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Tom Ford’s ‘Very L.A.’ Show

LOS ANGELES — Is celebrity a status or an incurable cultural condition? The question came to mind when, on the Friday before the national holiday that is the Oscars, Tom Ford held his 2020 show in Los Angeles.

Sure, there are those who consider it heretical for the newly named chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America to turn his back on New York Fashion Week, which has just begun, and show in the town he calls home.

Yet those people lack Mr. Ford’s knack for gaming Instagram. And they certainly don’t have his ability to unfurl a red carpet outside a vast industrial space set along the windy reaches of Cahuenga Boulevard and lure to it all the shiny famous people dressed up in his clothes like paper dolls.

A bystander risked whiplash trying to keep track as Jennifer Lopez (black Tom Ford cocktail dress with a plunging neckline; crystal peep-toes, and spit curl glued to her forehead by Chris Appleton, hairdresser to the stars) swanned past Renée Zellweger (suede and lace Tom Ford pencil skirt with suggestive bow at the crotch). And Lil Nas X (red leopard embroidered Tom Ford suit) was seen passing through the shadow cast by the human sequoia Jason Momoa (rust Tom Ford Western jacket). And Tracee Ellis Ross (black Tom Ford cape dress with Ka-pow embroidery) made small talk with Jon Hamm (sky blue Tom Ford silk suit and Common Projects sneakers) — as someone nearby hissed behind her hand that a guest walking by just then was the former girlfriend who Sumner Redstone, the nonagenarian media magnate, once sued for millions, claiming elder abuse.

“I’ve been to two fashion shows in my life,’’ Mr. Hamm mentioned afterward to this reporter, referring to this one and Paul Smith’s 50th anniversary show in Paris last month. “What stands out for me is that Tom Ford really, really cares about the details.’’ #truth.

In many ways as much a social engineer as a fashion designer (and, as he often points out, a detail-obsessed Virgo), Mr. Ford made certain that, when the celebrity armada began arriving in waves, the black-suited and obligatorily handsome cater-waiters were poised and ready with trays of Champagne and chilled margaritas; that the vases on plinths were spilling over with branches of flowering cherry; that the carpeted show space was filled with low velvet banquettes and specially installed opera boxes, each with its own full bar and server; and that everyone in the place was sure to have a good sight line on the catwalk and, just as crucially, the front row.

The fun of these things — and maybe even the point — is less the fashion show itself than the opportunity to ogle A-list people like Miley Cyrus (halter neck Tom Ford jumpsuit) inadvertently demonstrating the importance of bra tape and Anna Wintour practicing her underappreciated coquetry on Jeff Bezos (black Tom Ford Atticus suit). And Demi Moore rearranging the asymmetric hem of her dress (Tom Ford lace with embroidered croco vest) to keep her knees covered since Ms. Moore — as the tabloids have cruelly, relentlessly noted — suffers, despite her miraculously preserved facial beauty, from the curse of “kninkles.’’ Google it.

There was a fashion show, of course, a vaguely jumbled collection of rolled-sleeve T-shirts and patchwork denim skirts that looked like something a person might wear to the Santa Monica Farmers Market and a leopard spotted duster tossed over a gray athletic suit and a floaty tie-dyed caftan in sunset orange that made one wish Sue Mengers, the storied Hollywood agent, were still alive to wear it.

The whole thing was supposed to be “very L.A.,’’ as Mr. Ford said beforehand — and had been inspired by a 1967 Bob Richardson photograph of Baron Alexis de Waldner and the model Donna Mitchell kept pinned to his mood board throughout the collection’s creation.

In that photo (which may have been taken in Paris) the baron holds a cigarette or, more likely, a joint up to the parted lips of Ms. Mitchell, who looks fully zonked. Weed references are always relevant when characterizing Los Angeles, or, anyway, certain of its West side ZIP codes. So, too is that admixture of high glamour and drawstring comfort that defines the actual relationship between Hollywood and fashion.

By now everybody must know that all the fancy finery worn by the celebrity Cinderellas at Mr. Ford’s show, as at the Grammys, the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards, is borrowed. They preen and twirl. They step and repeat. They make certain always to name-check their designer benefactors for E!

Then the evening ends, the clothes are put back on hangers for the stylists to return in the morning and the celebrity talent does that most L.A. thing of all and tugs on some sweats.

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