Tom Ford is the essence of fashion. He is not about art – he is about design & commercial. When you watch A Single Man, or when you see a laconic brand name Tom Ford – you feel not the art excitement but the urgent need to be the part of this style certainty, where you don’t have to be famous to feel yourself on top. Be nameless, unknown, but with a look of modest splendor which you can afford.
Tom Ford was born in Austin, Texas on August 27, 1961. At the age of sixteen he already had the soft spot for arts. In the next few years he dropped out of several colleges deciding to devote himself to fashion at Parson’s School of Design. After numerous attends Ford was employed by ‘fusion’ Cathy Hardwick as a design assistant. Later she would say: “I had every intention of giving him no hope. I asked him who his favorite European designers were. He said, ‘Armani and Chanel.’ Months later I asked him why he said that, and he said, ‘Because you were wearing something Armani‘. Is it any wonder he got the job?”
Later Ford worked at the company of Marc Jacobs but then decided to switch his vector from American fashion to European style. At that time Gucci was experiencing an economic catastrophe as new millennium fashion was coming. A classy women’s ready-to-wear line required a new point of view and Dawn Mello – Gucci’s Creative Director – for his and company’s risk hired an American designer Tom Ford.
However, transformation affected practically all lines as Ford took over the position of Design Director: menswear, shoes, fragrances, image, advertising, accessories and store design. Working almost for twenty hours a day Tom Ford was in charge of eleven lines. Abrupt changes sometimes were escalating into conflicts with company’s chairman Maurizio Gucci, who “…always wanted everything to be round and brown, when Tom wanted to make it square and black”. Nevertheless, Ford remained in Gucci but primarily behind the scenes as Maurizio Gucci was the face of the company. By the end of 1999, when Tom had already been promoted to Creative Director, the almost bankrupt company reached the value of 4 billion dollars.
As a Creative Director, Tom Ford was also in charge of Yves Saint Laurent label as in 1999 it merged into Gucci. But even Sent Laurent didn’t hide his displeasure on that case, criticizing practically every Ford’s step. Yet, Yves Saint Laurent with Tom Ford at the helm won a huge amount of rewards for pulling classy fashion house back in the mainstream. Ford made resonances with promos full of nudity as well, like the episode with an advertisement where model’s pubic hair was shaved in a shape of G for Gucci. “I suppose, yes, I’ve been guilty of provocation but it’s also just common sense marketing – put a bottle of scent in a woman’s cleavage, or between her thighs – and men will notice” – said Ford in the interview at Selfridges, 2009
Still, every era has its own end – so did the Ford’s era in Gucci. In 2004 Pinault-Printemps-Redoute company displayed an interest in buying the Gucci Group, which is already consisted of Balenciaga, Sergio Rossi and Bottega Veneta. As it was very soon to happen, Tom announced that he would have to leave as it’s going to be a strong pressure on him in creative area from the head of PPR. After leaving the group, Ford said that it was “destructing and devastating” because “he had put everything into that for fifteen years”.
The only solution for such an ambitious designer like Tom was launching his own label. In 2004 Ford made the Tom Ford brand which has everything to do with Ford’s sympathy to pragmatism, good sort of shock – such as nudity, and sumptuousness. Very fast, commitment to this brand became the sign of luxury life. Even lyrics of popular singers and hip-hop artists show us this fact: “Man, hate is so passé, catch me in a Tom Ford suit on draft day” – Drake; “Early morning, longer nights, Tom Ford, private flights” – Lady Gaga feat. R. Kelly; “So it’s Tom Ford and Armani, YSL, I’m fly as hell” – 50 Cent, or even Jay Z’s track which is actually called “TOM FORD”.
Ford likes to highlight his unique position in the fashion world, for instance, his secret collection Spring Summer 2012, after the six-year “pause” in work, where no photographs were allowed and “the world’s most inspirational women” like Beyoncé, Julianne Moore, Lauren Hutton, and Rita Wilson appeared. “I do not understand everyone’s need to see everything online the day after a show,” he told Vogue. “I don’t think it ultimately serves the customer, which is the whole point of my business – not to serve journalists or the fashion system. To put something out that’s going to be in a store in six months, and to see it on a starlet, ranked in US magazine next week? My customer doesn’t want to wear the same thing she saw on a starlet!”, – Ford added.Tom himself mentioned:” “the Tom Ford customer” as international, cultured, well traveled, and possessing disposable income.” For females, he added “strong women, … intelligent women who know their own style”. So, the picture of Tom Ford’s customer is pretty precise, and what’s important – desirable: confident, smart, rich but not over-emphasize this, man or woman who knows what he or she wants and knows that their desires by now are law.
This image was translated by protagonist in Ford’s directorial debut drama film “The Single Man” with Colin Firth and Julianne Moore staring. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Isherwood, about an English professor, one year after the sudden death of his boyfriend, who is unable to cope with his typical days in 1960s Los Angeles. In brief, the story is the perfect example of 60s aesthetic in its best which shows us what Tom Ford’s talent is about. He has this catch for the sense of time. Ford understands that people will always want the same: status and the opportunity to be better versions of themselves – these are precisely the things that brand Tom Ford offers. As for the gay part in the plot, Tom Ford is homosexual himself which makes his influence and presence in the story more evident. “The Single Man” was nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe, Independent Spirit Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Colin Firth’s role in the film. Firth also went on to win the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
Ford also took an interest in photography. For instance, he has shot the cover of 2014 Numero Russia’s March edition and for his own Tom Ford beauty and mainline campaign for spring 2014.
As for his private life, Tom celebrated 30th anniversary with his husband Richard Buckley, who is also committed to a fashion sphere but by journalist’s occasions. They met each other in 1986 when Ford was working for Cathy Hardwick and Buckley was the fashion editor.
Ford says: “Richard was adorable, and he was a complete fool. He was sort of dancing around, flashing his eyes at me, and trying so hard to be charming. I decided in that elevator ride that I was going to marry him. I’m very pragmatic, and I was, like, OK, there’s some kind of connection here.” In 2012 the couple have welcomed the son – Alexander John Buckley Ford – to the world. Ford revealed some details about his son’s tastes in clothes – as father as son Alexander John Buckley Ford prefers black color, which is not exactly toddlers’ common vibe. In that case we are able to wait a line of luxury clothes for toddlers by Tom Ford.
AUTHOR | APOLLINARIA MOST