Tom Ford and the Pre-fab Line

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I don’t know Tom Ford from Adam, but I’ve had his image shoved down my throat for years.  I have no interest in fashion, but I’m queer and live in an urban setting. In my world, Tom Ford is on par with McDonald’s in terms of ubiquity. 

Tom Ford (the brand) would have you believe that Tom Ford (the man) is some sort of pinnacle of homosexuality—a snapshot of circuit-party, homo-affluence.  Masculine but fussy. White but international. Unaffected, but affected. The brand sells Ford surrounded by stylish extravagance while he manages to maintain his image of bemused detachment. High-fashion world-weariness is ugly and brands that express boredom with the lifestyle they espouse make me crazy. 

For those who would link homosexuality with the Ford brand, something the brand does explicitly, please think about the medium and the message. I’m queer, and Tom’s not my fag. I don’t blame straight people for Richard Nixon.

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Independent films were once simply films not produced by the mainstream studios. Over time, studios bought or formed production companies that would churn out ‘indie’ style movies and the studio system swallowed ‘indie’ whole. The notion of the independent film has ceased to have any meaning. The Tom Ford line begs the question: Has the same thing happened to niche perfumery?

Ford art-directed a brilliant set of perfumes for Gucci in the late ’90s-early ’00s. He was one of the first to bring niche style to designer fragrances and he did it with unprecedented success. The Gucci perfumes of the time left most niche perfumes in the dust. Riding on this success, Ford launched his own line of perfumes, following the now-requisite high/low branding approach: a mainstream line and an exclusive line. A few of the perfumes in the exclusive line became cult hits (Purple Patchouli, Moss Breches, Christophe Laudamiel’s Amber Absolute—all discontinued) and gave the line huge street-cred with the fumie crowd. Unfortunately, Ford also lit the fire on the trend of higher and higher priced luxury perfumes. As time passed, Ford followed the logical outcome of the luxury trend: risk aversion. The perfumes became safer, broader, less interesting

I don’t love every perfume in the Private Blend/Jardin Noir collections, but no collection should be designed to appeal to one individual’s likes. Which points to Ford’s astute tactic not to ‘fill slots’ and include every genre and style, a trap that most large mainstream lines fall into. Ford cedes the low ground of the gourmand and the aquatic to the the Sephora wall and goes heavy on woods and florals. The woods have some predictable entries (a few too many noirs and ouds) but also some stand-outs like Tuscan Leather and Arabian Wood. An emphasis on atypical florals (hyacinth, jonquille,  champaca) gives the brand an edge over the grim fruity florals still flogged by many brands. 

Neroli and Azure are spins on an Eau de Cologne and Lavender Palm is a simple, smart take on lavender. Italian Cypress is an old school fougère. Plum Japonais is a revamped fruity chypre. These successful perfumes in the line make an interesting point: exotic notes might sound glamorous, but well designed simplicity is luxurious.

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