Tom Ford's Career in Fashion

by Sarah Clark
Fashion School Review Columnist

July 10, 2006

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Before Tom Ford took the helm at Gucci and YSL, fashion designers were generally limited to designing apparel. Advertising, branding, and other areas of the fashion business were left to business school graduates. Ford's success very well might have redefined what a career in fashion can mean for a designer.

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It's difficult to determine the extent to which Ford has influenced the way designers are regarded at big fashion houses. His success as a jack-of-all-trades of the fashion business, bringing Gucci out of near bankruptcy to a multibillion dollar company is sure to alter conceptions of the contribution designers can make to the marketing side of the fashion industry.

During his tenure at Gucci, Ford oversaw the development and execution of ad campaigns. He was also very involved in developing two perfumes for the fashion house, weighing in on such details as the color of packaging and notes that characterize a scent.

The Benefits of Business Classes

What does this mean for fashion school students? For those interested in aspects of the fashion business other than design, it may mean opportunities to participate in marketing and advertising activities. To prepare for such career opportunities in fashion, fashion school students should take some business classes. The better you are at speaking the language of business to business people, the better chance you will have of influencing areas beyond design.

Of course everyone can't have the supremely successful career that has been Ford's. Opportunities as dazzling as his don't present themselves often. Nevertheless, you can only benefit from being prepared for extraordinary opportunities. If you decide to pursue a solo design career, for example, you'll benefit from having some business acumen. Consider the career of Ralph Lauren, a designer who has taken a brand and slapped it on everything from bed linens to formal evening wear. Lauren's start was modest too--he was selling gloves at a clothing store when he acted on an idea to design and sell ties under a label known as Polo.

Clearly business skills come in handy in the world of fashion. Find out about fashion schools near you that offer business courses and take one or two. At some point in your career in fashion, you'll likely be glad you did.


About the Author
Sarah Clark is a freelance writer specializing in career development and postsecondary education.

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