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PARIS Spring 2004

Tom Ford is gifted-- he has the gifts of ambiguity and transience. He can cut a perfect little black dress, but that on its own would not have sufficed to deliver Gucci from the tar pit of tasteless excess and make the brand synonymous with sexy exuberance. "As a designer, you have to become bored with everything before the consumer's bored with it, so that you know what the next thing is and you can have it there waiting for them when they do finally catch up with you," Mr. Ford said, explaining his reluctance to be married to a single look or genre. It is this overall flexibility that makes each and every Gucci collection as exhilarating and electrifying as the very first. This year, as sleek models strolled down the catwalk clad in deliciously sexy daywear and ravishingly striking evening dresses, a thrill reminiscent of the one Ford created with his 1994 debut collection (80's style Halston velvet hipsters and satin shirts) permeated the air.

Sporty pink track pants embellished with a wide ribbon running down the sides and matched with a silky, flowing asymmetric top were a beautiful, delicately confident and subtly sexy look for a casual event. However, it was a white curvaceous ribbon dress topped off by a feathery swan-down bolero that really flexed the glamour and provocation muscle that is Gucci. Another fabulous piece: an arresting black chiffon dress constructed with a fitted bodice and flowing skirt, adorned with a sparkling ornamental snake that seemed to climb up and around the torso, suggested the Gucci woman's resemblance to Eve, the world's first and most famous temptress.

Tom Ford once said, "The moment of a dress is a moment. Not even a week or a month. It is gone at the end of the party." If you want to seize that moment, you had better act fast to get your hands on a piece of his spring collection, for who knows if this collection for Gucci is his last.

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