Tom Ford is taking over as chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).
But what does this mean for emerging new talent?
The Council of Fashion Designers of America
Ford replaces the current Chairman of the CFDA, Diane von Fürstenberg. A tough act to follow. A fashion industry icon in her own right, her company, DvF, is available in over 70 countries. Not only has she been Chairman of the CFDA since 2006, Forbes also voted her the 68th most powerful woman in the world.
The influence of the CFDA should not be underestimated. The not-for-profit trade association of over 450 American fashion designers provides financial support and business opportunities to up-and-coming designers and businesses. It also hosts the CFDA Fashion Awards – the Oscars of the fashion world.
Nominations are submitted by the Fashion Guild, a group of over 1,500 CFDA fashion members, with the winners applauded for excellence in fashion design.
Tom Ford himself received a lifetime achievement award from the CFDA in 2014.
With no experience of fashion, his big break came when he called American designer Cathy Hardwick every day for a month, begging for a chance to be interviewed for the role of design assistant. Eventually his tenacity paid off, she interviewed him and he won her over.
Ford has a keen global perspective. In an interview with The New York Times, he said, "If I was ever going to become a good designer, I had to leave America. My own culture was inhibiting me. Too much style in America is tacky. It's looked down upon to be too stylish. Europeans, however, appreciate style."
Before launching his own luxury brand name in 2016, Ford was Creative Director at Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci, turning around their fortunes with disco-era glamour, velvet hipsters, skinny satin shirts, car-finish metallic patent boots, evening dresses and provocative advertising campaigns.
The Tom Ford label, launched in 2016, caters for international, cultured, well-travelled consumers with disposable income, and women who “know their own style”. His clothes are stylish and sleek, with sharp tailoring.
Having dressed numerous celebrities, Tom Ford has had a major impact on popular culture and has been recognised by design associations worldwide.
However, his legacy doesn’t stop there. In more recent times his career as a film Director and Producer has made him a regular on the red carpet.
Implications for Emerging Talent
The CFDA’s mission is to strengthen the influence and success of American designers worldwide. And designers are likely to need the support of the CFDA now more than ever. Politics has infiltrated fashion, mid-career designers are stuck at a crossroads, unsure which way to go, and brands are attempting to reinvent themselves.
In developing future American design talent, Ford might be likely to want to support tenacious designers with contemporary, novel, youthful, provocative, sophisticated ideas and a strong work ethic.
His belief in the importance of international exposure and global thinking is also likely to shape his views.
As someone who pushed the envelope and brought luxury to the mainstream, one thing’s for sure – Ford’s appointment will lead to the showcasing of some exciting new designers.
What do you think Tom Ford will bring to the CFDA? What challenges do you think he will face?
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