Five Times Sunglasses Ruled the Tom Ford Runway

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From Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent to his eponymous label, we chart Tom Ford’s fascination with eyewear – the one thing the designer says you should never leave home without

Chief among the 15 commandments that Tom Ford gave men – not limited to owning a pair of tweezers and having good teeth (“if you don’t have them, save up and get them fixed”) – was to purchase what the American designer deemed the “perfect pair” of sunglasses. Presumably this edict applied to his woman, too: fashion’s current propensity for barely-there sunglasses can surely be traced back to the slimline frames he presented whilst at the house of Gucci in the 1990s. 

Now, as Ford releases his Blue Block collection – a suprisingly practical set of optical eyewear designed to block out the damaging light that a computer, or other digital devices, emit – AnOther looks back at five times Ford has celebrated shades on the runway, from stints at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, to his own eponymous label.

1. Gucci S/S01 (above)

If Tom Ford is known for being well-versed in the age-old idiom “sex sells”, one should not be mistaken in thinking – even if one of his erotically-charged campaigns for Gucci might have seen the house’s double-G logo shaved into a patch of pubic hair – that his women are simply play things. His S/S01 collection for Gucci was his most overt assertion of this yet: here, Ford’s early tendency for sexually explicit clothing was tempered with a renewed sense of toughness, which seemed to channel The Matrix’s PVC-clad and martial arts proficient computer hacker Trinity. (The first in the film’s trilogy was released a year prior.) Carrie-Ann Moss’ character was most readily evoked by Ford’s model muse for the season, the sharp-jawed and cropped-haired Eleonora Bosé, who wore the designer’s take on the rimless sunglasses central to the movie. Bosé herself was a new type of model – as Guy Trebay wrote of her in the New York Times: “Where the other models in Mr Ford’s cabine sauntered and sashayed in a way that muted the fetishistic edge of his corsets and conical bras, Ms Bosé stalked the runway with a defiant gravity that, to paraphrase Hemingway, was never far from disdain.” Bosé would go on to front that season’s eyewear campaign, coming to define a newfound spirit of the time.

2. Tom Ford A/W18

Though Tom Ford’s latest eponymous collection might have been presented in New York’s Park Avenue Armoury, it was an ode of sorts to America’s other coastline – the west, and the city of Los Angeles. “These clothes were most definitely in the business of SHOW!, and they were all the better for it,” wrote critic Tim Blanks of the occasion. Quotidian items were transfigured into anything but – leggings were made over in lamé, or dipped in crystal (so too pointed kitten heels); an exuberant colour palette evoked 1980s Stephen Sprouse and sweatshirts were embellished with ‘Giorgio’s’ in sequins, a reference to the 1980s legendary Rodeo Drive store. Of course, in the spirit of any Los Angelean worth their salt, there were sunglasses here too: namely, those large enough to block out the year-round California sunshine – or the pesky flare of the paparazzi’s bulbs. 

3. Yves Saint Laurent S/S01

The turn of the millennium felt ripe for a reinvention of the Yves Saint Laurent woman – after all, a shift in mood in the early aughts saw designers channelling a newly energised, and empowered, consumer. (One only needs to look at Nicolas Ghesquière’s early Balenciaga shows of this period to find her.) Saint Laurent himself had long made power women his trade, liberating their wardrobes decades before, but Ford’s debut collection for YSL attempted to channel this without being oppressed by the rich annals of the house. So he did what he did best – a collection that was unabashedly ‘Ford’ – taking Laurent’s Le Smoking, and making it streamlined and sexy, in a colour palette of black and white. “By avoiding colour, Mr Ford not only removed the most obvious point of comparison to Mr Saint Laurent, he also gave himself a blank slate on which to propose a different proportion,” wrote the New York Times of the show. Accessories were largely absent, models carrying only a small, hard cigarette case in lieu of a handbag (an apparent ode to the house’s creator) – though some models did wear rimless black sunglasses, impenetrable to light, with their gowns, slicing through the glamour with a newfound modernity.

4. Gucci S/S97

You will likely know this show already, though perhaps not for what the models were wearing, rather, the lack of. In what has become part of fashion’s hallowed pop culture iconography – find it on a Pinterest board near you – the final slew of looks saw Ford’s Gucci women (and men, too) sans trousers, wearing simply G-string underwear, held in place with a metal Gucci logo. Though reviews of the time may have been predictably sniffy – “his soggy bra and pants – G-printed, of course – did nothing for anyone’s bottom line,” wrote the New York Times ­– then little has dampened the appeal of the barely-there collection. In fact, much of the desire it has provoked is from the feel that it might all slip off at a moment’s notice – including the shoes, which actually did come loose mid-catwalk. “It wasn’t meant to happen that the shoes came off – but then it’s sexy to have your clothes come off at any point in time,” Ford said, in typical style, backstage. Firmly in place though were the sunglasses – Ford’s take on the aviator – which, alongside the skimpy undergarments and tousled wet hair propositioned a bold new take on beachwear.

5. Tom Ford A/W12

If Tom Ford’s return was triumphant, it was made all the more so by the fact so few people got to see it. His first own label show was presented in S/S11, and saw Beyoncé, Daphne Guinness and Julianne Moore walk in an intimate salon-style presentation in London. Few images remain – save for a film of the evening on Ford’s YouTube channel – though A/W12, two seasons afterward, continued the contemporary Fordian mission in a similar vein. Here, he propositioned a grown up, Park Avenue-cum-days of disco brand of excess, which spoke of sex and hedonism more the spirit of Nan Kempner than the pleasure-seeking up-all-nighters of Tom Ford yore. “His clothes used to wear his women,” Tim Blanks wrote of the collection. “Now he’s got it the right way round.” Ford described it himself as “Russian spy”, so naturally his woman came replete with sunglasses – this time, XXL and worn with a leather trench and matching knee-high boots for full covert intelligence fantasy.