Making Sense of Tom Ford's Over-the-Top Cartoon Glam Rock Fall Collection

For his London runway debut, Tom Ford sent out a “Cross Cultural Multi Ethnic” collection—-his words, not mine-—filled with patchwork fur coats, zebra-print gowns, exploding cartoon-punch star bombers (POW!), and embroidered floral everything. It was excessive. My split-second reaction after looking at the images on WWD last night? "Wow, that's gross."
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For his London runway debut, Tom Ford sent out a “Cross Cultural Multi Ethnic” collection—-his words, not mine-—filled with patchwork fur coats, zebra-print gowns, exploding cartoon-punch star bombers (POW!), and embroidered floral everything. It was excessive. My split-second reaction after looking at the images on WWD last night? "Wow, that's gross."
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For his London runway debut, Tom Ford sent out a “Cross Cultural Multi Ethnic” collection—-his words, not mine-—filled with patchwork fur coats, zebra-print gowns, exploding cartoon-punch star bombers (POW!), and embroidered floral everything. It was excessive.

My split-second reaction after looking at the images on WWD last night? "Wow, that's gross."

The 2010 debut of Ford's namesake collection garnered great praise. Then, as the seasons went on, critics grew tired of his costume-y '70s style (not to mention his ultra exclusive no-photos-allowed presentations--though we still didn't get invited to this show). His Fall 2013 collection was certainly a departure from his typical aesthetic, although the Helmut Newton hair was still present.

And maybe that's why people seem to be so into it. Vogue.com's Sarah Mower gave it a pretty positive (if not glowing) review, saying, "it all looked beautifully made." As did Cathy Horyn: "I rather liked that he had the deliberate bad taste to show a head-to-toe look in pink, complete with matching boots, and I told him so." Style.com's Tim Blanks had a similar reaction. "Unabashedly exalted excess can have a charm that is as hard to fight as the big KA-POWs on Ford's eveningwear," he said.

Taking a second look this morning after my initial horror, I can't deny that there is an utter confidence in Ford's clothes that could only come from an experienced designer and styliste, as Karl Lagerfeld is called in France. After all, Ford is living in London, amongst the Meadham Kirchoffs and JW Andersons of the world. Their clothes make me uncomfortable (JW Anderson is the shining star because, like Miuccia Prada, his work is also desirable) but that's what I'm expecting from them. A bit of art along with the fashion. Ford's clothes were not art, but they had a chaotic sensibility that makes sense in London and nowhere else.

Celebrities will be the ones to wear this stuff, and I have no doubt Kim and Kanye will have matching Tom Ford bombers by summer. "So sick... killed it," said Justin Timberlake on Twitter, who is wearing Ford exclusively for his upcoming tour. "An artist at work is a sight to behold," said his wife, Jessica Biel.

While none of these characters are arbiters of taste, neither is Ford. And maybe that's okay. Because what is fashion for if not to get people riled up?

Photos: IMAXtree