It’s the end of an era. Tom Ford is moving away from sex—professionally speaking. In an interview with The Cut this week, the designer referenced a new visual strategy, saying, “The sex thing’s a little bit old at this point. Been there, done that.” He later added, “I suppose I’ve been more romantic lately. More sensual than sexual because that’s all quite easy at this point.” It’s easy for him, perhaps, because he’s been doing it for so damn long. Seriously, he’s been at it for over 20 years.
Gucci officially became sexy in 1994, when Ford was given control of all creative aspects of the Italian house. Tops were sheer, skirts were micro-mini, and the ad campaigns featured both men and women in hyper-sexualized poses (The 2003 G spot campaign, anyone?). It was a rebranding that took the company’s profits from multimillion to multibillion over the course of his decade-long tenure. Sex really does sell.
Things also ramped up for Yves Saint Laurent when Ford took over as creative director of brand in 2000. You know that famous Helmut Newton photograph, “Le Smoking”? That’s basically what Ford’s version of the label was—’70s-style silhouettes, and garments that not only freed the nipple, but made it a focal point. Though Saint Laurent himself panned Ford’s work, the designer seemed to win over pretty much everyone else in fashion as a proper spiritual successor.
The whole time, Ford as a person became increasingly visually synonymous with nudity. Many magazine covers and editorials feature the designer-cum-director in his custom tailored suits whilst surrounded by beautiful naked women. But all of that seems downright tame compared to the images Ford started producing for his namesake line. Often pairing with the controversial photographer Terry Richardson, his fragrance ads were basically a naked free-for-all. And though his clothes may now leave a bit more to the imagination, his campaigns continued to find ways to work in some sauciness.
Perhaps Ford is bored with tits and ass. Maybe he realizes that he desensitized his core audience, and now it takes a little more effort to intrigue and excite us. Or maybe he’s just sick of having his ads banned (which has happened at least three times). Either way, we’ll always have a soft spot in our hearts for Ford’s version of sexuality. Take a look at some of his greatest hits in this slideshow, above.