Tom Ford's hip-hugging, glam-rock makeover at Italian design group Gucci has catapulted the 37-year-old Texan to celebrity status. Widely viewed as Europe's No. 1 designer, Ford took over at Gucci Group in 1993 and transformed a bankrupt leather and shoes house into the world's hottest ready-to-wear brand name. Last year, Gucci broke $1.2 billion in sales, far above the $203 million recorded in 1992.
Now fashion mavens and analysts are waiting to see if Ford can author another head-to-toe remake at Yves Saint Laurent's decidedly faded ready-to-wear business. Gucci acquired the Parisian house last year while fighting a hostile takeover by French luxury goods kingpin Bernard Arnault. Ford aims to reinvent the French group's ready-to-wear image completely for the year 2001. "He starts designing a new collection by moving away from whatever has become boring," says one Gucci insider. Ford was the first to break with the minimalist style of the 1990s by remaking 1970s fashion with a happy, hedonistic twist. The fashion and retail worlds are eagerly waiting to see what trail he'll blaze at YSL.