This post was inspired by a video on the extinct Style.com where Tim Blanks revives the boom of Tom Ford at Gucci, in the second half of 1990s, and also by an image from the Fall 1996 campaign I found organizing my collection of old Vogues (here, on Instagram). Georgina Greenville in a long white jersey dress with a strategic cut still makes an impact!
At that time, Gucci was reborn after decades of family feuds and near bankruptcy. The arrival of Tom Ford (who came in 1990 but only took over the creative direction in 1994) not only renewed the house but turned it into a synonym of powerful and ultra sexy fashion. The rest of the story you already know: Gucci is now a giant in the luxury market and the most valuable label at the Kering conglomerate.
The video made me think a lot about positioning. As Frida Giannini tried to make Gucci less sexual, the audacious and hedonistic style printed by Ford was so dominant that it prevented her from taking a step beyond, which ended up costing her position. Tom created a very consistent and easily recognizable vision, and with the help of Carine Roitfeld and Mario Testino in the campaigns, the label has become increasingly aspirational.
Today, that image still echoes in his own company, perhaps more subtly and with the necessary adaptations to the reality of contemporary fashion. But the essence has not changed. The clothes are still sexy and ads (for fashion, accessories and beauty) remain provocative. Tom Ford is and always will be associated with something provocative and sexy. The perfect translation of the Lover archetype in his willing to seduce and arouse desire. As he said in 2013, at the CFDA / Fashion Fund award ceremony:
“If you’re designing your own label, then know yourself. If you become well-known as a designer, you give the world your taste. What you create will carry your distinct personality. No matter what I do as a designer, I will always be pegged as the sexy designer who always does black. Miuccia [Prada] is the intelligent designer. Yves [Saint Laurent] was the delicate suffering designer, and so on.”
So, what is the moral of the story? Without vision there is no positioning, therefore no recognition! You know that disturbing feeling of seeing the same products everywhere? This happens because of lack of identity, lack of a particular point of view that allows a brand to differentiate and stand out in the crowd. The result is that you are only selling clothes not an aspiration.
Without positioning, it’s impossible to attract, captivate and keep a customer. After all, if a brand does not know who it is, how others will be interested in it?