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Tom Ford RTW Spring 2019

Tom Ford focused on subtlety for spring — but with his signature seductive glamour.

Tom Ford is sick of irony. He’s not sure the customer was ever enamored in the first place.

“I try to look around and feel how I’m reacting and how the customer’s reacting to what’s there,” Ford said after his show on Wednesday night at the Park Avenue Armory, the first major event of the spring 2019 season. It proved a glitterati affair, setting the bar high for front-row dazzle: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson to Cardi B, Elizabeth Debicki and super-buzzy Henry Golding.

“I think fashion has gone as far as it can possibly go into the irony world,” Ford noted. “It’s in danger of making so much fun of itself that it’s going to be hard to pull it back and to pull the consumer back.”

Ford’s solution involved pulling back big-time and unapologetically — to that seminal mid-Nineties moment when he catapulted to fame on a platform of invincible attitude and high-heat clothes. Only here, he did it more subtly, while ditching every shred of the street/sport references he worked to brazen distraction last season. “I loved [spring] in bits and pieces, but,” he conceded, “it had tricks.”

Of course, subtlety is relative, and this collection oozed Ford’s signature seductive glamour. He focused on a singular, ultra-lean silhouette that played on a hard-soft dichotomy. “A hard jacket grounds you; it takes the vulnerability out of soft clothes,” he mused. Ford favored a subdued, chic palette of mostly black and skin tones with hints of gentle pink and lavender. (This was complemented by the sprinkling of men’s looks, all elegantly tailored and graceful, but this time out, definitely the supporting cast.) The main construct for women: structured jackets and corsetry over gentle skirts — crepe de chine and mousseline prevailed — some cut asymmetrically or with slits, to reveal lace-edged slips.

Sensuality, Ford maintained, is what the customer wants. And she wants a waist. Period, end of story. “Our customer always wants a waist no matter what, no matter the fashion, they want a waist. Or they won’t buy it. They want a waist,” he hammered home the point. Fair enough. Yet he went further. “They want to look beautiful, they want to look thin.” Thin? If that assessment flies in the face of the cultural shift toward inclusivity, Ford was unapologetic, though a smidgen politic. “She wants to have a waist, no matter her size. In fact, it is quite a trend now, not be so slim but to have a very defined waist.” And yes, it’s still OK if a fashion brand doesn’t feel compelled to offer something for everyone. “There is an exclusivity to it,” Ford acknowledged. “I’ll be blunt and go out on a limb and Charlotte [Blechman, his lead publicist], won’t like it. But our customer, the kind of woman who spends $5,000 on a suit, cares about what she looks like. She eats well, exercises and she takes care of her body. Whatever her body type, she wants to be the best version of herself, so she’s making an effort. It doesn’t mean she’s a size 0. It means she’s making an effort to take care of her body.”

As for the perfect polish that recalled the Gucci days of yore, the retro aura of the runway will temper in the transition to reality. And there will be plenty to buy, particularly in the jacket category, though few women will likely spring for multiples on the skirts. “I don’t expect women to wear things head-to-toe,” Ford said. “People break it apart in pieces. I still wanted to present a potent message.” Irony may be over, but some things never change.