May 28, 2024

Five months after Estée Lauder bought the Tom Ford label for $2.8 billion, the question of whether the designer would continue working with his eponymous brand has been answered. On Wednesday, the brand released images and videos of Ford’s final collection.

In a campaign photographed by Steven Klein, models like Joan Smalls, Karen Elson, and Amber Valletta pose in glass boxes as a suit-clad Ford walks past. The models, many of whom have worked with Ford since his brand’s debut in 2010, weren’t the only injection of nostalgia to the presentation. Tom Ford’s autumn/winter 2023 collection features reissued versions of some of his greatest hits throughout the past thirteen years. Each piece acts as a rearview mirror looking into the past. There’s the white, caped gown Gwyneth Paltrow wore to the Oscars in 2012, a color blocked sequin dress from spring 2016, the spring 2020 breastplate Zendaya donned for the Critics Choice Awards that year. Little statement was delivered with the collection, but the clothes speak for themselves. It’s a “Where’s Waldo” of Ford’s designs, a mini retrospective of his work at Tom Ford, as well as YSL and Gucci.

In a video, also shot by Klein, Smalls, Elson, Valletta, Karlie Kloss, and others are dressed in black, literally mourning the designer. Elson sings an aria in black lace, Kloss peeps through a veil, Valletta’s drops to the floor in anguish, all as Ford looks on. It’s a theatrical farewell to a man who has been moonlighting as a filmmaker for years.

When the sale to Estée Lauder was initially made public back in November 2022, it was announced that Ford would stay on as the creative lead until the end of 2023. But it’s only April, and he is already saying goodbye. What’s next for the designer is unclear—perhaps more of a focus on film?—as is the question of who will take his place. According to the New York Times, bets are on Peter Hawkings, the brand’s menswear designer.

“The day I don’t love to do it, I’ll sell it,” Ford told Sarah Mower at Vogue of his brand back when it initially launched in 2010. “Because we’re all only here for a little while, and nothing we do or make has any permanence at all. I care now because I’m doing it. I want to be proud of what I do. Which may be 10 or 20 years; who knows?” It seems this time, thirteen was the lucky number.