We are proud of its unique take on ’70s bohemia. Alessandro Michele’s Milanese collection of today features ruffled sheer dresses, trompe-l’oeil pussybows and ironic suits. But that wasn’t always true. Tom Ford, the Tom Ford we know today, was Tom Ford before he became Tom Ford. He redefined Gucci in the 1990s with glamour and sex appeal.
Though Gucci has been around for decades, each designer’s tenure produced a radically different aesthetic signature. Although it is not required by the industry, designers are expected to incorporate the history of a house into their current collections. Even if the overall look changes, just ask Hedi Slimane about his first collection at Celine. Critic Cathy Horyn explains that Gucci was famous for its accessories, but their ready-to-wear didn’t have its own story, which gave Tom Ford the blessing and curse, a clean slate to work from until his departure in 2004.
After finding his footing in 1994, Ford’s new Gucci was as provocative as it was glamorous. This was wearable sex appeal, with a luxurious twist. The pants barely hugged the hips of the models. The necklines reached the navels and sheer fabric was a little too much. Campaigns featured steamy scenes and even showed pubic hair shaved in the iconic GG logo. The public was furious at this one. Ford gained respect at awards shows as well, dressing women Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman in Grecian-like outfits that celebrated the human body.
In the ’90s, Miuccia Prada was making fashion intellectual with her interpretation of “ugly” fashion. This was the American boy from Milan, doing exactly the opposite, wearing sexy, slinky clothes that were hot. Horyn says that revenues in 1995’s first nine months doubled to $342 million compared to the previous year. He made the sexy, desirable idea of luxury that was a gated concept seem attractive and appealing.
Head to Justin Friedman’s Instagram account, and you’ll find ensembles that look startlingly similar to popular styles of today. These are features that can be found on top designers today. Ford’s design sensibility in this era was to make the perverse (i.e. a visible thong belt) attractive and fashionable.
The references to that era in pop culture today are also prolific. Michele, despite his brand’s new direction, referred to Gwyneth Paltrow’s iconic look circa 1996 in one of his “hacks”. You can also see nods towards the aesthetic in modern Micheles.