Tom Ford Took to the New York Subway For His Latest Show

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Tom Ford SS20 NYFW 2019 New York Fashion Week
Tom Ford Spring/Summer 2020Courtesy of Tom Ford

“This season, for me, is about simplicity. Which is not to be confused with simple,” Tom Ford said of his Spring/Summer 2020 collection

Yesterday evening, Tom Ford forewent his usual show location – the vast Park Avenue Armory, on New York’s Upper East Side – for a trip downtown. And underground. 

Amid an already theatrical season, from Ralph Lauren’s recreation of a jazz-age nightclub inside a Wall Street bank, or Tommy Hilfiger’s all-singing, all-dancing ode to Harlem’s Apollo Theater circa the 1970s – the second part of the designer’s collaboration with Euphoria star Zendaya – Ford proved his own clout, staging his latest collection on a previously disused subway platform. 

Specifically, the Bowery station on the city’s Lower East Side, lit neon purple for the occasion and lined with a single row of folding metal chairs for attendees, gathered to watch the first show from Ford since he became the chairman of the CFDA earlier this year. It is a role which has formalised his connection with the city – previously, he has also shown collections in Los Angeles and London – with the CFDA responsible for New York Fashion Week and its schedule. Perhaps anticipating the weight of the occasion, a rare insight into the collection from the designer was left on each seat.

“I am usually reluctant to talk about the images that inspire me, as I believe that it was Coco Chanel that said ‘Creativity is the art of concealing one’s source,’” the notes read. “What I believe that she meant by that was that one should be inspired by things but change them in a way that makes them one’s own. I always hope that I do that and that the clothes speak for themselves.”

That said, he did offer one source of inspiration, a 1965 photograph of Andy Warhol emerging from a New York manhole, flanked by Edie Sedgwick. The image felt a salient emblem of fashion in the city: the clash of uptown and downtown, glamour and grit, oppositions also long explored by Ford in his work. Alongside, he noted the influence of Luc Besson’s 1985 film Subway, a crime-drama set on the Paris Métro, and its stars Christopher Lambert and Isabelle Adjani (the latter’s spiked mohawk made for this season’s hair look).

But read too deep and you might miss the simple thrill of a Tom Ford collection, which this season propositioned a return to “ease”. “I think that it’s a time for ease,” the designer wrote in the notes, “a return to the kind of luxurious sportswear that America has become known for all over the world”. Indeed, sportswear – in both the sense of clothing created for sport and the wider tradition of American sportswear – was central. Elastic-waist shorts recalled those worn by basketball players (“these torture me,” Ford said of the style, “I’m always fascinated by things that ‘torture me’”), with the same waistline repeated on leather skirts, or sweeping around voluminous, draped jumpsuits. 

An easy glamour was conjured too in ballooning ballgown skirts, sharp satin tailoring, and leather separates (including sculpted leather bralets, which recurred throughout); while slashed swimsuits, reminiscent of his high-octane designs while at Gucci in the 1990s, and sculptural breastplates, an ode to Yves Saint Laurent, lent a shot of energy. Candy-wrapper stilettos completed the look. 

“This season, for me, is about simplicity,” Ford concluded. “Which is not to be confused with simple.”