Saturday, February 04, 2012

"Do something first. Then talk about it"

I just watched a Style Forum Special on Tom Ford twice. Having spent the first time crawling around on the floor lusting after Tom “three baths a day” Ford, the second time through I was actually able to focus on what the man was saying. And he’s pretty bloody on it.


Tom Ford - the man, the creator, the brand - has always been up there with Perrier on my list of most favourite brands ever. But the purchase of a Tom Ford lipstick cemented his position at the top. I’m becoming far too long in the tooth to get evangelical about branding, and Selfridges in the Sales is enough to murder anyone’s sense of “brand experience”. So I wasn’t holding out much hope when I elbowed my way through to the concession. But there, laid out like gilt-edged weaponry, was the most incredible, brand-led packaging I’ve ever seen. The bustling crowd faded away, the orange-tinted sales assistant disappeared, and the bright shopping lights dimmed to a sexy flicker - I was in Tom Ford world.

In the film, Tom explains where the brand story emanates from. He says, “You have to look inside yourself… You start to develop a vocabulary that is a personality. And the brand then takes on a personality based on your personality”. And man, is it one dashing personality - sultry, meticulous, and unarguably gorgeous. It’s a brand personality so astoundingly charming, so memorable, that it has to power to filter down through the couture collection, through the pret-a-porter collection, through the accessories, through the cosmetics and, finally, through to packaging. Never before have I seen a cardboard lipstick box so loaded with meaning, suggestion and story.

It’s not just rock hard branding that infuses Tom Ford products, stores and packaging with that heady scent of je ne sais quoi, however. Dissecting his working practices, Tom reveals, “The clues for everything that's going to come next are here now. And either you're a sleuth and you're thinking about it cerebrally or you feel it. There are no right or wrong answers - it's intuitive”. This “intuition” was there when he transformed Gucci in the nineties, and YSL in the noughties, and it’s here now too in the thousand-doller suits and in this little lipstick box. Knife-sharp lines in a world of soft curves, real attitude in a sea of subtlety.