By RUTH LA FERLA
Putting an end to months of speculation about his future in fashion, the designer Tom Ford announced yesterday that he would open his first store, in New York. The three-story 10,000-square-foot space on Madison Avenue, set to open in November, will showcase his men's wear collection, his first fashion line since leaving Gucci nearly two years ago.
The line, produced in partnership with the Ermenegildo Zegna Group, the Italian men's luxury clothing and accessories brand, will be sold only at the store, at Madison Avenue and 70th Street. Its introduction is the latest phase in the resurrection of Mr. Ford's design career, which throughout his decade-long reign as creative director of Gucci was linked inextricably with luxury and a highly candid sexuality.
Since leaving the company in April 2004, Mr. Ford has maintained his profile, forming an alliance last year with Domenico De Sole, his former partner at Gucci Group, to create the Tom Ford brand. The introduction of the men's line follows the successful debut last year of a limited-run cosmetics and fragrance collection as part of a licensing agreement with Estée Lauder and an eyewear brand licensed by the Marcolin Group, an Italian manufacturer.
This month, Mr. Ford raised eyebrows as the editor of an issue of Vanity Fair celebrating Hollywood. On its cover the designer nuzzled a naked Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson, an image that struck some fashion insiders as evidence that his signature steaminess had grown musty and dated.
Mr. Ford's re-entry into the fashion arena may signal a retreat from his sexually charged marketing style. In an interview, he described his new store as "an old-fashioned men's haberdashery and tailor." Accordingly, it will place a significant focus on made-to-measure clothing, a way of reaching a customer, he said, "who doesn't want to look like a banker, but does not want either to look trendy, silly or too much of a fashion victim."
The men's wear debut coincides with the introduction of an independent Tom Ford beauty brand signature fragrance, also produced by Lauder. Each is a facet in a strategy to develop a global luxury business, Mr. De Sole, the brand chairman, said in an interview.
Mr. De Sole declined to project sales for the company, which is privately held. He said he expected the brand to become "a worldwide major player in fashion," and planned to open additional Tom Ford stores over the next three to four years in Milan, Tokyo, London and Los Angeles.
Mr. Ford said the new venture would leave him time to pursue other well-documented interests in Hollywood. "I've structured some time to make movies," he said, declining to offer specifics. No women's collection is planned. "It may never happen, or it may happen in three years," he said.
"I don't have anything new to say in that world yet."