CARNAL RED, VIPER, Bitter Bitch, Bordeaux Lust. Only someone like Tom Ford could come up with such monikers for nail lacquers that, much like his lipsticks, have become cult items among in-the-know beauty mavens. The designer’s make-up offerings, which in true Tom Ford style come in luscious shades and sleek packaging, and are the perfect complements to his ravishing fashion confections, have so far eluded his many Asian fans, who up until now had to trek all the way to Europe or the US to get their hands on them. (I, for one, had to pay countless visits to beauty counters abroad with lists of lipsticks and lacquers to buy for various friends back home in Asia.)
With the much-anticipated opening of the beauty brand’s first boutiques in Hong Kong, however, its fans’ appetite for the world of Tom Ford Beauty – whetted by some of its iconic fragrances that have been available at his stores in the city for a few years – is finally satiated. Opening with exclusive counters at Lane Crawford and at his ifc boutique, the outposts will offer the complete range of skin and colour treatments, not to mention the full selection of its private-blend and signature fragrances, which the designer, in a move atypical in the luxury industry, released in collaboration with Estée Lauder even before launching his women’s fashion line.
Tom Ford, the designer turned film director and now cosmetics creator, needs no introduction. Responsible for bringing sexy back in the 1990s with his provocative collections for Gucci, Ford has become synonymous with a kind of all-out glamour and polished perfection that are reflected in everything he does – from the balanced and symmetrical layout of his boutiques to his super sartorial menswear and his range of sunglasses that make you look like a ’70s disco queen.
A self-professed cosmetics junkie himself – Ford doesn’t let any item reach its glossy shelves unless he tests it himself on his olive skin – the designer has left his unmistakable stamp of magnetic allure on his beauty range as well. Bold lips, perfectly drawn eyebrows, smoky eyes, radiant skin – these are the signatures of the Tom Ford look, which clearly doesn’t cater to the prim and proper. If your idea of a made-up face is an all-natural mien with barely-there colours and a just out-of-bed, can’t-be-bothered dishevelled look, then you should seek elsewhere because Tom Ford Beauty is all about maximalism and looking like a million bucks.
As Caroline Geerlings, Tom Ford Beauty’s president, said on a recent visit to Hong Kong, “For Tom Ford, there’s something special about getting yourself ready for the day. Your make-up should be part of your experience of going out. You should apply it while sitting at your make-up table and enjoy that experience. It’s almost like a ritual. He doesn’t like seeing women in cars putting on make-up at the last minute; he despises it because he feels like that’s not him.” This ritual is akin to a transformation into a silver-screen goddess of yore, a sexy temptress who embodies the hedonistic and fearlessly lavish lifestyle that Tom Ford the brand – and the man – represent.
If you were to distil the Tom Ford philosophy of beauty into a few key elements, a flawless and radiant skin accented by sumptuous and luscious colours would be the best definition of it. In this vision, lips are always kissable, eyes dramatic and smoky, and the shape of the face perfectly symmetrical, something that can be achieved with his Shade and Illuminate palette, which features a duet of two creams: one that highlights and one that contours in order to define, perfect, enhance or tone down certain features of the face. He also believes that eyebrows are critical to define one’s face and has developed a calligraphy-tipped brow pencil, called Brow Sculptor, ideal for creating a full, lush brow with a high arch (Ford himself used it on his legendary and perfectly trimmed stubble to put it to the test, according to Geerlings).
Another signature of the Tom Ford Beauty face is the smoky eye, something that probably dates back to his early collaboration with Carine Roitfeld, the Parisian editrix and former editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris who has been one of Ford’s muses since his days at Gucci, and who has made the smudged and heavily kohled eye a key feature of her look (Roitfeld’s daughter, Julia Restoin Roitfeld, has also starred in one of Tom Ford’s perfume campaigns, which have over the years featured unexpected women such as soul singer Erykah Badu). No hard lines to define the contour of the eye for Tom Ford – everything is slightly blurry and sensual to create that smoky effect that gives a woman an intense gaze with a slightly subversive twist. As his expertly trained make-up team explains, the Tom Ford eyecolour quads contain four different textures, but each one is unique because Tom Ford believes that you can go from softer to bolder within the same palette. Everything is easily blended, and you can mix and match the various shadows, combining them to make them lighter or more vibrant.
And finally, let’s talk about those lips. Tom Ford lipsticks, regularly sold-out at cosmetics counters from Paris to Los Angeles, have become cult items since they made a grand entrance with colours such as Deep Mink and Sable Smoke (the names, once again, evoke unusual juxtapositions that are sensual and warm, creating an amalgam of textures and sensations all at once). The Tom Ford lacquered lip is all about audacious colours, evoking the splendour of Old Hollywood and the sexy attitude that he’s always been known for. But as Geerlings points out, loyal fans of the lipsticks also praise their soft texture, “which comes from the special butters they contain as well as herbs like chamomile, which make them soothing, creamy and rich.”
Realising that not everyone, especially in Asia, will go for striking shades such as Lost Cherry, Tom Ford has created a few models in natural tones such as Bare Peach and Naked Coral, especially devised for Asian pouts. It’s a smart move on the part of the Tom Ford Beauty team, which obviously wants to appeal to a wider swathe of the Asian public, but judging from those lists of lipsticks and lacquers I had to carry to Paris and Milan from my various bases in Asia in the last few years, even its local aficionados will stick (pun intended) to the vivid colours that have made the range so iconic. After all, the Tom Ford girl is no shrinking violet but rather, in the words of the man himself, a Violet Fatale, another one of those dramatic hues that is certain to delight quite a few diehard devotees when it hits our shores.