Tom Ford for Gucci Day Dresses
At the time, the internationally renowned Italian label was better known for leather goods than luxury fashion. It was also nearly bankrupt. After creative director Dawn Mello left in 1994, following a Bahrain-based investment group becoming Gucci’s majority shareholder, Ford was named creative director. The American designer soon infused the brand with a fresh sensuality and bold style.
Ford's potent vision of sexed-up femininity spanned everything from shirts to shoes to handbags and other accessories at Gucci — he reimagined the house's iconic double-ring-and-bar Horsebit hardware, a reference to the brand’s equestrian history, as a seductive low-slung belt, worn by Madonna when accepting an MTV video music award in 1995. For his fall show during that year, in which Kate Moss walked down the runway in an unbuttoned satin shirt, velvet hip-huggers and tousled hair, heralded an exciting, glammed-up era for the once fusty brand. Vogue critic Sarah Mower called it “one of those hitting-in-the-solar-plexus moments.”
As Ford shot to fame, he continued to explore plunging necklines, such as in the black and white looks of the Fall 1996 collection, and sumptuous fabrics like leather and tweed, with the Fall 2000 ready-to-wear collection ranging from sultry silk evening dresses to plush belted coats.
Ford also cranked up the seduction in the provocative ads for Gucci, particularly with regard to campaigns for Yves Saint Laurent, which the fashion house acquired in 1999 (Ford was also named creative director for YSL and designed the brand’s ready-to-wear collection). Gucci's Fall/Winter 1997 campaign featured Carolyn Murphy grasping Angela Lindvall in what looked like a video still; in another shot, a face pressed against a foot in a lipstick-red heel. Each promoted a vision of modern fashion where women were sexually confident, the materials were luxurious and the styles were fearless.
In 2004, Ford and Gucci president Domenico De Sole left the company after failing to agree on the renewal of their contracts. In 2006, with De Sole as chairman, Ford launched his wildly successful eponymous menswear label. Today Ford is also an author, film director and chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.