How do you replace Tom Ford? Peter Hawkings, the newly appointed creative director at the label, which Ford and his partner Domenico de Sole sold to the Estée Lauder Companies in April of this year, is better positioned than just about anybody for the job. He worked alongside Ford for 25 years, since back in the Gucci days. Ford’s codes, “of glamour, sexiness, elegance, and beauty,” as Hawkings put it to my colleague Mark Holgate, are his own codes.

This isn’t a new designer/new direction debut, the kind we’re likely to get at Gucci tomorrow, where Sabato De Sarno has replaced Alessandro Michele, another Ford-era Gucci veteran. Consistency is the idea, and consolidation too. As Hawkings revealed in that interview, prior to his departure Ford was handling womenswear from Los Angeles, and Hawkings was doing menswear from London, and oftentimes there was a disconnect between the two. “It’s so important, bringing that woman closer to the man,” he said tonight, “so that they’re one universe.”

The women and men on the runway tonight did indeed feel closer together. They shared materials including glossy mock croc, a color palette, and a tendency to wear their shirts unbuttoned past the navel, though the short-shorts were girls-only. The collection was a bit like a greatest hits playlist, starting with the sculpted belt buckle from Ford’s iconic spring 1996 show for Gucci, only this slinky long dress was black, not white, and instead of a hip cut-out, it had an exposed back (a recurring motif).

Hawkings’s other talking point backstage tonight was quality. (The Ermenegildo Zegna Group operates the license.) “It’s absolutely everything to me,” he said, “We’ve been working on changing manufacturers, making sure shoes are beautifully made and comfortable, and bringing the tailoring up to the same level as the men’s.” On the women’s side, the velvet pant suits modeled after another iconic Gucci collection by Ford were particularly convincing; it’s the category that Hawkings knows best.

The one thing missing at this Tom Ford show was Tom Ford himself. He’d been scheduled to attend, but couldn’t make it out of London, apparently due to bad weather. Hawkings had heard from him earlier in the day. “Tom’s been an absolute amazing support to me here,” he said. “He told me, ‘your attention to detail is fantastic, and I’m sure it’s gonna be super glamorous.’” On both counts, Ford was right.

Hawkings’s next step will be evolving his language and looking ahead. In 2010, Ford had just made A Single Man and was talking about the difference between his two mediums. Film is “for ever and ever,” but “part of fashion is newness,” he said. “It’s got to be a new combination of elements that’s shocking-stunning-beautiful all at the same time.” He was right about that too.

This article was originally published on Vogue Runway.

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