People Are Shocked, Shocked! By Tom Ford

The debate rages on Romenesko today: is Tom Ford’s “guest-edited” Hollywood portfolio in Vanity Fair just what the magazine needed, or a case study in misogyny destined for women’s studies classes? For the defense: the Washington Post’s Peter Carlson: “Did Ford succeed in pepping up the moribund Hollywood issue? The answer is: Yes. And he did it the old-fashioned way — by persuading the stars to get naked and/or do weird things on camera.” For the prosecution, Salon’s Rebecca Traister: “The women’s bodies in Vanity Fair are — as they were in W — props, toys, jokes.”

For the record, I’m with Traister, but upon reading her erudite takedown of the issue, I was more shocked by her indignation than Ford’s creepiness (including his open white shirt/dark jacket manifestation of The Brand Called You). Perhaps that’s because I spent a year in the fashion trenches at WWD, where one of the first stories I was worked on was a cover story on the return of shock advertising, a piece inspired by the infamous porno not-so-chic Gucci ad that he had greenlit which highlighted a model’s pubic hair shaved into the letter “G.” (Warning: that link is so not work-safe.) Since his departure from Gucci after a falling out with the new owners, his obsession with porno has grown more pronounced — even editors who wave the freak flag, like Paper’s Kim Hastreiter, are feeling a little skeeved out.

So what was Graydon Carter thinking? That’s easy: he was thinking about Ford’s lucrative deal with Estee Lauder, about his forthcoming line of menswear, about his allies in Hollywood, where Ford hopes to produce films, and about all the cognoscenti in the fashion and beauty world who revered Ford’s clothes for Gucci, and who will give Carter some credit (and hopefully ad pages) for edginess. As for the other million or so readers of the magazine, well, who cares what they think?