Tom Ford’s fall collection is stunning – but it’s really all about the fur hats

|     Robin Givhan, The Washington Post     |

NEW YORK – Cool civility. That might be the best way to describe the collection that designer Tom Ford put on his runway Wednesday evening.

His show at the Park Avenue Armory ostensibly marked the start of the fall 2019 season here, which began with an invigorating breeze rather than a bang. His runway was co-ed, but the women were the stars in silk blouses, satin pants and velvet jackets in glorious shades of lilac and raspberry, mocha and pale blue.

He gave them top-notch tailoring – the kind that is so often reserved for men, and that can make a person look like they’re ready to take on the world even if they’d rather be home curled under an anxiety blanket.

And hats! Glorious faux-fur hats in pink, lilac and white tilted down like some teddy bear gangster, cartoon street tough or pimp-tastic boss lady.

Ford’s was a reassuring collection, one that said, “It’s OK. It’s going to be all right. And even if the ship is going down, well, you’ll look good in the lifeboat.”

There was nothing coddling about this collection. It wasn’t mushy. It oozed strength but not power. The pinstriped jacket made a woman look smart – not like a corporate killer. The men looked elegant. Peacocking is too easy. And the slinky evening gowns, suspended from thick chains, invoked just enough aesthetic tension to hold your gaze and make you wonder: Is anything in danger of slipping off? The tease of nudity is always more exciting than flat-out nakedness.

Tom Ford New York Fall-Winter 2019 Collection. – WP-BLOOM

Ford’s collection spoke in calm, authoritative tones. Does anyone really need a big, overwrought explosion or a lot of shouting coming from a runway these days? Of course not. You wake up in the morning, have your coffee, and by lunchtime you’ve spiralled into your own deafening primal scream. What now, news alerts? What’s the latest standoff, smackdown or clap-back? Who’s indicted? Who’s testifying? Seriously. Seriously?

This Fashion Week needed Ford’s confident ease not just because of all the news swirling around outside the industry, but also because of the shifts and upheavals within. There’s no Calvin Klein show scheduled this season because the big brand parted ways with designer Raf Simons and is regrouping to become less artsy, less fashion-forward and more, well, something – anything – that will appeal to a larger customer base.

Tommy Hilfiger has decamped to Paris. Joseph Altuzarra and Thom Browne will both mount shows there, too. Rodarte already showed its collection in Los Angeles. That’s home for designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy – the West Coast loves fashion – and that’s where all the Hollywood celebrities are, and that’s who mostly wears their clothes.

Jason Wu has nixed the big runway shows. Kerby Jean-Raymond, after winning the CFDA-Vogue Fashion Fund and bravely demonstrating how fashion can speak powerfully to issues of social justice, is taking a breather and not presenting a collection. That’s a lot of wind out of the sails. But American fashion presses on.

Thank goodness for Ford’s opener. His inspiration was not something terribly specific. Mostly it was the mesmerising light and boundless colour in California, where he has resided for the past few years since moving from London. He was also influenced by everything that’s roiling the world. That mix of sights and sounds led him to the conclusion that the best he can offer his customers – those lucky, lucky ladies with all that disposable income – is a little something lovely.

Put on his loosefitting satin trousers. Roll up the hem a little to show off those sparkly heels. Chin up. Fur hat on. Cock it to the side. Proceed. – WP-BLOOM