Tom Ford is retiring from the eponymous brand he co-founded almost 20 years ago. The American fashion designer set up the Tom Ford design house in 2005 and sold it to Estée Lauder last November for $2.8 billion (approximately €2.52 billion).
The brand’s other co-founder Domenico de Sole is also stepping down, to be replaced by Guillaume Jesel, who becomes chief executive and president. Tom Ford himself will have his vacant role as creative director filled by long-time associate Peter Hawkings.
The Tom Ford brand has been very successful and includes a well regarded fashion line and lucrative beauty wing as well as an eyewear business via a licensing agreement with the Italian group Marcolin. They will continue manufacturing and selling the eyewear, while Estée Lauder will handle the cosmetics and fragrance businesses, while the Italian menswear group Ermenegildo Zegna will be responsible for men’s and women’s fashion after acquiring a 30-year licensing deal which allows them to use the Tom Ford brand and trademark.
It was thought that Ford would stay on until the end of the year but, in a surprise move this week, he released a ‘final collection’, featuring supermodels of the 1990s wearing archive designs from the past 13 years.
The 61-year-old has been a huge name in fashion for years, rising to international fame after joining Gucci in 1990. He rose quickly through the ranks and was named as creative director in 1994, being credited for saving the Italian brand from bankruptcy by revitalising it with his glamorous and highly coveted designs, starting with his smash hit 1995 collection.
He was sometimes criticised for his provocative approach to the brand’s identity and sexually suggestive adverts. In 2003, an advertising campaign featuring a model with pubic hair shaved in the shape of Gucci’s logo came close to being banned in the UK.
Ford left Gucci the following year to start his own brand, explaining to Women’s Wear Daily at the time that the decision “was about control”.
Peter Hawkings joined Gucci when Ford was at the helm in 1998, going on to join his colleague at the Tom Ford brand in 2006. Hawkings most recently held the role of senior vice-president of menswear and Ford sang his praises in a statement, saying, “In Peter Hawkings the brand has found the perfect creative director”.
In a separate statement, it was announced that Tom Ford would be working more in the film industry via his production company, Fade to Black. He has already made successful movies, including 2009’s A Single Man, which he wrote, produced and directed and Nocturnal Animals, starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal, in 2016.