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Fashion is feeling geopolitical heat: Tom Ford

Geopolitics with Russia has affected business: Tom Ford
Geopolitics with Russia has affected business: Tom Ford

The economic crisis and geopolitical tensions in Russia and the Middle East are weighing on the entire fashion industry, legendary fashion designer Tom Ford told CNBC.

"We're definitely affected by it and I think everyone in the luxury industry is feeling it," Ford told CNBC when asked how global geopolitics -- including Russia's economic crisis and conflict in the Middle East -- was affecting the fashion business.

Ford said that larger brands were especially vulnerable.

"I think when you're in every major city and you're quite a mature brand, you're going to really feel that hit," he told Tania Bryer, host of "The CNBC Conversation with Tom Ford."

The designer is no stranger to big brands, having helped to rebuild the fortunes of fashion house Gucci. During his ten years as the brand's creative director, sales increased from $320 million in 1994 to almost $3 billion in 2003.

After what he called "creative control differences," Ford left the label in 2004 and set up a film production company and his own eponymous fashion brand.

The Tom Ford brand now has close to 100 stores and shop-in-shops around the world, in locations such as New York and Milan and also in emerging consumer markets.

The company has a presence in New Delhi, Shanghai and Russia – where it has four stores -- making it potentially vulnerable to economic slowdowns in these regions.

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In Russia, where Western sanctions imposed on the country for its incursions into Ukraine, a drop in the price of oil and a weak currency have hit the economy hard, Ford reported a change in consumer habits.

Tom Ford
Justin Tallis | AFP | Getty Images

"The interesting thing is that our Russian customers are not travelling as much. So our Russian customers are not spending as much in Milan, they're not spending as much in London, they're not spending as much in Los Angeles," he said.

"But in Russia our sales have gone up. So…they're staying home, they're shopping in Russia. It's very interesting."

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Ford said he believed that his business was able to weather the storm better than some others, however.

"We're in the process of growing (so) we're not as exposed as some of the luxury brands because we don't have as many stores," he said.

While China still remained a "very important market," Ford said the brand also had a "terrific customer base" in the Middle East. The company is also looking to nascent emerging markets, he added, with South America and Africa's "powerful luxury consumer base" in focus.

Like many brands looking closer to home for growth, however, as their domestic economies appear more robust, Ford plans to open new stores in Miami, Houston and Atlanta this year.

- Written by CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter @HollyEllyatt. Follow us on Twitter: @CNBCWorld