The high-ceilinged Four Seasons restaurant shuttered over the summer, but reopened on Wednesday evening for a one-night-only event that will surely prove memorable to the 160 guests in attendance. After a year on hiatus, Tom Ford returned to the fashion calendar with a cocktail and multi-course dinner party to debut his women's and mens' fall 2016 collections, which walked on an elevated stage built around the 24 dinner tables, anchored by a large bowl of white roses. Ford, who'd just returned from a triumphant screening of his new movie "Nocturnal Animals" at the Venice Film Festival, was backstage for part of the dinner to prepare the models for this premiere "see now, buy now" show for a major luxury brand.
Against the sultry voice of Alicia Keys's "Fallin'" (the singer was sitting with her husband Swizz Beatz and Tom Hanks at a nearby table, with the likes of Julianne Moore, Zayn Malik and Russell Westbrook looking on), models emerged from behind a curtain wearing a variety of day looks. Highlights included classic, short nipped-waist jackets and pencil skirts in fading leather, tweeds, and herringbone, styled with a belt and thigh-high leather boots. As it was a fall/winter show, a great leather coat with fuchsia shearling lining and a color-blocked intarsia fur coat easily complemented a slit black wool dress. The guys wore velvet, leather, jacquard or wool tight jackets and relaxed pants, coupled with yellow turtlenecks as separates rather than as suitings. A single-breasted grey tweed suit with slouchy pants, a beige cashmere turtleneck with a shaved velvet fur coat and a white evening tuxedo were standout classics.
The eveningwear was soft, and the mood felt serene as supermodels Carolyn Murphy, Amber Valletta and Liya Kebede slowly walked wearing light sequined mock turtlenecks, fringed long skirts or long sinewy dresses — a feel that's diametrically opposed to the in-your-face glamour of Ford's past offerings. It was a mature collection set on a new platform and ready for the Instagram world.
Maturity and sexiness are perhaps two of the most difficult elements of the human condition to successfully converge in fashion, but on Wednesday, Ford did so effortlessly. Plus, the parade of men's and women's clothes is already available for purchase online and at the designer's eponymous boutiques worldwide.
In lieu of a barrage of photographers at the end of the runway, a Hollywood movie crew — with over 22 cameras — filmed the show for a live-stream in order to create a more precise visual of the experience; Ford wanted to make sure the at-home audience could feel like they were right there in the room. Creating a digital experience has been one of the more difficult tasks facing luxury fashion houses — specifically, how to emulate their in-store experience off-line. I watched the live-stream of the show on Thursday morning, and with the closeness of the movie cameras and the high-definition sound, the show almost felt more alive than when I saw it in person last night.
After the show ended, the models mingled among the guests, drinking champagne and listening to an intimate performance by Leon Bridges on guitar, accompanied by two vocalists. From the musicians to the models to the guests, the clothing in the room was so elegant (and so wearable) that the usual boundary between on and off the runway almost ceased to exist. Karlie Kloss could have walked the show in her light silver dress with silver padlock sandals, but she was just a guest this time around.
The "see now, buy now" conversation that has dominated fashion over the past year is approaching fever pitch: How do you push merchandise seen at the shows straight to consumers without creating a real desire for customers to run to stores and stock up? Here, I think adding the crucial missing ingredient — that of desire — makes the new model more workable: "Feel now, see now, then buy now" is what Ford seemed to have in mind as the correct course moving forward. With his sophisticated dinner party, and a live-stream worthy of the big-screen to match, the designer set an example that we expect other luxury labels to follow. Here's a toast to how the "see now, buy now" model should be.
Long Nguyen is the co-founder and style director of Flaunt.