Fashion: Bowing Out

Designer Tom Ford and biz whiz Domenico De Sole took the Gucci label, known for cheesy loafers, and turned it into a luxury empire. Now they're leaving. Is this the end of fashion?

In the days leading up to his recent Gucci spring 2004 runway show, Tom Ford was distracted. Contract negotiations with Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR), the French retail group that controls Gucci Group, were not going well. But that didn't stop the designer from interrupting a fitting to ask an assistant to dash over to a nearby restaurant with a Polaroid camera. Ford was meeting some journalists there, and he wanted to make sure the restaurant had the right look. When it comes to image, Ford likes to control every detail, right down to the rug.

It's perhaps not surprising then that control was...

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