Category Archives: Tom Ford

Tom Ford, Summer Brewing

“In most other areas of the luxury market, instant gratification has also become part of the luxury experience. In fact, the ultimate luxury now is to not have to wait at all. It is a romantic notion to think that people want to wait for things and anticipate them, but I’m afraid that no one really wants to wait for anything anymore.” ~ Tom Ford

It’s never too early to be thinking about summer. Sometimes, it’s the best way of getting through the winter. As such, when a few new Tom Ford fragrances were recently announced, I was giddy with daydreams of summer mornings, lazy afternoon swims, and sultry, languid evenings. The most promising is a new Private Blend ‘Soleil Blanc’ – which I had a quick whiff of a few weeks ago, but didn’t delve too deep as it reeked of summer and coconut oil and I didn’t want to spoil it with a winter memory. Scent is powerful that way – and is often said to be the strongest memory-trigger. ‘Soleil Blanc’ is the aptly named white sun of summer, and though I’ve never been very keen on coconut, this one may make it into my beach vacation repertoire. (Clearly a beach excursion is required this year.) It is said to dry down with an underlying amber glow, which brings it into closer proximity with ‘Costa Azzurra.’

The other new ones are in the Portofino line, something that’s on the verge of being overdone. It’s definitely his most accessible of the Private Blend offerings, but the Private Blend line has, for me, remained special because they are so often dark and complex, and not the usual light-hearted citrus-fare of so many colognes. Don’t get me wrong – ‘Mandarino Di Amalfi’ is exquisite, and come June I will be bathing in it daily. But for a Private Blend I prefer things a bit more off the sand-beaten path.

At any rate, it’s fun to fantasize about the sunny season, and these next few weeks are when we all get a little antsy for a shift out of winter gear. I can’t think of anyone better to lead the way than Tom Ford.

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A Single Man by Tom Ford

“A few times in my life I’ve had moments of absolute clarity, when for a few brief seconds the silence drowns out the noise and I can feel rather than think, and things seem so sharp. And the world seems so fresh as though it had all just come into existence. I can never make these moments last. I cling to them, but like everything, they fade. I have lived my life on these moments. They pull me back to the present, and I realize that everything is exactly the way it was meant to be.” ~ ‘A Single Man’

Even if it had not been directed by Tom Ford, the film version of Christopher Isherwood’s ‘A Single Man’ would have intrigued me, with its themes of solitude, lost love, human connection, and the notion of living every moment to its fullest. Being that it was directed by Mr. Ford, there’s a whole other level of beauty, grace, and exquisite stylization that only a man of Ford’s taste and design could conjure.

I was moved the first time I saw it in the theater, but this is a film that actually grows better with each viewing. Every frame is a work of art, a perfectly-composed photograph. Sometimes it’s almost too perfect, which is one reason why it was originally seen as somewhat chilly and remote. I find just the opposite to be true. The beauty here is crackling; it strikes with heat and ferociousness. It also serves the purpose: this film demands that the viewer, like the protagonist, sees everything as if for the first time. Especially when it might be the last time.

Ford is masterful in his use of color, as expected from such a fashion wizard, and it works brilliantly as a tributary into the grand vision of the entire piece. Each section, each tiny vignette, each jewel of a close-up ~ they contribute to a mesmerizing and moving experience. Perhaps it’s too subtle for a modern audience. As I get older, I feel the loss of that studied pace of life. Maybe it’s just the sadness that sometimes comes from getting older. Yet in this film, the sadness of growing up and losing things is countered compellingly by all the beauty.

It’s in the kiss of a man. The kiss of a woman. The rolling waves of the ocean. A short trail of cigarette smoke from the lips. A corridor of lemon trees. The burning blaze of a sun’s descent. The clear, sparkling blue eyes of youth. A stillness in a shared night. Such gorgeous loneliness, such terrible beauty. Such is the sumptuous panoply of life.

My heart succumbs to it every time.

“You know, the only thing that’s made the whole thing worthwhile has been those few times when I’ve been able to really, truly connect with another human being.” ~ A Single Man

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Tom Ford By Boston & Venice

As if by divine intervention, the latest Tom Ford Private Blend was available just in the nick of time for my birthday this year, so on the actual day, Andy and I made our way to Saks to find the newest release, ‘Venetian Bergamot’. I was ready to buy it sight unseen, given my love for bergamot and Tom Ford, but I was lucky enough to get a sample beforehand and it was just as luscious as expected.

‘Venetian Bergamot’ is definitely a summer fragrance, but one that can linger through the hotter days of fall. In that respect, it’s a stellar bridge cologne, and one that works in many moods or seasons. In addition to the gorgeous bergamot, there are delicious notes of black and pink pepper, ginger, ylang ylang, magnolia, gardenia accord, cedar, pepperwood, sandalwood, tonka bean, amber and cashmere accord.

For me, the dry down is quite reminiscent of the beautiful ‘Champaca Absolut’ – one of the Private Blends I’ve teetered on the edge of purchasing, but always pulled back because it slides just too far into the floral side of things for my liking. ‘Venetian Bergamot’ solves that problem perfectly, veering into the woody realm rather than the floral scene, and I absolutely adore it. It leads stunningly well into the August/September frags of Rive D’Ambre and Plum Japonais, and now it will always bring back memories of my 40th in Boston.

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Of Tom Ford’s Rose & Oud

The literature for Tom Ford’s Private Blend ‘Oud Fleur’ was typically over the top and deliciously dramatic:

Noble. Luxurious. Distinct. Oud Fleur eau de parfum by Tom Ford unfolds like a brocaded silk damask of two deeply iconic Arabian ingredients: Rose and Oud Wood. The gloriously rich and aged complexity that makes oud the most prized and noble wood in perfumery, is contrasted with a symphony of rose effects orchestrated to capture every dimension of the flower.

Of course, I had to have it (even if I didn’t expect to have it quite so soon, and in such happy fashion). This is a scent that seduces. When it was first released, I was on a bit of an oud overload, so ‘Fleur’ and its sister ‘Tobacco Oud’ were put on the back burner of my mind. Since that time I’ve tried it on a few occasions and smelled it on a few people, and it’s become one of my favorite Private Blends.

The overpowering and underlying scent lines are very much constructed of oud, but intertwined indelibly, and brilliantly, is a thread of resonant rose notes that rings gloriously of rich, smoky floral spice. Some of Ford’s florals I find problematic, but this one works on every plane, and positions itself smack-dab on the crux between masculine and feminine. (I know that crux. I love that crux.)

It is the perfect fragrance for greeting the spring after a gray winter. It holds onto a wisp of smoky winter air, then takes flight on the wings of a rose-laden breeze. It’s got some strong staying-power as well, justifying its Private Blend price point both in beauty and duration.

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A Rare Ford Fail

All idols stumble at some point. Even Madonna makes mistakes. Most of the time when it happens, those blips are just as fascinating as the hits, and in the case of Tom Ford it’s more of a matter of taste than a god-awful move. Case in point is his Jardin series. It was the first Private Blend series in which I found not a single scent to love. The closest I came was ‘Ombre de Hyacinth’ which took one of spring’s seminal scents and turned it on its floral head.

This was the least feminine of the group, which also included ‘Café Rose’ – obviously a dose of rose, ‘Lys Fume’ – his twist on the lily, and ‘Jonquille de Nuit’ – his take on the jonquil. As much as I love his stuff, Ford’s florals are where we usually part company. His ‘Tobacco Vanille’ is too cloying, and his latest ‘Fleur de Portofino’ skews too old-lady for someone who traditionally embraces my old-lady-ness to an extreme. ‘Ombre de Hyacinth’ totters on that floral edge, and for the price point of a Private Blend there can be no teetering. Or tottering for that matter.

Instead, I’ll cling to my precious sample, dabbing it on when I’m feeling like a bit of heady hyacinth cloaked in the darkly gorgeous rendering of his olfactory madness. For my taste it’s a bit of a mess, but a mess by Tom Ford still manages to be a thing of beauty.

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Tom Ford vs. Diana Vreeland

The battle for spring fragrance dominance is about to be waged, as Tom Ford’s latest Private Blend, Fleur de Portofino, goes head-to-fragrant-head with Diana Vreeland’s Smashingly Brilliant.

Ford’s latest Portofino addition (a line already established with Neroli Portofino, Mandarino di Amalfi and Costa Azzurra) reportedly includes notes of bergamot, citrus, osmanthus, acacia blossom and acacia honey. The latter two ingredients seem to provide the difference from the other Portofino flavors. According to the literature ‘Fleur’ is “inspired by the cascades of white flowers that spill off the branches of the White Acacia— a beloved shade tree that dots the Mediterranean’s gardens and lines its tranquil avenues. Fleur de Portofino creates a crisp and bright floral accord from this bloom, then surrounds it with effervescent citrus and acacia honey. The fragrance creates an effect of sheer floral possession that is incomparably hypnotic and extremely bold.”

Early reviews have indicated this is a very floral frag, and floral scents are not my favorite, so I’m not placing all my eggs in this Tom Ford basket just yet. Rather, I’m giving another Diana Vreeland offering, ‘Smashingly Brilliant’ a look-see, or smell-see as the case may be.

The House of Vreeland’s new summer  scent is said to contain bergamot, geranium, lemon, and suede accord. I tend to favor bergamot for this time of the year, and citrus is usually an integral part of any spring/summer fragrance. It’s not always lasting, but neither is spring. ‘Brilliant’ sound quite promising: “Smashingly Brilliant, created by Clement Gavarry, was inspired by Mrs. Vreeland’s love for the island of Capri. A play on contrasts, the fragrance combines the zesty freshness of citrus notes with a deep textured background. The burst of Lemon Oil and Calabrian Bergamot Oil is enhanced with aromatic notes of verbena, basil, and juniper berries. A luxurious heart of Geranium Lemon Living creates a bridge to the sensual dry down of suede accord and enveloping woods, offering a trail of mysterious depth and raw elegance.”

Capri or Portofino… it’s a beautiful dilemma. The battle for summer has begun.

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Tom Ford: The Master at Work

Now this is how you put on a fashion show. Kanye West, please take note and do not attempt this again. Tom Ford brought his runway to Los Angeles this past weekend, just in time for the Oscars, and it was just as spectacular as anticipated. Unlike Mr. West, who brought out the worst in his celebrity attendees, Mr. Ford brought out the absolute best. It’s a sign of Ford’s brilliance that his audience looked just as good, if not better, than those walking the runway (they were all wearing his work).

The collection itself is a stellar study of chic elegance, with some sixties’ patterns and fringe brought into modern-day  relief. Though I’m not a fan of the brief appearance of denim in a couple of the looks, everything else worked wonderfully, right down to the alien-like necklaces set off by gorgeously prominent scooped necks. Nobody does women’s wear better than Ford, and all the celebrities came out to see the show.

Ford favorite Julianne Moore was there, as were Sofia Vergara and hunky Joe Manganiello (sadly the latter was neither shirtless nor naked, as he once was and should be again).

The show apparently brought a smile to the normally taciturn Anna Wintour. Quite a reversal from her dismayed agitation sitting next to Kim Kardashian and her crying spawn at the Kanye atrocity.

Reese Witherspoon was radiant and Jennifer Lopez simply glowed.

Beyonce and Jay Z shined, and even if Jason Statham was unimpressive to my eyes, I know that my friend JoAnn will eat his photo up. All in all, it was a stunner of an evening, and Mr. Ford proved once again that he can do no wrong.

 

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Grey Vetiver Via Tom Ford

These are grey days. They call for grey tweed and flannel, wool and down-lined coats. The sky blends its dull shades into the mournful hues of the earth, and all of it bleeds together in one dismal monochromatic pile of wretchedness. Into this lackluster landscape, an interjection of something slightly sharp is needed, a jolt to wake up the senses, an inhalation to prime the points of inspiration. I thought I’d find it in Black Saffron by Byredo, but that burns almost too hotly and too sweetly for this time of the year. Better to save that for a winter party, where a smoldering bit of pungent fruitiness is more suited to accent an outfit of red. For the average office day of suits and wingtips, I turn to Tom Ford and his ‘Grey Vetiver’ masterpiece.

Like his recent ‘Patchouli Absolu’ Private Blend, Ford takes a classic (read: overdone) and imprints his pristine style and trademark elegance on it. In this instance, the age-old tried and true of elders – vetiver – gets a fresh make-over that refines it for the modern man. (While many of Ford fragrances are deliciously unisex, this one is on the traditionally-masculine side, so entrenched is vetiver in the history of grandfatherly cologne.)

The latter is the reason for my hesitance in coming around to ‘Grey Vetiver’ – it always reminded of older gentlemen and their safe but uneventful olfactory adornments. Ford invests his version with a few updated accents. The sharpness comes in the form of citrus – tart and fresh and bright, like the sliver of sunlight caught in an icicle. Beneath this quick note is the heart of the matter – a creamy vetiver – and it carries for a few hefty hours with vetiver’s traditional potency.  A few woody notes lend a wisp of warmth to the cooly elegant proceedings, rounding out the journey wondrously. More pin stripes than herringbone, more cashmere than cotton, ‘Grey Vetiver’ is a modern-day classic, and no one does that better than Tom Ford.

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When Tom Ford Gets Extreme

Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I have not gone off Tom Ford. Despite recent dabblings in Byredo and this Valentine wish (which is still in effect), my heart belongs to Mr. Ford. I’m simply not a fan of absolutely everything the man produces, which includes the recent Noir Extreme. I did not at all like the original ‘Noir’ he put out, so an Extreme version of that has the expected effect. It’s nothing against Ford, it’s more against the Noir.

Of course, in time tastes change, so I won’t say that one day I won’t be completely enamored of Noir, but that day has not yet arrived. Until it does, I’ll satisfy my Ford cravings with any one of his Private Blends, with the exception of ‘Noir De Noir.’ See, it really is a noir thing.

A perfect example of the evolution of cologne likes and dislikes is my relationship with ‘Grey Vetiver.’ When I first tried that I was decidedly unimpressed. Again, it was due mostly to a dislike of vetiver over any fault of Ford’s. Yet as the years progressed, I came around to the Grey, and it’s about to become a winter staple of my fragrance garden. There’s a lesson here. Never say never, and always give yourself the option of changing your mind. One more thing: Tom Ford is rarely wrong. The rest of us just take a little longer to get there.

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Tom Ford Remixed

When one’s funds have depleted to the point where one can’t afford a new Private Blend from Tom Ford, one mixes and matches and comes up with a hybrid from what is already on hand. In this instance, I was seeking out some of his delicious ‘Oud Fleur’ without the $225 price tag, so I perused the cologne cabinet and came up with a comparable pair of Private Blends: ‘Oud Wood‘ and ‘Santal Blush’. The Oud is a classic Ford component, but I wanted to sweeten it up for the holiday season, so I added some of the ‘Santal Blush’ – and the result is pretty fantastic.

For the most part I frown upon mixing colognes. There’s too much possibility for disaster, and one never knows how those molecules are going to mingle or fight. It’s much safer not to mix and match. Some fragrances, however, are meant to intertwine, and this includes a number of Ford’s Private Blends. Being that they’re supposedly based in essential oils, they have a better chance at being compatible, and that was certainly the case with this poor-man’s facsimile of ‘Oud Fleur.’

As we get closer to Christmas, I’ll phase out the ‘Oud’ portion and stick with a few pure spritzes of ‘Santal Blush.’ It’s a perfect scent for those evenings when all is calm and all is bright.

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A Belated Happy Birthday to Tom Ford

In the fast-paced whirlwind of the end of August, I missed a post celebrating the birthday of one of the men I most admire: Tom Ford. My obsession with his Private Blend fragrance collection has been well-documented in these pages, and since a few have asked which ones I like best, I present my current inventory, with links to those which have been featured here:

Among these are a few extra-special favorites: I adore ‘Amber Absolute’ for its smoky amber richness, ‘Plum Japonais’ for its fruity exotic sweetness, and ‘Mandarino di Amalfi’ for its summery citrus freshness. I usually save ‘Santal Blush’ for the holidays, as it’s almost over-the-top in decadence (yes, I try to rein things in at quieter times of the year.) The more woodsy options – ‘Oud Wood’ and ‘Bois Marocain’ are more suitable for day-to-day wear, but make no mistake: Tom Ford’s Private Blends are special, so I only wear them on important days.

As for the man himself, he recently did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and managed to make even that messy bit of waterlogged madness look sexy. See here:

Happy (Belated) Birthday to a master of style and scent.

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Tom Ford’s Mandarino di Amalfi

As much as I love Tom Ford (and clearly I do, much to my bank account’s distress) I have not found most of his fragrances befitting the lighter touch needed for summer (with the possible exceptions of ‘Neroli Portofino’ and ‘Azure Lime’ – and maybe ‘Lavender Palm’ on cooler days.) Mr. Ford’s Private Blends are usually too strong and dark to work well in the hotter months. Luckily, he just released two cousins to the Neroli collection, one of which I purchased on the first day of our recent family vacation, just in time to wear it to the beach.

‘Mandarino di Amalfi’ retains a strong thread of Neroli, but adds notes of tarragon, bergamot, and citrus. It is refreshing and effervescent, and manages to maintain a decent sillage – no easy feat for the lighter frags of summer. Citrus is notorious for disappearing soon after it is applied, and while this does simmer down to a skin scent with a couple of hours, that’s what I look for in the heat of the season.

So enamored of this scent am I that I’m already seriously considering its second cousin, ‘Costa Azzurra.’ I tried that one out as well, and it has a slightly smokier shade to it, something perfect or the end of the summer. That’s a long way off, and I am in no way going to rush through the sun and warmth, so for now I’m basking in the sparkle and glow of ‘Mandarino di Amalfi.’ It’s perfect for the beach, and the aquamarine shades of an undulating ocean. In fact, those are the memories already embedded in my heart from just a few short days on the Cape Cod shore, and Tom Ford wafting through the sea breeze.

Fragrance is one of the strongest memory-triggers. One day in the future I will spray a bit of this Mandarino, and be instantly transported back to that magical time and place when I watched my niece and nephew bounding across the beach, kicking up sand, carrying seaweed, and playing in the sunshine.

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Summer by Tom Ford

If there’s one fault I’ve found in Tom Ford’s Private Blends (and there are, actually, a few – but most of them are a matter of taste) it’s that with the notable exception of the exquisite Neroli Portofino, and possibly Azure Lime, there are none that are truly summer fragrances. His touch is simply too potent, his essence too powerful. The Private Blends are a lot of bang for the buck (and given their hefty price-point, that’s saying quite a bit.) The problem comes in the heat of the season, when heavy scents are the last thing I want on my body. I want light and crisp, effervescent and airy – and that is decidedly not Mr. Ford’s way with fragrance.

That may change with the arrival of two new Private Blends that are whispered to be cousins of Neroli Portofino. As he did with his Oud collection, he will be offering two new blends in the same vein as the Neroli, and the bottles alone look worthy of purchase (in shades ricocheting off the original Neroli bottle, imitating the aqua ocean and mesmerizing like the Mediterranean sea.)

Mandarino di Amalfi sounds like the more promising of the two, featuring tarragon, mandarin orange, mint and lemon. Tom Ford finally delves deeper into the citrus grove, and I like the possibilities at hand. Costa Azzurra is the second blend, said to focus on oak, driftwood, lavender and vanilla. As with most Ford items, what’s on paper is often quite different when sampled in person, so I will be anxiously awaiting the arrival of these two lovelies, one of which may be my new summer scent. Get your olfactory engines running.

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You Smell Differently At Night

Some fragrances, like their wearers, are too moody for the daylight hours. They require a cloak of darkness to mask their sexy sillage, relying on the blackest of night to tone down their dramatic power. Such is the case with Tom Ford’s ‘Black Orchid.’ This is a dark and deep fragrance that, while originally created as a perfume geared mostly to women, has over the years become more popular with men for its musky heaviness.

Unlike the fragrances of his Private Blend line, ‘Black Orchid’ is available at most larger department stores, as well as Sephora, which makes it much more convenient for the masses. It retains Ford’s trademark edginess, however, and as such its potency may prove too much for casual cologne-wearers. This is strong stuff, not for the weak of constitution or the shy of heart. ‘Black Orchid’ blooms intensely, has a substantial longevity, and is as over-the-top as everything that Tom Ford touches. Of course, I can’t help but love it.

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An Orchid for an Anniversary

I’m a big-ticket boy when it comes to gifts. Flowers and chocolates are nice, but they’re not sufficient. However, for our upcoming wedding anniversary (May 7!) I’m going to go easy on Andy and his pocketbook – well, easy in Alan-land. Typically, I’ll drag him into Neiman Marcus or  Hermès and politely pick out a bottle of a Tom Ford Private Blend or the latest Hermès cologne.

This time around, I’m pleading for Tom Ford, but not one of the pricey Private Blends – I’m requesting one of the, ahem, mainstream fragrances: Black Orchid (which clocks in at a much more reasonable price point, and is not to be confused with Black Violet.) Up until this time, I’d ignored this one, being that it was over in the perfume section, and while I’m not averse to wearing perfume now and then, I tend to find most of them too sweet and floral for my liking. The last time I was in Sephora, however, I noticed that they had put it in the men’s fragrance section (Andy, you walk in and turn to the left wall, then go about three-quarters of the way into the store). I knew it was likely a store decision based on who was buying it, as the fragrance had been in the women’s section since it came out a number of years ago, so I gave it a try and fell in love. Maybe all these years of wearing Mr. Ford’s scents had finely attuned my sense of smell to better appreciate what I had hitherto ignored. Either way, I fell in love with Black Orchid, despite its questionable name. (I don’t know of a single orchid that’s very fragrant.)

It also has a sweet-enough aspect to make it palatable for spring – and I’m big on being seasonally appropriate when it comes to fragrance. I’ll grant you your white pants before Memorial Day nonsense if you must, but when it comes to scent, please show some sense of decency. Even with that sweetness, however, Black Orchid may be too much for many, and that’s precisely why I like it. The nights in spring are just as dark as the nights in fall.

{Available at Sephora in Colonie Center, first floor. I’ll supply a map if necessary.}

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