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Tom Ford bows out from eponymous brand after multibillion takeover deal

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US fashion designer’s departure comes in wake of sale to cosmetics group Estée Lauder

US fashion designer Tom Ford is retiring from the eponymous brand he co-founded following a multibillion-dollar sale to cosmetics group Estée Lauder.

Longtime associate Peter Hawkings will succeed him as creative director, while Estée Lauder’s Guillaume Jesel becomes chief executive and president, taking over the latter role from Domenico De Sole, Tom Ford’s other co-founder.

The reshuffle follows Estée Lauder’s agreement last November to buy Tom Ford for $2.8bn, including debt, prevailing over several other competitors.

For New York-based Estée Lauder, the acquisition is the biggest in a series of deals that have expanded its international market over the past few years.

The deal included Tom Ford’s apparel line, a luxury segment in which the cosmetics group has little experience.

Ford, 61, a former creative director of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, launched his brand 18 years ago with De Sole, Gucci’s former chief executive.

The company has a strong luxury beauty line, a successful fashion line and a lucrative eyewear business through licensing agreements with Italian eyewear manufacturer Marcolin.

This week Ford hinted at his own retirement from fashion with a brief video showcasing his archives posted to his social media accounts.

The caption referred to his “last collection”. Ford said he was pleased with the new partnerships and appointments, calling Hawkings the “perfect” creative director for the brand.

Separately, luxury Italian menswear group Ermenegildo Zegna is buying Tom Ford International, the fashion arm.

Under the deal, Estée Lauder, which owns the Tom Ford trademark, is also giving the Italian group a 30-year licensing agreement. This allows the Zegna Group to use the Tom Ford brand and trademark.

The Milan-based group already owned 15 per cent of Tom Ford International and manufactured the brand’s luxury menswear. It said it had acquired the remaining 85 per cent of the company for €150mn.

Tom Ford International posted yearly revenues of €312mn in 2022.

Gildo Zegna, the Italian group’s chief executive, said the deal, which follows its US listing two years ago, offers “the potential to expand [our] business globally”.

Zegna will announce the fashion arm’s new chief executive over the summer.

Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole will serve as advisers to the brand until the end of the year.

In 1990, Ford joined Gucci, then a nearly bankrupt Italian family-owned fashion house, and became its creative director four years later.

He is credited with having transformed the brand into a global fashion powerhouse.

“We have had a close partnership with Estée Lauder, as well as a close relationship with the Zegna Group over the past 30 years . . . I am certain that these two companies together will carry on the legacy that Tom and I have built over the past 18 years,” said De Sole.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023