With an Ode to '80s Excess, Tom Ford Rebuffs the Democratization of Luxury

“What year was this song?” Sam Broekema, InStyle's market and accessories director, asked midway through a glitzy Tom Ford runway show on Thursday night. It was the first big moment of the New York women’s collections and Ford, showing at the Park Avenue Armory on the Upper East Side, had gone deep into the rich-bitch 1980s, with an homage to sequins and animal prints, and a medley of Pointer Sisters classics on the soundtrack. “Jump, jump for my love.”

My mind had drifted to a moment from the sixth grade or so, when my parents took me to my first concert, a double billing of the Pointer Sisters and Lionel Richie that somehow passed through our small corner of West Virginia, and I thought of Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop and watching Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous on a television that still had a knob to change the channels, while dreaming of the West Coast ideal. “1984,” I said to Sam, before I Googled it and was shocked to learn that I was right. My god, I thought, are the Pointer Sisters my very own Madeleine?

It will come as no surprise that Tom Ford is a master of capturing a moment through design, gesture, and sound, and here he displayed his love of the Los Angeles era of today, which seems almost a separate country from the rest of the United States. But that he would also venture so boldly into the very last era of haute capitalism for inspiration – and I’m talking about all the greed, ambition, racism, and social politics of the Reagan years at a time like this is nothing short of amazing, and also a little depressing, if he’s correct about the future direction of luxury (as he usually is).

Personally, I hate it when fashion writers project some sort of Nostradamus-like super-powers onto designers who are just paying attention to the news, but I’ll allow that Ford has a certain gift for drafting the zeitgeist as a recurring element in his collections. It may have been a coincidence that the stock market would enter a “correction,” as the papers were politely describing a 1,000 point drop the very same day of his show, but the underlying truth of the moment remains: We live in a Trump world where the ultra-affluent are amassing unimaginable wealth at the expense of not only the poor, but also the middle class, and, under the new tax code, even people who only a few years ago were described as “the 1 percent.” And they’re doing it in a way that seems very 1984.

Ford’s fall collection, then, was pitch perfect in its appeal to the .0001 percent, with its unabashed embrace of broad shoulders and power suit jackets worn with silver leggings, clashing Lacroix animal prints, acid green suits, sequined sweatshirts that heralded “Tom Ford Beverly Hills” in crystal script that recalled the logo of the legendary Rodeo Drive retailer Fred Hayman and Giorgio of Beverly Hills, and loosely sketched crazy collages that may have owed a debt to the Dutch designer Koos Van Den Akker (famous as the creator of Bill Cosby’s sweaters). I could picture Robin Leach reporting this story from a yacht somewhere, and Elsa Klensch waiting impatiently backstage for her CNN sound bite, and as nostalgic as I might be for my own childhood, I’m not sure I’m ready to live through all that again. Thankfully, Ford has a bigger vision.

A second undercurrent bubbled to the surface in this collection, one that hinted at the modern-day women’s movement and Time’s Up, perhaps recasting the rich bitch as the heroine in this decade. Ford, never one for subtlety, embellished a handbag and a pair of shoes with the words: “Pussy Power.”

Anyway, it’s way too soon in the fashion cycle to suggest an '80s resurgence is in the offing for fall, as we already have another decade to contend with thanks to the resurgence of Juicy Couture. At the label’s first runway show under the direction of stylist Jamie Mizrahi, those famous tracksuits favored by Jennifer Lopez in the late '90s were reprised in fantastically fun form, with versions made of sequins, leather, and, of course, velour. Mizrahi shrewdly offered a full array of modern, streetwear-savvy pink puffers and gold brocade separates, before sending out her models in a finale of updated sweats that will be catnip for the modern athleisure set looking for the perfect ensemble to drop their kids off at school and then heading to SoulCycle or the boardroom.

And if that weren’t enough, Jeremy Scott ended the night with a neon rampage of moon boots, silver foil jumpsuits, faux fur, and his own version of velour tracksuits, in electrified cotton candy colors that seemed like the result an ecstasy-fueled fever dream or a side effect of watching a Gregg Araki marathon. There were many great pieces in Scott’s collection, mind you, like the boots, skirt, top, and a dress made of collages of fabric, feathers, and the occasional Mickey Mouse appliqué, sandwiched and wadded between layers of clear plastic, which managed to look both trashy and kind of cool.

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