Tom Ford Ready To Wear Fall Winter 2013 London

It’s been the talk of the week and the golden ticket - Tom Ford’s first on-schedule show, since bidding adieu to the catwalk in 2004 after leaving the Gucci Group, held in a historic mansion in the Palace complex in the city’s St. James district used for government hospitality, London’s Lancaster House. But for anyone trying to predict what the collection would be like, based on the venue and Ford’s penchant for dark, sexy high glamour, the designer threw an audacious curveball. He kind of spoiled the surprise a bit, printing a clue - Cross Cultural Multi Ethnic – on white cards that were laid out on each chair in the site’s gilded salon.

Liya Kebede opened the show in an exquisite black-and-white beaded tunic that swung languidly from side to side as she moved. The next outing offered an unexpected jolt in direction, by pairing a black lace skirt with a color-drenched sequined floral hoodie, which – dare we say it? – was a tad kitsch.

An eclectic landscape of universes emerged, meandering between more black-and-white beaded looks in geometric motifs; black leather jackets swinging with ultra-long Elvis tassels; black guipure dresses in striking ethnic motifs; slim skirts in patchworks of pink, purple and black suede; colored over-the-knee boots with vivid floral embroideries; long animal-print puffers with fur-trimmed hoods; patchworked fur baseball jackets in bright hues and animal prints, and long jersey gowns with sequined starbursts.
The spirit of Ford’s muse, Carine Roitfeld, surfaced from time to time.

Some of the outerwear was pretty outrageous, such as a purple astrakhan coat with floral embroideries and a large lime green fur collar, or the bright pink shorter version with a blue collar and a black-and-white border in a chevron motif, delivering an Ab Fab message of exuberance that spelled F.U.N.

It was a heady ride, one brimming with intricate workmanship; a celebration of craft touched by human hands. And the wild show ended with an arresting walk off. Among the final exits, a giraffe-like Karlie Kloss in a long beaded zebra dress and 20s style tunic, with a girl in the same dress trotting behind her with a black bristle of fur running up the back and nape, echoing a zebra’s Mohawk, both of them incarnating the cool, lazy gait of a wild animal.

- Katya Foreman