Power playboy

When Tom Ford left Gucci in one of fashion’s biggest break-ups ever, his response was to fall into the arms of a new mistress – Hollywood. One year on, his movie-mogul dreams are still very much alive, but in the meantime he is playing the field. Interview by Sarah Mower

eftom199p.jpgI’m interviewing Tom Ford in bed. It’s six in the morning, and fashion’s most suavely notorious designer is lying naked between pressed white sheets in his 1950s-Moderne Richard Neutra house in the foothills of Beverly Hills.

Tom Ford

Tom Ford: ‘I love beauty as a commentary on our times’

He turns on the pillow and groans slightly. Ford is in LA, and I’m several time zones away in London, I should add. Still, even gravel-throated after a sleepless night, he cannot resist setting up a scene. Within four whispered words – ‘Hi, I’m in bed’ – he has already managed to turn this conversation into a potential bout of faux telephone sex. There he goes again. Incorrigible.

What were we talking about? The knowing, teasing, flirtatious, startlingly intimate Tom Ford isn’t lying a-bed because he’s lazing around. Far from it – he’s a self-confessed workaholic. By some estimates, his fortune tops $200 million, made for the most part in the 13 years (aged 28 to 41) in which he and his boss Domenico De Sole transformed Gucci from a bankrupt shell into a multi-brand cash-generating machine.

eftom199d.jpg Famously, it all went wrong for ‘Tom and Dom’ in 2004, when they unexpectedly clashed with PPR, their new owners, and left in a firestorm of drama. ‘I still don’t know why it happened, and I don’t think I’m really over it,’ he says. ‘It was as if my whole life had been ripped out from under me. It was really like a death.’

But now Ford has shot back to visibility with a vengeance – allowing himself a length of leash he couldn’t afford when tethered to the public company that was Gucci Group. Last night, he conspiratorially confides, he was on set directing an ad campaign for his new sunglasses collection. ‘We shot it with porn stars,’ he chuckles. ‘Two men and two women. And we paid them to have sex on set. You don’t see it in the shot, but you feel it. You wait!’ (I’m sure I can.)

This latest incendiary episode (due to break next January) follows the 20-page W magazine photo-story, depicting Ford in various activities with a set of identical-triplet male models and a cast of female sex-dolls, which has just reverberated around the world. In one, he is sandwiched naked – in bed, again – between two dolls in white evening gowns. ‘Did you see me? I unfold three times!’ Hard to believe, but this story was his main way of getting over the news that he now has a deal with Estée Lauder – which, though undoubtedly America’s most prestigious cosmetics company, is one that has managed to exist for almost 60 years without a whiff of controversy.

The W photographs – a study in social satire and sophisticated repulsion along the lines of the late Helmut Newton – was his commentary on the state of beauty today. ‘I think it’s always hard to stop and see where we are in the look and aesthetics of things. We’re living in a world of perfection and extremes. Everything is pumped up and cartoon-like. There are no nuances. We’re becoming these plastic creatures. And when you get that plastic, there’s a certain dead quality to it.’

Ford with business partner Domenico De Sole

But hold up there, Tom. Are you not part of this? ‘That’s why I’m in the story!’ he exclaims. ‘I’m a master of beauty, with these weird creatures. I’ve often objectified women in my work, and so I thought I should objectify myself, too. And I do have mixed feelings about it. In our business, we manipulate. We make people feel insecure. I don’t think it’s a good thing to turn into plastic! We have to stay in control, not lose sight of what we look like. Let’s just be careful. There’s a point where you have to stop and think, “Hey! This is all looking a bit creepy.” ‘ (As a sidelight on what those automata – available in the US for £3,000 – say about male sexuality, he offers this: ‘Leave any man alone with one in a room for an hour, and he’d have sex with her.’)

Entering the cosmetics business is, of course, a chance for Ford to make a second fortune. It is part of his masterplan, an intricate jigsaw puzzle of a strategy, put together with De Sole, to leverage the latent power of the Tom Ford name into a brand that will ultimately finance his obsessional ambition to make movies. ‘One of the things I decided this year, after leaving Gucci, and everything that had happened, was that I will only do what I really love,’ he insists. For the moment, that means that womenswear – with its relentless cycle of six-monthly change – is out. ‘I’m avoiding it, the stress of that seasonality.’

The first push will be carried out in alliance with Lauder. To begin with, Ford has revamped Estée Lauder’s classic perfume, Youth Dew, and designed a range of cosmetics to match – all ready for Christmas. ‘Youth Dew meant something to me,’ he says. ‘It was my grandmother’s scent. She wore it till the day she died. When it was invented, it was very sexy. The advertising image was of a nude woman towel-drying herself behind a shower door – it had originally been a bath oil. It was quite provocative. But it had been somewhat in a corner for a while.’

Reinvention of neglected ‘sleeping beauties’ – using powerful marketing – is, of course, exactly what Tom Ford did at Gucci and YSL; it is his area of expertise. He looked at the Youth Dew bottle – a ribbed hourglass-shaped flacon with a grosgrain ribbon and a gold stopper – smelt the fragrance and, like a deft surgeon, gave the lady a full body-lift. ‘I took the bottle, which was the shape of a woman, and made it longer and slimmer – as women are now. And I diluted the fragrance by 50 per cent. It was like maple syrup – a little strong. The heart of it is patchouli, but we have different patchoulis today, less icky. And I changed the colour to amber. So it’s a derivative of the original.’

If that seems like a tame project for such a grand provocateur, there’s something much bigger in the pipeline. Next autumn, he will launch a stand-alone Tom Ford beauty range, manufactured and distributed by Lauder. In spring, there will be the Tom Ford sunglasses collection, manufactured under licence with Marcolin. Following that, there will be an exclusive chain of Tom Ford menswear shops, planned for London, LA, New York and Milan. ‘I’ve had all my clothes made since I left Gucci Group. Suits, shoes, shooting clothes, tennis shorts… but nothing’s ever quite right. So this will be the ultimate luxury store for men.’

Still, the life he has configured for himself now – split between his Mayfair townhouse, Beverly Hills ‘Fade to Black’ film production office, and his ranch in New Mexico – is a far cry from the certainties Ford had mapped out in front of him 18 months ago. Several months before his and De Sole’s contract negotiations with Gucci Group collapsed so catastrophically, I interviewed him on his ranch and at his grandmother’s house in Santa Fe. He strongly hinted at the next step: De Sole wanted to retire, Ford would take on the role of CEO of Gucci Group, delegate design to others – and start making movies on the side. (De Sole himself, after agreeing that Ford was more than capable of doing his job, quipped, ‘I look forward to calling him up from my yacht!’)

Even at the time, the grandiosity of Ford’s ambition sounded unnervingly unrealistic. How could a CEO, however talented, run a group of seven fashion brands and find time to make a movie on the side? Perhaps, I ventured, he was thinking of something small and arty to test the waters? I’ll never forget his incredulous stare when I said that. Standing in his grandmother’s living-room, he threw his arms out wide and declared, ‘No! If I do it, it has to be the biggest and best movie ever!’

The problem was, Ford had no Plan B. When François Pinault, the French billionaire ‘white knight’, completed his agreed takeover of Gucci Group, he preferred to control things his way. Such a thing had never occurred to the mega–successful Ford, who by then was not just a fashion designer but a celebrity equal to Nicole Kidman,


Tom Hanks, Gwyneth Paltrow and all the others he dressed.

Until then, his entire life had always gone according to his rigidly accomplished 10-year plans. His boyfriend, Richard Buckley, the fashion journalist and publisher, told me that on their first date, in New York in the mid-1980s, the young Ford (then a backroom boy at the fashion label Cathy Hardwick) told him that, within 10 years, he would have a fashion house in Europe and make a million. ‘I thought, “Ah, how sweet!” ‘ Buckley remembered. ‘But he did it in nine.’

Moss, legendary photographer Mario Testino and Ford at a London Fashion Week party

So when the crash came, it was on an almost mythic scale: a case of fashion hubris never before witnessed. ‘I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do. I left my office in Grafton Street on April 30 at four or five, came home and took a nap and had a terrible nightmare,’ he remembers. The fall from omnipotence – a state of success in which he had created and directed the seamless illusion of an entire, sybaritic Gucci world, and lived it out – left him incapable of sending his own e-mails (someone else had always done it for him) and experiencing the novelty of doing his own grocery shopping for the first time in years.

Another person, cushioned by wealth and in possession of a ranch on which it is possible to ride from horizon to horizon and never see a soul, might have disappeared into the hills to lick his wounds. Or retired, even. Not Ford: he kept on running. I saw that coming after I had spent a sad afternoon on his Grafton Street couch knocking back vodka and tonics with him in a last interview just before he left Gucci, and felt worried for him.

In his PR’s office, faxes were spewing out copies of newspaper front pages all over the world, reporting his departure. But instead of viewing his legacy with a self-pitying eye, Ford sat there delivering a forensic evaluation of how long his fame would last, how steeply it would depreciate after three months, six months, a year, two years. He had calibrated it precisely, frighteningly.

I have never known a person more driven by the sense of finite time. The psychological consequence of his self-professed control-freakery is that Ford’s ruthless intelligence can’t help running through every story to its very end. It is a characteristic he will make fun of in himself, but even as he has you creased up with laughter at his ridiculous propensity for forethought, he can also chill you to the bone. That happened the time we stood on a mesa at his ranch and he described the ‘fortress’ he was commissioning the Japanese architect Tadao Ando to build on the spot.

Everything is planned, down to a mausoleum for himself and his family. He also said recently that he has even designed his own coffin (minimalist, I’m sure). I cannot pretend to know why Ford should be so conscious of death. It is strange, the way he wears his dark side on his sleeve like that, and then makes a big joke out of it. And at a guess, I would say it also accounts for the carpe diem vision of hedonism which he stamped on Gucci in the 1990s. Sex and Death. They have always gone together nicely.

Perhaps all that also goes part way to explaining what keeps this famous insomniac awake at night. ‘And so,’ he is now saying from his pillow (after two hours’ sleep), ‘when I left, I never really stopped.’ First, he put together a book, Tom Ford, which sealed up and signed off all his work at Gucci in one tome.

Then he went to LA, signed up with CAA (the Creative Artists Agency, which has the other Toms, Cruise and Hanks, on its books) and set up his movie-production company. He is developing several scripts, one of them ‘a book, written in 1982 and set in 18th-century Venice’. Everyone warned Ford that, compared with the frantic speed of fashion he is used to, movie-making is notoriously slow. ‘So far, I agree,’ he laughs. ‘But I’m sure we will start shooting within a year.’

His strategy for navigating into a new way of doing business is honed to a brilliant sharpness by bitter experience. De Sole and he will structure the Tom Ford brand with their own money, financed by income from outside licences, so that – bearing the scars of former wars – they will never need to mess with outside investors again.

Does that make his foray into beauty merely a cynical financial move? If it wasn’t for his almost scary passion for beautifying products, I would almost think so. But I have been around him long enough to know it’s personal: set him talking about beauty products and, because he lives the experience himself, he’s racing away thinking of new angles, categories, ways of selling things. ‘As a consumer, I love beauty,’ he says. ‘I love the ritual of it. Beautifying is the meditative part of getting dressed. When I get ready in the morning – brushing my teeth, putting my drops in, trimming my beard, putting on my cologne – I don’t like to be disturbed. It prepares you for the day, psychologically.’

Being a world-class dandy, immaculately groomed at every moment, his extreme sensitivity to everything connected with physical appearance is inextricably embedded in his constantly whirring brain. He once told me that he can’t have a face-to-face conversation with a woman without analysing her every feature and how to improve them.

Instead of thinking of beauty as a separate category from fashion – and design in general – he perceives it as part of a much bigger social continuum. ‘I love beauty as a commentary on our times, too. You can tell everything from what we want hair and make-up to look like. Is it set? Is it soft? Powerful? Feminine? Look at Angelina Jolie, the beauty of now, with her gigantic lips and breasts: she looks like a computer-generated Lara Croft!’

All traces of sleepiness have disappeared from his voice by now. ‘And everything else is pumped-up, too,’ he shouts excitedly. ‘Cars: SUVs, gigantic, inflated and fat! Electronics: fat, round, pumped-up stereos! There’s a graphic look to every period. There has never been a dividing line. Look at the 1950s: doe-eyed make-up with flicked-up eyeliner, tail fins on cars, conical bras, atomic bombs! Look at the 1920s: sleepy vaselined eyes, Orientalism, opium, the loucheness of it!’

eftom277c.jpg Just listening to him, whole Fordian visual panoramas, built on faces, costumes, architecture, place and mood, come floating down the line from LA. Which, of course, connects us right back to what Tom Ford is about to do next – to what he actually wants most out of life. This is a man who can see a world in the way a girl does her eyeliner. To round things off, I think he really ought to get it all off his hairy chest by making a movie. I don’t doubt it will look amazing, but what with his interest in porn, his awareness of the corruptibility of human flesh – not to mention its nature – I shudder to think what it’s going to be about.

Source: Telegraph.co.uk

His Plans for New Empire

Paris – Tom Ford, the former Gucci designer who once vowed to students in Oxford University that he would never launch his own signature label, unveiled an eyewear collection this weekend bearing, well, the name Tom Ford.

“I always said I wasn’t going to do that. But, I also always said, never say never,” smiled Ford, as guests imbibed his signature drink – vodka and tonic – in a stand at SLIMO, the giant optical trade show in Paris’ Porte de Versailles.

“I never thought I would be leaving Gucci when I did,” said Ford. “Nor did I think I would feel about design the way I did. When I left I really thought I was not going to come back to fashion, yet very quickly after I left I realized I loved so much of what I did. I loved making things, building things. I did eyewear first because I was not quite ready to commit to ready to wear. Now I am ready for men’s wear but I am not quite ready to commit to women’s ready to wear.”

Attired in a stripe double-breasted cool wool Savile Row suit, Ford proudly showed of nearly 100 pairs of shades – 23 models in five different color groups – all shown on a giant wall at the stand’s entrance.

“I love eyewear, I’ve always loved eyewear,” he added. “I’ve done eyewear for the last 14 years at Gucci; I also did it at Saint Laurent. I wear eyewear constantly. I have a vintage collection that’s pretty impressive, I mean of hundreds and hundreds of frames that I bought over a long time.”

Ford inked a deal with the Marcolin Group, the Italian manufacturer that creates shades for Roberto Cavalli, Montblanc and Costume Nationale. Based near Belluno, the Silicone Valley of Italy’s booming eyewear industry, the founding family last year sold a 40% stake in Marcolin to Andrea and Diego della Valle, the luxury entrepreneurs who also control Tods, Hogan, Acqua di Parma fragrances and Fiorentina, the soccer club of Florence.

“The thing about eyewear is that it is so potent,” said Ford, tanned as ever, though looking a few pounds more than we remember him when he took his final Gucci bow back in February 2004. “There are very few accessories that, if you were not wearing anything, if you put on they would date you to a whole era. You could look the Thirties, the Fifties, and the Nineties just by your eyewear. It’s like a pair of shoes because it is sculptural. It exists without a face. It tells a lot about where you are architecturally or aesthetically in a particular period in time.”

“As a man I love eyewear because there are very few accessories that a man can really wear, and I am fairly classical guy, but I don’t want to look like banker, so eyewear is something that gives you an instant look,” he added.

The collection is also a mini homage to his friends and colleagues – since he named models after his long-time partner Richard Buckley, loyal assistant Whitney Bromberg and business partner and ex Gucci CEO Domenico De Sole, with their names in tiny letters on each stem. Of the three, only De Sole was not present at the launch.

Ford’s debut Spring 2006 collection features sculpted aerodynamic shapes, oversize aviator looks and retro futurist takes. Overall, they look pretty large in size, and in keeping with the gigantism one sees throughout this Paris fair.

Stems carry a large horizontal T set flush along the temple, while lenses have a very small Tom Ford logo in a signature typeface. Using lots of dark tints, smoky effects and lacquers, the collection has lots of panache.

“This collection is maybe a bit more luxurious than a lot that are on the market at the moment,” said Ford. “We at Gucci pioneered the idea of mass luxury. What’s interesting to me, which is what I will do now in men’s wear and do in fragrance as well, is to create true luxury again. I mean higher quality, more attention to details, smaller distribution and a higher price point.”

The first shades will reach stores in late November, rolling out to 800 doors, 60 of them major US department stores, and priced at between 200 to 350 Euros, or $240 to $425. Insiders are predicting annual sales of around 20 million Euros in the first year. At the end of his three year rollout plan, Ford’s shades will still only be one third of the distribution of a Chanel or Gucci.

“Maybe I am more about sensuality than sexuality now, maybe not quite so in your face,” said Ford, explaining the line’s look. “I also think that eyewear right now, and in other product categories, is in a moment where people want some authenticity, they want value, they don’t want to feel it is quite so transient and trendy and empty, as a lot of the things that all of us in the fashion industry were doing in the late nineties.”

Though to some it may seem a come down for the great Tom Ford, fashion’s most feted designer of the Nineties and a man whose runway shows were must-sees for any serious fashionista, to launch his own house at a booth in a trade show, the designer came across as very upbeat, ebullient even.

“It’s funny, yesterday when I left with the first pair of frames that I put on my face with the name Tom Ford I realized that it wasn’t just like my stationary that was engraved for me, it was actually a product that said Tom Ford!” he said. “I thought in the car on the way back into town that was kind of cool. Oh yeah, this is a little bit different…”

Ford’s next move is unveiling his revamped versions of Estee Lauder scents, starting with the label’s hard to pronounce Youth Dew.

“Then, it will be my own brand,” Ford said. “I signed a deal to produce and distribute Tom Ford cosmetics and fragrances starting in fall 2006. Before that, because it takes 18 months to make something new, they asked me to help revamp bits of the Estee Lauder collection and that is called Tom Ford Estee Lauder collection,” he stresses. Ford will launch that collection with Estee Lauder next week in New York at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Ford left Milan indicating he planned to devote the next stage of his life to cinema, but clearly the allure of fashion has proved too strong.

“I love fashion,” Ford said. “What I love is the ability to express yourself, to be able to make a product and shoot an ad campaign that tosses you out into the world and lets you have a voice in contemporary culture, iconography. I felt a little bit neutered not having that voice.”

“Gucci for me is finished, over and gone,” continued Ford, declining to comment on any of his successors. “That was another chapter in my life, it’s over. I am on to something else.”

Asked about progress in Hollywood, Ford, who owns a classic modern Richard Neutra house in L.A., responded: “I have a couple of things in the works that I hope to announce soon. I always saw people stand up and say when they won an Academy Award that their film took ten years to make this film, and I thought, ‘come on!’ But by the time you get the project together, and you organize the script, and you get your talent, and then maybe they are not available because of another film, and then you loose your financing because the talent is not available and you finally get them back… It’s the really the logistic of getting it all together.”

The Texan-born designer is clearly keener to talk about his own house, outlining his ambitious pans for a Ford men’s collection, which will debut in fall 2006.

“In terms of making an impact,” he said, “I have never been someone who liked to do things in a small way. So in terms of men’s wear at some point I certainly think I can rival, and I don’t mean this in an egotistical way, Armani and Ralph Lauren in terms of volume. I think I have a good rapport with the men’s customers. I love men’s clothes. I think there is a real niche in the market in between those two extremes. I have a strong voice in that, for so many seasons, what I did in women’s was often hinted at in men’s before.”

Readers, and Ralph and Giorgio, you have been warned.

Source: Fashion Wire Daily

The return of Tom Ford

Style maker Tom Ford, who’s new beauty range for L’Oreal is due in-stores this November, is to design a new menswear range under his own name. The ex Gucci designer has confirmed a new collection of sharp tailoring, dress shirts, footwear and leather goods for men that will be available for winter 2006. The range, which has been described as a mix between Savile Row and Italian luxury, will be something like Armani and Ralph Lauren, albeit more sexy and edgy. A store is expected to open in London, in addition to boutiques in New York, Tokyo and Los Angeles.

Source: Fashionunited.co.uk


tfordnovvogue05cmcdeanb.jpgWHICH fashion designer calls his mare Naomi? Tom Ford, of course. The fashion phenomenon, whose back is still recovering after Naomi took a dislike to his new Hermes sandal and threw him during a ride in his native Santa Fe recently, talks to this month’s Vogue about life since leaving the Gucci Group in April last year. Having initially expected him to break into the film world, fashion watchers all over the world were surprised when Ford, who admittedly has three film projects underway already, announced that the next time we saw him professionally would be at the launch of a beauty line with Estée Lauder. But he explains that it was a natural move. “I have remained obsessed with looking at women and men around me, seeing how far their eyes are from their forehead, and thinking if brows were thinned out it could make a face look different,” he says, adding that it drives his partner Richard Buckley crazy. “I say, ‘It’s OK for you, you can get away from me. I can’t get away from me!'” The beauty industry is also Ford’s platform until such time as he feels ready to jump back into the fashion arena once more. “When I left Gucci, my main thing was to focus on films,” he says. “But that is a slow business. I realised that if I did not design or do anything in the fashion world, then the value of my name would deteriorate. Fragrance and beauty take less time. Through just 10 meetings I have produced a collection. Plus, it’s working in fashion peripherally, it’s being involved in the look of the season and developing the contemporary idea of beauty. It keeps my name out there and, after two or three years, if I got back into fashion, the push behind the Tom Ford Estée Lauder Collection and the Tom ford brand will keep my name visible. It will be there in print advertising, commercials, on bus stops – so my name will have more value when I decide to come back.” And don’t ever expect him to stop there. “I want to dominate the world,” he continues. “I have never understood not aspiring to that.”

Source: Vogue.co.uk

Tom Ford photographed by Craig McDean for the November issue of Vogue

Tom Ford Exposed

tom-ford-style.jpgTom Ford has taken it all off for photographer Stephen Klein’s shoot for the November issue of W magazine. The photo portfolio depicts Ford’s view of a society dehumanized by the quest for physical perfection, for which the beauty world bears considerable responsibility.”We’ve become plastic, objectifying the human body…waxed and polished and buffed and shined up and manipulated,” Ford says. “And then, of course, I’m portrayed as the one doing the manipulating, the polishing, buffing, shaping, which is what I do. It’s just what we do. What the fashion industry does.”

In other Tom Ford news, this month will see the first fruits of Estee Lauder’s marriage with Tom Ford, the man for whom sex and style are virtually synonymous writes Style.com. “We’ve always tried to position ourselves where we’re selling something that’s really sexy,” says Leonard Lauder, the company chairman. “That’s the cornerstone of Estee Lauder.”

Source: Thebosh.com


Former fashion mogul TOM FORD is putting his Hollywood career on hold to release a line of fragrances and beauty products.

The American quit his role as Gucci creative director in 2003 to make a foray into film.

He has three pictures currently in the pipeline, but he’s grown so bored waiting for them to materialise, he has delved into the cosmetic industry with the new range for Estee Lauder.

He tells PageSix.com, “When I left Gucci, my main thing was to focus on films, but that is a slow business.

“Fragrance and beauty take less time. Through just 10 meetings I have produced a collection.”

Source: Contactmusic.com