Coronavirus depression almost derailed Tom Ford’s latest collection, as the designer thought that introducing new fashions would be ‘frivolous’ and needless during a worldwide pandemic.
In his show notes for his Spring/Summer 2021 collection, Ford, 59, explained that he started working on it when Los Angeles was in ‘strict lockdown,’ and he was plagued by an attitude of, ‘who needs new clothes?’
But ultimately, after months of being holed up inside in the same dirty jeans and tee, the fashion icon started to yearn for a world in which people make an effort, and realized that this collection — and ‘clothes that make us feel good’ — can symbolize hope for a happier time to come.
‘When I began working on this collection, we were under strict lockdown. The coronavirus pandemic was in full swing. Social unrest was filling the news every day,’ Ford wrote in the notes, which appear on his website.
Typically, show notes are printed and distributed at fashion shows — but with typical Fashion Week presentations impossible this year, most of the traditions have moved online.
‘I had been wearing the same dirty jeans, jeans shirt, T-shirt, and trainers for weeks,’ he went on. ‘I had not left the house in months. I was irritated when I had a Zoom meeting because it meant washing my hair and perhaps trimming my beard.’
This was, naturally, a huge departure for Ford, who is never seen without perfectly-trimmed facial hair and a chic suit.
‘At the time, the thought of designing a collection seemed frivolous when so many important and disturbing things were happening in our world,’ he wrote.
‘Our stores were all closed and fashion itself just seemed like an extravagance. It was hard to focus, to concentrate, to be inspired.
With his sample rooms in Italy and LA closed, he ‘wasn’t sure if I could make a collection even if I felt inspired to do so’.
‘As this all dragged from spring into the summer and as I think we could all feel a global depression (both financial and psychological) worsening, I thought about skipping the season altogether.
‘After all,’ he noted, ‘when no one can go out of their house, who needs new clothes? If you can’t go to the office, why do you need a new suit? If there is not a dinner or a party to go to, why would you need a new dress?
‘And heels seemed absurd altogether. I mean, why would one walk around their apartment in a new pair of heels or sit and homeschool their kids in a pair of jeweled platforms? I feel that honestly fashion should simply go into hibernation for a year.’
But his perspective changed when lockdown started to ease a bit in LA, and he was able to have a couple friends over at a time for an outdoor, socially-distanced meal.
‘I started to feel for a slightly more dressed world. A still casual world, but one where I actually felt like making a bit of an effort to get dressed, and I noticed that our guests seemed to feel that way too,’ he recalled.
Caftans and simple dresses with flat shoes came to mind, as did nicely-cut pants and a fresh shirt for men.
‘There was alight at the end of the tunnel. Or at least an imaginary light: the hope of a happier time to come.
‘That is what this collection is for me: the hope of a happier time. Still a somewhat casual moment as it relates to fashion, but a time in which we need clothes that make us smile. Clothes that make us feel good.’
In designing the collection, he drew inspiration from ‘the smiles of the models from the ’70s like Pat Cleveland or Donna Jordon’ — including Pat’s ’70s makeup.
‘I think that months and months of looking at people on Zoom with no makeup, dirty hair, and bad lighting have made me long for the indulgence of fill-on makeup,’ he wrote.
So when styling his models in the new collection, he picked bright, vivid makeup like hot pink lipstick and blue eyeshadow.
‘It does, of course, look great on Zoom,’ he added.
But sadly, Ford concluded, even now the world looks similar to how it did months ago, with the pandemic ‘waiting to pounce’ and social unrest ‘worse than ever.’
‘I can only hope that by the time these clothes reach the stores in spring ’21, that it will be a more optimistic time. A time when we can all perhaps breathe a sign of relief and begin to return to our lives as we knew them,’ he wrote.
‘The global zeitgeist always affects fashion and for me this longing for a hopeful spring translates into somewhat classic, relaxed clothes that make me smile. Clothes to have a bit of fun in.’