Tom Ford: His wild world

A nude magazine spread, and an obsession with pornography that’s seen him paying advertising models to have sex on set. Oh, and trouble with the neighbours. What’s driving Gucci’s former chief designer?

Pink rose petals cascaded from the ceiling and the catwalk vibrated to the 1998 Ultra Nate anthem, “Free” (“You’re free / To do what you want to do”). That was fashion week in Milan almost two years ago and the occasion was Tom Ford’s farewell show as the chief designer for Gucci after a triumphant 13 years.

Nobody imagined – least of all himself – that the perennially chic Ford, with unerring uniform of white shirt (unbuttoned to halfway), black jacket and trousers, was about to vanish from public view. While he swore off creating womenswear, he said he knew exactly what he wanted to do, after a bit of a rest anyway. He was going to Hollywood to make movies. Big, splashy, wildly successful movies.More –>>


Tom Ford’s Adobe-Abode Dust-up

Designer’s Santa Fe neighbors decry “Wal-Mart on the hill.”

Will Tom Ford be able to build his rugged adobe pleasure dome on a hilltop in his hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico? He’ll find out next month, when the city decides whether it’ll allow him to erect the 16,647-square-foot complex, which includes a 9,000-square-foot house, a 1,600-square-foot garage and guest apartment, and 4,000 square feet of covered portals, with walls made of genuine mud-based adobe. “Our goal is to make the house seem of the hill and not on the hill,” Ford told the Albuquerque Journal last month, after dropping a garage bay and shrinking the project a bit to appease the neighbors. The plot is on the meticulously Old West–rustic east side of town, where the roads are dirt and the residents include Ron Howard and Jane Fonda. Ford got ahold of the ten-acre plot after the city refused to let the previous owners build a somewhat smaller house than Ford proposes (the old owners sued Santa Fe and won $300,000). Ford shouldn’t think the locals will defer to his superior sense of design: One citizen described his planned home as “a Wal-Mart perched on a hill.”

Launch spectacle stuns shoppers

THERE was a lot of excitement at Isetan KLCC recently.

However the buzz had nothing to do with the fact that it was Christmas week and or the fact that people were busy with their last-minute shopping.

In fact, the crowd were anticipating the arrival of Tom Ford’s Estee Lauder collection.

The entire floor was teeming with people who heard about the launch of the Limited Edition products and were waiting to sample them.


Photo – Toga-clad male models carrying a palanquin on which sits a model holding the Youth Dew Amber Nude Fragrance at Isetan KLCC.

And they were not disappointed as they also viewed a spectacular launch gambit of the products featuring male models in toga carrying a golden palanquin.

Seductively reclining on the palanquin was a female model holding the new fragrance by Estee Lauder called Youth Dew Amber Nude together with the Amber Nude Limited Edition Makeup collection.

200 people comprising celebrities like Amber Chia, Azura Zainal, Winnie Loo, Angel Wong, Bernie Chan, Gillian Hung also turned up to check out the products.

There was a rush to purchase the products however the Face Gloss and The Bronzer from the limited edition make-up collection was snapped up quickly.

Estee Lauder announced the collaboration with Tom Ford in April 2005.

The Tom Ford Estee Lauder Collection, specially created for the 2005 Holiday season, is a re-interpretation of select iconic Estee Lauder products including its famous Youth Dew fragrance and the brand’s original gold fluted makeup packaging.

The initial line-up features 13 items, including the new Youth Dew Amber Nude fragrance collection and the new Amber Nude Limited Edition Make-up collection of lipsticks and compacts in sophisticated nude shades.

Estee Lauder spokes model Carolyn Murphy is featured in the sensual advertising as a reclining nude reminiscent of the nude in the original Youth Dew advertising from 1953.

Youth Dew Amber Nude fragrance will remain in the Estee Lauder line up, however the make-up items are limited editions and is only available for the holiday 2005 season only.

The collection is available exclusively in Isetan Suria KLCC, Malysia.


A conversation with … TOM FORD

I am smack, dab in the middle of a rather hectic weekend covering the Silmo Eyewear Exhibition in Paris for 20/20. Abruptly, Jobson Optical’s editorial director Marge Axelrad informs me we have to trash already tight agendas and immediately ditch the exhibition hall in order to interview designer Tom Ford. Don’t ask me the name of the luxury hotel he was camped out in. Don’t ask me the fake name under which he was registered. And… please, hope he speaks loud and clear since one of my hearing aid batteries just ghosted.


We were being given a scrutinized 30 minute audience and during that time one of the most important (and controversial) luxury designers in the world was going to deliver a personalized table tour, modeling his upcoming sunwear collection newly developed with Marcolin SpA.

Tom Ford’s personalized take on print advertising for his eyewear collection. Cheeky? Perhaps. Sweaty? For sure. Hair-raising? Definitely.

And WHY is this a big deal?

Even the shortest review of factoids from Ford’s past answers that. Tom Ford spectacularly combusted fashion in the ’90s. Wielding highly personalized dollops of energy, sex and glamour he charged into the title of creative director at the faltering facade of Gucci in 1994 and sizzled the brand into a proud $3 billion icon-o-plateau by 2004. Bookend this accomplishment with Ford’s early dedication to fine tuning the classic American suiting drape of Perry Ellis and the recent challenge of rekindling the status of Yves Saint Laurent back to its pivotal ’60s supremacy and you have a level of designer success poised and ready to etch his own logo as a worshipped fashion demi-god.

He’s a rock star. Plain and simple, Tom Ford’s biggest challenge in the next few months will be filling the shoes of… Tom Ford. And doing it in the glare of enormous public adulation.

He is everything and everywhere. He’s naked in a self-directed photo feature in W. He’s the key ingredient in cosmetic and fragrance giant Estée Lauder trying to freshen up collections from both their historic and current essence stable AND delivering the sweet smell of future success with the upcoming Tom Ford fragrance and beauty collection. He’s making movies. He’s guest editor/art director of Vanity Fair’s upcoming (and all-important) Hollywood issue (and we hear he’s driving them nuts on the details. But that’s a good thing since sometimes those high-brow magazines need to wake up, stop reading all those repetitive press releases and start causing some publishing excitement instead of just being print-programs for the over-saturated TV celeb shows over-air-waving every second).

There can be little doubt that the upcoming coral of Ford-logo’ed luxury products will certainly encompass everything every fashion-ista’s heart (or wallet) could ever desire. Not bad for a boy born in Austin, Texas and bred in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

But before all that there is the little but supremely important matter of eyewear. Ford thinks of glasses as “a very POTENT accessory.” And that interprets as gigantic in POTENTial since his licensing deal with Marcolin comes very early—second only to the Lauder connection—in his quest to establish his own name as the ultimate luxury brand.

So here’s Marge and James being escorted up to a Paris hotel suite continually being warned we have now less than a half hour (I guess they counted the ride up in the elevator) with Mr. Ford. We banter about our excitement. The Ford PR agent stares at me and I fully realize what a dead body feels like at a wake.

Pleasant confusion ensues immediately. “You’re Americans… like me.” Ford was actually expecting our British editor-in-chief of 20/20 Europe, Clodagh Norton. Our greeting and heavy ‘new yawk’ accents reassure that we’re stepping in for Clodagh who is hung up in terrible London-Paris airline delays. No problem for Tom as he quickly seats us down, ascertains that we might know a thing or two about eyewear as it relates to style and begins a sorta complimentary interview picking our brain for trends, definitions and affirmation that the specs he’s presenting might well be the future tense of frames facing the world.

The sunwear he’s handing us to try on is enormous. Big and brassy interpretations of classic shapes and styles. “Don’t use the word retro,” he warns. “Retro denotes dead. I live and create in a world of classical influences and classical materials.” And for Ford the over-sized looks are balanced by neutral tones sidestepping the current vogue of purples, blues and reds in both sun and Rx.

“I love the color and luxury message of horn tones. I want to use colors that enhance skin tones… caramel, blush, brown, cream.” And those colors are all reflected in the sun lenses. He searches for a word on the tint pattern and we suggest ‘gradient.’ He’s thrilled. “I love gradiated lenses that go from light on the bottom to dark at the top. I like their mystery and what they say about both the past and the future of eyewear.” That tone-quality “brings a sensual and sexy look for both the wearer and the person looking at them. And that relationship is what’s most important to me as a designer.” For Ford it’s not just about the object being designed. It’s about the product in relationship to the wearer.

“Eyewear is very potent,” Ford reinforces that word for the second time. “Like shoes and also like a fragrance. My intended purpose is to convey a tremendous sense of mood and attitude. So often I’ll think of one of my inspirations like Cary Grant and put that person in my thought process when reaching for the essence of the style of a product. It could be menswear… or glasses…or even cologne… but I ask myself would Cary Grant wear this?”

That assimilation of creativity is going on even as we chat with Ford. He listens to our take on the definition of luxury and puts himself on a synchronistic playing field of opinions. “I’m not the same person I was when I first started at Gucci but the difference is that I’m reacting to a different world at the age of 44 than when I was 32. Back then things were more sexual and now they are more sensual. And that word needs exclusivity in order to exist. Everything I’m doing now is really a search to establish luxurious exclusivity.”

The sunwear styles shown to us by Ford are already entering the U.S. optical market. And he feels the Rx collection due to debut in March will push the fashion envelop even further. “I think the consumer is really ready for something new and that radical change will be easier to accomplish considering the relatively calm status of regular eyeglasses currently available.” Take a look at Ford’s frames on our cover to sense that “radical” rewrite of ophthalmic eyewear. We leave interpretation of success up to you, dear reader, but in a true sense of the word these glasses are going to be BIG.

Time’s up.

That PR watchdog enters to tell us just that. Ford himself seems cut short. “I hope I see you today at my booth appearance [at Silmo]. It would be nice to see some friendly American faces out there.” We show up for what turns out to be the most crowded, awe-inspiring event at Silmo. Ford is literally swamped with fans. He could have body-surfed down the aisles, instead taking time to grin-and-greet (and have his picture taken with) adoring fans from both sexes intent on claiming a piece of Ford flesh.

When we first met Ford I handed him some copies of 20/20 knowing he has always been a magazine fanatic, often crediting his passion for fashion magazines as the root of his instinct toward design. The copies I give him happen to have covers of Donald Trump and Kenneth Cole. “Wow. This is a real magazine. It looks really good.” (Believe me. That is exactly what he said. I wrote it down and underlined it three times as Marge had begun throwing out warm-up questions.)

About 15 minutes into our cab ride back to the exhibition hall, Marge gets a call from the Marcolin/Ford handlers. They tell us Ford would love to be in the U.S. 20/20 and would even be happy to art direct his own photo shoot, providing exclusive pictures.


Tom Ford and Maurizio Marcolin have

quite a lot in common as they greet the

Silmo crowds of Ford fanatics.

Things happen pretty fast after that. Maurizio Marcolin, CEO of product licensing, puts the plan in motion even though we’ve never done a feature portrait without being present at the shoot. But remembering Ford saying he honors, appreciates and respects his close working relationship with Maurizio, deadlines are set and the wait for film (and further info on the release of the eyewear collection in the U.S.) began.

Jitters set in when, stateside, we got a look at Ford personally letting it all hang out in a self-dir-ected multi-page photo spread in W. It’s all there… the sex, the hairy bodies, the men with the women with the men … and the women and the men with Ford…You get the picture? Concurrent to this we shyly previewed the new Estèe Lauder ads for Ford’s revamp of Youth Dew featuring a naked Carolyn Murphy.

Not exempt from any of the controversy, the first ads for Tom Ford Eyewear cast a man and woman more than a bit sweaty, hairy and sexual in a playful-porno way.

Fortunately the images sent to us are MUCH safer. Ford follows the exacting measurements of our cover dimensions; he dutifully wears his own eyeglasses for the cover shot by Nigel Parry and gives us a coy twist on fame and infamy by posing in front of a posterized image of Andy Warhol.

And that’s the story of our shared (doubled) 15 minutes of fame with Tom Ford and all his frames so far.


Is Tom Ford’s jacket no longer buttoning all the way up?

Pink rose petals cascaded from the ceiling at fashion week in Milan almost two years ago, at Tom Ford’s farewell show as the chief designer for Gucci after a triumphant 13 years.

Nobody imagined – least of all himself – that the perennially chic Ford was about to vanish from public view. While he swore off creating women’s wear, he said he was going to Hollywood to make movies. Big, splashy, wildly successful movies.

He has since opened a production house in Beverly Hills, called, appropriately, Fade to Black, but nothing much has emerged from it. The reason we are paying attention to him now has nothing to do with films, and everything to do with the vision of his bare buttocks in a recent magazine spread; his alleged fascination with pornography; and a nasty run-in he has been having with residents of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he is planning to build a monster mansion.

And then there is the nasty rumour that Ford (44) has gone a bit nuts. He has been engaged by Vanity Fair as guest artistic director for its annual Oscars edition, due out in March, mainly to oversee the shooting of the photo spreads, mostly of Hollywood starlets (Keira Knightley, Scarlett Johansson, Rachel McAdams, etc.)

One of his alleged crimes has been chronic finickiness over their dresses. If they are by a designer he doesn’t care for, Ford reportedly instantly vetoes them, even if he liked them before he saw the label.

“Eventually, somebody got the idea to cut out all the labels so he couldn’t tell what was what,” says one on-set source.

Maybe more worrying are Ford’s alleged attempts to photograph the women naked. A request that she strip off reportedly triggered a walk-out by McAdams, before she reconsidered and returned (but not before she fired her publicity agent).

Click here!

Of course, it is perfectly possible that all this madness from Ford will produce the best-selling issue of Vanity Fair ever. There has always been a thin line between seeming to go bonkers and free publicity. Maybe he has been encouraging reports of his banning anyone from attending meetings with him at Estee Lauder, the cosmetics company with which he is developing a Tom Ford line, if they are not wearing black socks. Or why he put on his birthday suit in a spread of photographs in W magazine to advertise his venture with Estee Lauder.

Other pictures featured Ford engaging in various activities with a set of identical triplet male models. He also had some fun with a few inflatable sex dolls.

Later this year he will launch a line of luxury men’s clothes. Ford recently insisted that sex is not what the menswear line will be about, because “I’m not in the mood for sex right now. I’m older”. And he is not doing it for the money but as a gift to over-salaried males everywhere: “The ultimate luxury store for men”.

Getting older seems to be on the mind of Ford, who has been with the same partner, Richard Buckley, for 18 years.

He has given up smoking and worked hard to lose weight.

More tellingly, his plans for the mega-house in New Mexico, where he was raised, include an on-site mausoleum for himself and all his family. It has also been reported that he has also already penned the design for his own coffin.