Tom Ford revives Gucci — The Italian design house comes back into the Hollywood spotlight

By Degen Pener
Updated November 10, 1995 at 05:00 AM EST

Tom Ford revives Gucci

When Gucci’s Rodeo Drive store caught fire Oct. 26, Hollywood stylists joked that the collection was just too hot. There was more than a glimmer of truth in the humor. Since its wildly praised fall fashion show last March, the 73-year-old Italian design house, reinvigorated by Texas designer Tom Ford, 33, has found disciples in Sharon Stone, Nicole Kidman, Mariah Carey, Marisa Tomei, Anjelica Huston, Sigourney Weaver, Lenny Kravitz, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Sheryl Crow. Never one to miss out on a trend, Madonna spread the gospel at the MTV Video Music Awards in September with a head-to-toe Gucci runway look.

So why is Hollywood suddenly going Gucci? ”It’s an expensive way to dress casually, but the clothes are really comfortable,” explains Kate Capshaw, who snapped up pants, and jackets, and shoes this season. ”More than that, they’re really sexy.”

That wasn’t always the case. Five years ago, the name meant big bucks, no style. ”It was for rich heavies in Miami Beach,” says Jeanne Beker, host of VH1’s Fashion Television. Last year, though, Ford, who once worked as an actor, took creative control and began doing for Gucci what Karl Lagerfeld did for Chanel in the ’80s. Dusting off mod and hippie looks from the ’60s (when Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn were Gucci customers), he combined luxurious Italian design with dressed-down American style.

Word of the Gucci renaissance spread faster than models run from fat, and the limited supply of the newly chic goods ($275 loafers, $495 blouses) created heated demand among the stars. ”Whatever celebrity gets their hands on Gucci first, gets to wear the Gucci,” says stylist Wayne Scot Lukas, who recently dressed Janet Jackson for a photo shoot. ”Madonna had pulled pieces for a video, and we actually changed the direction [of the Jackson shoot] because of the lack of samples. I ended up shooting Janet in a white Gucci fake-fur coat.”

Now Gucci is hoping the stars will convert the masses. The company, which reportedly saw its net income jump from $4 million in the first half of 1994 to $25 million the first half of 1995, went public on Oct. 24. But some insiders already find the hot-selling Gucci loafer ”too label.” Mindful of that, Ford is pruning the logos. ”We used not to be able to sell anything that didn’t have ID on it,” he says. ”Now we can.” Still, to keep the big names, he’ll have to keep style one step ahead of status: At the drop of a hem, those Gucci Gs could look ostentatious, not chic.