my ethos of contemporary beauty.

Months go by when working on a collection and often inspiration shifts and takes turns as time alters one’s eye. In my case my direction can take 180-degree turns as happened while working on the shoes for the show. For the past 5 years, I have designed almost exclusively non-platform shoes, as they simply felt newer than platforms. Oddly, in much of the market constant customer requests for platforms have continued, as women have hated to give up the height bestowed upon them courtesy of a platform. This season, a high and chunky wedge platform felt right as it seemed time to me for more visual “weight” on the foot.

Final touches to the collection came over the summer, and one of these was a visit with me in Santa Fe by one of my closest friends, long time muse, and collaborator and one who does not shy away from personal style; Lisa Eisner. Lisa arrived at our house in New Mexico literally covered in pieces from her new jewelry collection. I was awe struck by their beauty and immediately asked her to do the jewelry for the show which resulted in two gold dresses designed specifically to showcase her designs and in one case I asked her to create a metal spiked bustier which was for me a reference to the bra turned weapon in “The Tenth Victim”.

Happily most of my reviews were extremely positive although one journalist, whom I happen to have great respect for, called the evening clothes in my collection that covered the breasts with small areas of beading “silly”. I actually was amused by this and immediately sent her a note telling her that I enjoyed her review, which I did. The reference to “pasties” was deliberate and while this reference can be related back directly to Mollino, it was also meant to be a reference to a contemporary fashion that seems to be gaining a bit of ground with very young women who have the bodies to pull it off and that is actual pasties as in the case of Miley Cyrus or even a dress that leaves nothing at all to the imagination as worn by Rihanna to the CFDA awards in New York this past summer. I was at the CFDA awards as I was receiving a “Lifetime Achievement Award” [which I prefer to think of as a “Mid Life Achievement Award”], and I have to say that Rihanna was for me, that night, one of the most beautiful women that I have ever beheld. I had designed several things for her specifically for that evening which she did not wear, but when I saw her it did not matter. I whispered into her ear that she was right not to have worn one of my dresses that night because she looked more beautiful than I have ever seen her look. She was stunning. As Richard said plainly after the evening, “If you are as beautiful as Rihanna, you almost owe it to the world to appear in public almost nude” and I have to say that I wholeheartedly concur.

Tom Ford.
London, October 2014