It was an announcement more earthshaking than the return of over-the-knee boots: After months of talks with parent company Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, Gucci/Yves Saint Laurent designer Tom Ford and Gucci Group CEO Domenico De Sole announced ''with great sadness'' their departure from the fashion house effective in April. Largely credited with resuscitating the label, the pair reportedly clashed with PPR over their desire to run Gucci (which includes Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen) independently.
The red-carpet ramifications are as dizzying as Ford's bondage stilettos: Will the star-chummy designer siphon celebs from Gucci and YSL on awards nights? ''It's bad news for Gucci,'' says fashion historian Valerie Steele. ''I doubt celebrities are going to wear Gucci when [Ford's] not there.'' Counters Halle Berry's stylist Phillip Bloch: ''Everyone's not as fashion savvy as we think they are. Yes, Nicole Kidman and others are, but do all the actresses go 'I'm only wearing that because it's Tom Ford'? No.''
As Ford contemplates his next venture, fashion insiders confirm his behind-the-scenes Hollywood aspirations and Gucci competitor LVMH is rumored to be wooing him. (De Sole and Ford have no immediate plans to launch their own label.) Meanwhile, his replacement would be wise to study the A list. ''It's not just about putting their clothes on everybody,'' says Bloch. ''Nothing wrong with a little snobbiness, especially in fashion...and Hollywood, of course.''