The Reality Of His Clothing

Tom Ford: “I feel that fashion has become too serious…Fashion needs to make one happy.

It is a luxury and should enhance one’s quality of life.” Ford also believes in, wait for it, “real clothes for real women.

Tom Ford Responds to Roitfeld Speculation

In an e-mail from London on Saturday, Tom Ford said he was as surprised as everyone else about Carine Roitfeld’s decision to leave French Vogue at the end of January — and, no, don’t expect a Ford-Roitfeld collaboration anytime soon. He wrote: “Carine and I have no plans to work together at the moment, and it is nothing that we have even discussed, but of course I think she is brilliant and we are close friends so who knows about the future.”


Tom Ford Wants People To Embrace Nakedness

Former Gucci designer Tom Ford believes people look better naked as clothes can sometimes be unflattering.

Tom Ford believes people look better naked.

The former Gucci designer says clothes can sometimes be unflattering and thinks it is a good idea to embrace nakedness to help give people confidence in their bodies.

He said: “I spend most of my time at home naked. You know, most people actually look better nude. We are all one harmonious colour, with a symmetry and an innate elegance. Fat women almost always look better without the constraint and lumpy pinching of clothes, all the straps and elastic squeezing and sucking.

“We are the only animal that wears clothes, and that can’t just be because dogs can’t do up buttons.”

While he believes most people look better naked, Tom – who recently released his first womenswear collection in six years – says he wants his clothes to be flattering and timeless.

He told Style magazine: “You make your own look and add what you like. I wanna make things that are classic. Imagine how great to have invented the Chanel suit or the blazer.”

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Tom Ford Working On A New Film

Designer Tom Ford is gearing up for another film, Moviefone reports. During an interview for Colin Firth’s new film “The King’s Speech,” the actor gives a hint on what Ford has next on his plate.

Colin Firth revealed “I do know that he has plans to make another movie….I consider him a very good friend, but he won’t give anything away to me about what the film is. I know, whatever it is, it’s gonna be very different from ‘A Single Man.’ I’m jealous of whoever’s going to be in it.”

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Tom Ford and Women’s Tights

Tom Ford

Tom Ford wears women’s tights when he goes horse riding.

The fashion designer is a huge fan of the leisure activity, but finds he is always left in pain if he only wears trousers as they rub so badly. He came up with the revolutionary idea to don something under his pants years ago, and has never looked back.

“I spend a good deal of the summer on horse back; a pair of women’s pantyhose under my breeches keeps the chafing away,” he said. “I’m serious.”

Tom finds riding horses relaxing, and would do it every day if he had the chance. He plans to take time out from his hectic schedule to practice the pursuit over the next few months, and already has his outfit planned.

“I have a cowboy hat that I wear every day when I’m in Santa Fe. When I put it on I turn into a real Texan, and my pioneer genes keep me from looking like a member of the Village People,” he insisted to the British edition of Vogue magazine. “Another of my summer essentials are friends who have a childish sense of humour – and preferably a yacht.”

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The Excellent People

Posted in Art, Design, Disillustionment, Excellency, Expectation, Fashion, Icon, Literature, Lust, Media, Nostalgia, Style by The Excellent People on November 1, 2009

Tom Ford

Former Gucci designer Tom Ford on the set of A Single Man, his new film, to be released later this year by the formerly Excellent Harvey Weinstein. Image approved by the newly Excellent director Tom Ford

INTRODUCTION: The Silence of the Lambs

“He controlled everything, not just the design, not just the runway shows, but the stores, the advertising, the packaging, the bags that people carried out the doors, he was a complete control freak, and that’s what made the company successful.”–Patrick McCarthy

Tom Ford

“Tom doesn’t want the book to happen.” Someone who was accustomed to, and who enjoyed the luxury of saying no uttered these words authoritatively, with a certain casual threat of impending finality. Lisa Schiek, the former worldwide director of communications at Gucci Group NV, was calling from her London office early one frosty morning last winter to inform me that Tom Ford—the about-to-depart creative director of Gucci and (more recently) Yves Saint Laurent—had declined my request to be interviewed for this book. When informed that the project would move forward with (preferably, hopefully) or without (regrettably, sadly) Tom’s corporation, Schiek’s reply was swift, cordially dismissive, yet matter of fact. “What if Tom calls the publisher?”

“Why?” I asked.

“To tell them not to publish the book,” Schiek said.

“What if Tom called me?” I countered, trying to avoid conflict and explaining that the book was meant to be inspirational to readers and would focus solely on Ford’s work history for Gucci. No hardcore personal details (Just the facts!), no Kitty Kelley-ish prying. Silence. Or was it a snicker? Then: “He’ll just tell all of his friends not to talk to you.”  End of discussion. The Guru of Gucci, the King of Cool, the Lord of 1990s Luxe, had spoken, his wish and command delivered by one of his highly paid disciples.

Tom Ford

And so it came to pass that mum was the word from a host of “Friends of Tom”: fashion industry professionals and power brokers contacted to comment on his stellar and illustrious career at Gucci. First to refuse was Cathy Hardwick, the woman who gave Ford his first break as a young would-be designer in 1986 (“What I saw was Heaven,” Hardwick said of Ford in 1995 when he received his first International Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. “He had such a fantastic presence, a beautiful face, and elegant hands. I hired him 10 minutes later!”). Tim Blanks, host of Fashion Television, when first contacted, enthusiastically agreed to be interviewed, offering both his office and personal cell phone numbers, but a few days later emailed to say that he was saving his thoughts and comments about Ford for his own Tom Ford project. Kal Ruttenstein, fashion director of Bloomingdale’s and Scott Tepper, fashion director of Henri Bendel didn’t return repeated calls. Kate Betts, a former editor of Harper’s Bazaar, now editor of Time, Inc’s Life and Style magazine offered her expertise as someone who had written extensively about Ford, but once she found out it wasn’t a Ford-sanctioned project changed her mind, as did many others.

Harold Koda, chief curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum  of Art, which in 2003 mounted the very well attended and profitable “Goddess” exhibition, sponsored in part by the Gucci Group, was unavailable when contacted. He was traveling in Europe, where he was surely to see Tom, from whom he would, possibly, seek permission to speak with me I was informed. “He and Tom are good friends and unless Tom aggress, he won’t be able to speak to you,” said a spokeswoman for the Costume Institute, which has a sizable collection of Tom Ford for Gucci pieces in its permanent collection. Dawn Mello, who was brought in to help revive Gucci back in 1990, and who is widely credited with hiring Ford (although later disposed of “Kremlin-style” by Gucci in 1994, according to a fashion journalist with knowledge of the situation) first checked with Ford and, after being warned, refused to speak.

Tom Ford

Former assistants and design team colleagues of Ford also wouldn’t go on the record.  Francisco Costa, the new head designer at Calvin Klein and formerly an assistant to Ford at Gucci demurred through a company publicist, though he was kind enough to wish me the best with the project. Photographers Mario Testino, Terry Richardson, and ad man Doug Lloyd, who conceived and worked on many of Gucci’s most iconic advertising campaigns followed suit. Andrea Gonzalex, alumni director of Santa Fe Prep, the New Mexico preparatory school attended by Thomas R. Ford (Class of ’79) refused to comment, after at first offering to supply me with a a copy of Santa Fe Prep Magazine to which Ford had recently granted an interview (‘It’s in the public domain,” she had originally said. “That shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll mail it to you.”). The offer was kindly rescinded after she phoned the Gucci offices in London. “I’ve spoken with Tom’s office and we cannot take part in any project that is not approved by him,” was her official statement before quickly hanging up the phone when I called to check on the estimated arrival date of the promised magazine. The list goes on. Hundreds of phone calls where made, as many faxes were sent, emails languished in the ether of the chicest computer networks in the top fashion capitals of the world.

It’s understandable, perhaps. It’s predictable, certainly. After all, with Ford’s career in flux and while tout le monde contemplates his next move, no one wants to offend him by saying anything good or bad (unless whispered sotto voce) about him. After all, there are photo ops to be had at the next fashion awards show, there are private dinners to attend in Paris, London, Los Angeles, New York, New Mexico or other locations where the jet-setting Tom Ford might find himself on any given day. There are front row invitations to the next Ford fashion show to covet and consider –all important matters to a true-blooded fashionista.

So, how to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? This book is a look at Tom Ford the way that he, perhaps, would, most likely, prefer it, a look at his career and work history through his eyes and the words and images that he has projected, through his collections and advertising campaigns for Gucci. This work has propelled him into the pop culture lexicon. It is a brief study of “Tom Ford for Gucci,” as the magazine credits mysteriously (yet purposely) began to read a few years ago. Now that all the post Gucci hubbub and the backstage, backbiting whispers about him have somewhat  died down; now that the heartfelt and bitter tears over his departure from the Gucci Group have dried up, it is now time to examine the fashion legacy of Tom Ford. Not Tom Ford the man, but Tom Ford the icon. The following words will do just that.


Posted in Art, Beauty, Cinema, Communication, Design, Desire, Disillustionment, Excellency, Fashion, Icon, Literature, Loyalty, Lust, Luxury, Media, Music, Nostalgia, Photography, Society, Style, Technology, The Look, Theater, Thought, Travel, Visuals by The Excellent People on January 28, 2010

Tom Ford

Tom Ford at his final Gucci show. February, 24, 20004.

‘cause you’re free

To do what you want to do

You’ve got to live your life

Do what you want to do

–Ultra Nate, “Free


Milan, Italy. February 25, 2004, 7 p.m.

Tom Ford

Best Actress winner Charlize Theron at the 76th Academ Awards ceremony. February 29, 2004. Gown by Tom Ford for Gucci.

Pink rose petals, and teardrops. Both are falling, raining, cascading in vast abundance inside Theatre Diana, a former movie theatre located in Milan’s Piazza Oberdan. Tom Ford, the creative director of Gucci, dressed in a black tuxedo, a gardenia tucked into his lapel, takes a final, almost stoic, walk down a pale pink sheepskin-covered runway. He is presenting his last fashion show for the legendary Florentine fashion house, a collection comprised of updated versions of his hard-edged, sex-charged signature looks from seasons past (black suits, fan-seamed to accentuate the curves; decadent fox fur stoles; bomber jackets made of Python skin and leather; knee-length corset skirts; gowns made of slivers of satin in acid lime, chartreuse and cobalt blue; white column dresses with plunging necklines and subtle cut-outs disclosing hints of flesh). As the singer Ultra Nate’s 1996 house music classic Free thumps and blares from the sound system, there is hardly a dry eye in the room. The black clad crowd of editors, buyers, retailers, friends, and foes leaps to its feet to salute, clap, cheer, and bid a weepy farewell to the 42-year-old charismatic man with matinee idol looks. Tom Ford, a former model-slash-actor, who, in astutely attaching his fortunes and applying his acute creative design and business acumen to a fading company more than10 years prior (astoundingly upping that company’s cache and clout in the process) is now a legend, a star himself, his name, his persona, more famous and more seductive, than the Gucci brand itself.


The Gucci after-party. Midnight.

It’s raining rose petals (again) inside the Theatre Diana at the Gucci after show fete. More goodbyes. More tears. At the strike of Midnight, in a scene reminiscent of chic, decadent, boogie nights at Studio 54, the famed New York City discotheque of the Seventies (or at least a Tom Ford-produced simulacrum thereof) rose petals descend from the heavens of the Theatre Diana, pouring down over the guests (an edited down, more select list of the same crowd from the earlier Gucci show) who are partying like it’s 1979. Ford and his longtime romantic partner, Richard Buckley, a journalist and editor of Vogue Hommes International, the Paris-based men’s fashion magazine, observe the double G-rated bacchanalia from a distance, ensconced in a corner away from the throngs who are jostling for drinks at the bar. Shortly after midnight the couple disappear and board a private jet bound for Los Angeles and the runway of the west, the red carpet of Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre, site of the 76th Academy Awards ceremony.


Hollywood Boulevard. February 29, 2004, 5 p.m. PST

Tom Ford

Deja vu: model Daria Werbowy wears a look from Tom Ford’s final collection for Yves Saint Laurent. Paris, March 7, 2004. Image via

At the Kodak Theatre South African actress Charize Theron, one of the night’s Best Actress nominees for her career making role in the film “Monster,” slithers along the red carpet, the fashion world’s most important catwalk, towards the building’s entrance amid pops and flashes of paparazzi camera lenses. She pauses only briefly here and there to field the questions and demands of an international crew of news and celebrity reporters from E! Entertainment Television, Access Hollywood, and Entertainment Tonight. When her category winner is announced hours later, billions of eyes are on Theron as she gives her acceptance speech, clutching her Oscar. Her gown, a spaghetti strapped, crystal-encrusted, champagne colored number designed by Tom Ford for Gucci, glitters and shimmers under the house lights as brightly and insistently as her dazzling smile, an image that will be broadcast on television programs and shown in newspapers and magazines around the globe ad infinitum.


Paris, France. March 7, 2004, 8 p.m.

The gardens of The Musee Rodin, home to Auguste Rodin’s famous sculpture The Thinker, are bathed in red light from the Chinese paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling as the sound of classical music and the aroma of Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium perfume waft through the air. The mood is Chinoiserie and déjà vu as East meets West, Orient Express-style in Tom Ford’s final show for Yves Saint Laurent, also owned by the Gucci Group. The show is an hommage to YSL’s famous 1977 Chinese-inspired Opium collection. There are fitted jackets with Chairman Mao collars in red, emerald green, and chocolate brown. Furs are shaved in the pattern of dragon scales, tight jet beaded jackets shine like lacquered cabinets. A model wearing a black crocodile anorak with a mink-lined hood floats down the runway. Cocktail dresses come with fan shaped beading; sequined sheath dresses come in yellow or red, slashed to the thigh. Then! A black sequined gown with a gold lotus blossom pattern. The crowd jumps to its feet in appreciation. Ford, dressed in a red velvet tuxedo jacket, walks down the red carpeted runway, and simply mouths the words “Thank you” as the appreciative crowd cheers and applauds from the sidelines, roaring their approval as if witnessing a final curtain call for Madame Butterfly at the Paris Opera House. Another image is forever seared into the collective pop culture consciousness.


Tom Ford

A star is reborn in 2010: Tom Ford in Hollywood, directing A Single Man. Publicity still.

“Always leave them wanting more,”

as the old Hollywood saying goes, And Tom Ford, since making the decision to the leave Gucci amid rumors of salary disputes and issues of control had done just that. Leaving at a career pinnacle after showing his last collection for Gucci, dressing Best Actress Charlize Theron for the Oscars, and presenting his last runway show for Yves Saint Laurent­; all in less than a fortnight.  Now liberated from his contract with the Gucci Group, as Ultra Nate’s recorded voice had sung at that final Gucci show, Ford was free to live his life; free to do want he wanted to do.  But what would it be? By 2004 Ford had become the leading man of the biggest cliffhanger in fashion history and in the weeks following his departure from Gucci, the company he helped rebuild, Tom Ford Minus Gucci became Topic A in conversations among the fashion cognoscenti. In fact it seemed that Tom Ford (and what he would do next) was all anyone could talk about.

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Tom Ford Holds Back

Tom Ford as DirectorTom Ford says he only shows his true self to a couple of people.

The designer enjoyed directing A Single Man because it gave him the opportunity to pour his deepest feelings into the movie. Although he can be reserved in real life, he found it easier to reveal his emotions when he was making the film.

“There is a real fear when you do that. You really expose yourself, although it is a lot easier to do on screen than it is in real life,” he said. “In real life, I’d only show my true self to a handful of people. Doing it on screen it is supposedly fictional and that’s easier. In real life, if you have one or two people in your life that you truly connect with in a very soulful way, you are lucky.”

In A Single Man, Colin Firth plays a gay university lecturer who is left devastated by the death of his lover. Tom, 48, has previously revealed he poured a lot of himself into Colin’s character.

The movie is set in the 1960s and has been praised for its stunning sets and costumes. Tom admits he is a perfectionist and is obsessed with attention to detail, which has had a negative impact on his personal life. “The quest for perfection has been incredibly useful for me in my professional life, but it is a nightmare in my private life. I torture myself,” he confessed in an interview with Grazia magazine. “When I’m at home I think, ‘Am I a nice guy? Did I say the right thing, was I mean, should I do this?’ It is a nightmare.”

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The Ellen DeGeneres Show

A Single Man is a 2009 American drama film based on the Christopher Isherwood novel of the same name. It was directed by fashion designer Tom Ford, who had to finance it himself, as it was his directorial debut. The film stars Colin Firth as the protagonist George Falconer, a gay British university professor living in Southern California in 1962. Plot summary Set in Los Angeles on November 30, 1962, a month after the Cuban missile crisis, A Single Man is the story of George Falconer (Colin Firth), a middle-aged British college professor who has struggled to find meaning in his life since the sudden death eight months earlier of his longtime partner, Jim (Matthew Goode). Throughout the single day depicted in the film, George dwells on his past and his seemingly empty future as he prepares for his planned suicide that evening. Before meeting his close friend Charley (Julianne Moore) for dinner, he has unexpected encounters with a Spanish prostitute (Jon Kortajarena) and a young student (Nicholas Hoult) who has become fixated on George as a kindred spirit.

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Tom Ford By Gus Van Sant

Tom Ford as DirectorPhoto above: Tom Ford in London, October 2009. All clothing: Tom Ford.

Tom Ford is without question one of the mostrecognizable fashion designers America has ever produced. His sleek, hypersexual work at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent was a defining force infashion from the mid-’90s to the mid-’00s. Ford was so successful in this first chosen profession—even launching his own eponymous label after leavingGucci in 2004—that he hardly needed to start over and acquire a second career. But anyone familiar with Ford—or even his runway inspirations—could hardly be surprised by the news that the designer would eventually turn his attention to making movies.

The result is Ford’s debut as a filmmaker, A Single Man, an adaptation of a 1964 novel by Christopher Isherwood. The narrative centers on a college literature professor named George (played by Colin Firth), whose unwavering despondency over the death of his longtime companion (Matthew Goode) drives him to decide to take his own life. Of course, it is the very moment when George prepares to say goodbye to the world that it opens up for him. The film charts the course of what he plans will be the last day of his life: He courts an unexpected relationship with a student (Nicholas Hoult), meets a handsome hustler outside a Hollywood liquor store (played, in fact, by Tom Ford model Jon Kortajarena), and clashes with his closest friend (Julianne Moore).

A Single Man is not without Ford’s clean lines and meticulous veneers but, as a director, he tackles the rush of emotion that comes with loss with masterful subtlety and rhythm. The 48-year-old Ford isn’t claiming that he’ll never return to his starring role in fashion—the success of the Tom Ford menswear brand has exceeded expectations, and he is preparing to launch a womenswear line at some point in the near future. But film, a longtime passion, is now his central focus. Here, Ford speaks to director Gus Van Sant about making movies, the seduction of youth, and why fashion just wasn’t enough.

TOM FORD: Hi, Gus. Where are you?

GUS VAN SANT: I’m in Portland, Oregon, where I live. I’m just starting up a film we’re going to shoot in a few weeks.

FORD: I think Nick Hoult read for it. He said it was one of the worst readings he’s ever given. [laughs] He’s a very sweet kid.

VAN SANT: He’s amazing—especially in your film. He did come for a reading, and I was going to ask you about him. I met him right when you were shooting A Single Man. Wasn’t that about a year ago now?

FORD: Yes. The film was shot in 22 days in November and December [2008].

VAN SANT: I tried to meet him in London before that, when I was scoring a film, but he wasn’t there, so I met him in L.A. during your shoot, and he was kind of still in that character.

FORD: With his American accent and blond hair?

VAN SANT: Yeah. [laughs] I think he gave a pretty good reading this time around.

FORD: Well, I’m a big fan of yours. I’m very nervous to talk to you. I’m never nervous to speak to anybody, but I am such a fan of yours. Mala Noche [1985] is one of my favorite movies, and so is To Die For [1995]. But I like all of your films.

VAN SANT: Were you in New York in the ’80s?

FORD: Yeah, I moved to New York in 1979, and I knew Andy [Warhol]. Actually, I met him the very first month I was there. Did you know Ian Falconer? Ian was my first boyfriend. For a while, I was quite friendly with Fred Hughes [Warhol’s business manager] and a lot of people at the Factory, so I knew Andy pretty well. By the mid-’80s, I had drifted away. You sound a little bit like Andy, actually.

VAN SANT: I do? Oh, my god. [laughs]

FORD: I don’t know if you’ve been told that. Your speech pattern is just slightly, slightly Andy.

VAN SANT: I have been told that, but I never met him, so I only know him through images. But Paige Powell [former Interview associate publisher] once told me that, and so did Francesco Clemente.

FORD: If you just add the word “great” to your vocabulary a lot, you’ll be there.

VAN SANT: One of the reasons that I met Paige was because I was writing a screenplay about Andy. It was loosely based on the book Holy Terror [by Bob Colacello]. My real estate agent in Portland knew Paige and said, “You have to meet her. She worked with Andy.” She was one of my main sources, especially with dialogue and speech patterns. So we became really good friends back then. This was in, like, ’91. The movie was never made. [laughs] Maybe I should go back to it. . . . A Single Man is from a book by Christopher Isherwood that you first read a long time ago, right?

FORD: Yeah, I read it in the early ’80s when I moved to Los Angeles. I developed a crush on the character George. Ian, my first boyfriend—well, we weren’t together anymore—was living with David Hockney, so I met Christopher through him. We weren’t friends, but meeting him really cemented the passion I had for his work. One of the things I love is the way he depicted gay characters in just a simple, matter-of-fact way. Their sexuality was never really an issue for the characters. Of course, most of his characters were autobiographical. But the spiritual element of the book didn’t strike me until I picked it up again in my mid-forties. I always knew that it was written in the third person, but I didn’t realize that it was the true observation of the self. And that was what spoke to me at that particular moment in time in my life.

VAN SANT: Oh, wow.

FORD: I was going through something of a crisis of the same kind, having spent a good deal of my life really, really wrapped up in the material world and neglecting a certain side of who I was. I suppose I’ve always been quite spiritual and intuitive, and I struggle, as many of us do, to live in the present moment. We end up feeling isolated most of the time. That’s what the story is about for me: that isolation we can all feel even though we are surrounded by people. And in my script, George decides to kill himself, so he goes through his day in a completely different way, seeing things in a completely different way, andpeople respond to him in a different way because he is different. He thinks it’s his last day. For the first time in a long time, he’s actually living in the present.

VAN SANT: It’s a really beautiful description of that type of isolation. So many of us live in that frameof isolation. I think even well-adjusted people could be enthralled by and relate to the predicament in this film, which is impressive. Personally, I can entirely relate to this character. Then there’s the character Kenny, the college student, and the hustler in front of the liquor store. They are these angels that pull the character to the side, sort of trying to rescue him. I liked that they appeared out of nowhere and there’s no particular reason for it.

FORD: The reason is that he’s just looking at everything in a different way. For the guy at the liquor store, George is just stunned by this guy’s beauty. He doesn’t want sex from him. He just wants to look at him and kind of drink him in, in a way. Kenny, though, is a literal angel—or was meant to be. At least that’s what I intended him to be. Maybe that’s not how it got translated.

VAN SANT: Yeah, he definitely is. I mean, you dressed him like an angel, with the mohair sweater.

FORD: Yeah. I had to brush that sweater and put hairspray on it the whole time, because mohair—you know. It just kept getting fluffier and fluffier and fluffier.

VAN SANT: It was very fluffy. Kenny is amazing. Only a couple of times in my life have I encountered a character like that. They’re sort of insistent and coming at you for no apparent reason. Like, you just can’t figure out what this person is up to. Is he like that in the book, too? How does Isherwood describe him?

FORD: He’s one of the characters truest to the book. I had to take quite a lot of liberties with the book because there’s no plot in it. It’s an inner monologue. It’s a beautiful piece of prose, but nothing happens. There’s no planned suicide. There’s nothing external to tell the story, unless you just did one giant voice-over, which I didn’t want to do. So I had to create external situations and scenes in order to tell the story and let the audience understand what George was feeling. Kenny is quite true to the book, though. The hustler doesn’t exist in the book. But Kenny does. He’s like the bookend to George. He’s drawn to George. He’s attracted to George. He doesn’t necessarily know why. He’s at a change in his life—he’s changing from a young adult into a man. He’s figuring out who he is. George is also changing, moving to a different stage of his life—albeit one where he can’t see his future. All of the principal characters are at a crossroads. So Kenny and George are drawn to each other. When I was young, I was always attracted to older guys. I live with someone. I’ve been with him for 23 years—he’s older than I am. But now, of course, as I get older, I’m attracted to people that are younger—mostly, I think, because you see the world through their eyes and their view isn’t as jaded as yours is, so everything becomes fresh. Interestingly, the actor who played Kenny, Nicholas, was 18 when we shot the film andColin was 48, which is exactly how old Christopher Isherwood and [portrait artist] Don Bachardy were when they met. I don’t know if you’ve seen that wonderful documentary Chris & Don: A Love Story [2007]?

VAN SANT: Yeah, it’s amazing.

FORD: It’s so great. Anyway, George is drawn to Kenny because he is giving him new life. And Kenny is drawn to George because he likes the way that he thinks—George doesn’t think in a conventional way for a 1962 college professor, and that’s what Kenny is attracted to.

VAN SANT: That’s the main thing he’s attracted to?

FORD: Yeah, in a sense. He’s questioning things, and he suspects that this man has the answers.

VAN SANT: What’s intriguing is that the character isn’t really resolved. We’re not really sure what Kenny is striving for. I guess he’s striving for all of it. He’s looking for a mentor, but he’s basically a stalker.

FORD: He is a stalker! He’s absolutely a stalker. I don’t know if you’ve ever been obsessed by anyone. We all have. I’ve been a stalker at times in my life. [laughs] You know, where you sit outside someone’s house hoping you’ll catch a glimpse of them through the window. That kind of isolation leads you to do that sort of thing, where you feel you could potentially connect with someone else. It’s not that hard to become a stalker.

VAN SANT: Did you show the film to Don Bachardy?

FORD: Don read the screenplay after I finished it. Don’s actually in the film. We pan across a sofa in the faculty lounge, and my boyfriend is on one end and Don is on the other. He even has a line. He sent me a long letter after he saw it, saying that he loved it and he was relieved. [laughs] He was nervous because it was one of Christopher’s favorite books that he had written.

VAN SANT: Do you relate to any of the characters in particular?

FORD: I don’t know. How do you feel when you write a character? I mean, I think you can’t help it. When you write a character and their dialogue, you can’t help imagining how you would be acting if you were them. You kind of have to relate to all of them. It’s the most personal thing I’ve ever done. I don’t think you can compare it to fashion. They are two completely different things for me. So there was a lot of me in all three of the principal characters.

Tom Ford as Director

Photo above: Fragrance: Grey Vetiver by Tom Ford.

VAN SANT: How did you start out in fashion?

FORD: First of all, I think people who are attracted to the fashion industry are people who are really insecure and looking for a certain identity. I think that’s initially how people are attracted to it. And I’m sure it’s true about other industries as well, but in particular with that industry. I started out going to Parsons [in New York], where I was studying interior architecture. I realized that it was too serious for me. [laughs] Then I was living in Paris and had an internship at Chloé and realized that it was the one industry suited for my skills, talents, and ambitions. I went back to New York and got a job and started working. I didn’t work on Seventh Avenue too long. I moved to Europe in 1990, and I’ve lived mostly there for the past 20 years. I just worked my way up. But fashion, for me, is very different from film. Fashion, for me, is a commercial endeavor. It is artistic, but I’ve never approached it as though I were an artist. There are fashion designers who approach what they do as though they’re artists. But the thing I approach like that is film—and I hope it continues to be. This film in particular was just pure expression, which is new to me—creating something simply because I felt compelled to create it as opposed to thinking about it as something to sell and market as an end or a goal. In fashion you make something and the goal—at least for me—is to sell it. So I design into a box. I know what I need, how many I need, how they should be priced. I’m not saying it’s not an artistic thing; you can be very creative about it and you can love it. And I can get as excited about making a beautiful shoe as a sculptor can get making sculpture. That may sound pretentious, but you know, a shoe is a freestanding object. It is a sculptural thing. And if you’re someone who likes working with forms and shapes, that can be amazing. But the thing about fashion that’s unfulfilling is that it is so fleeting. You can look at fashion in a museum, and you can admire the detail, the stitching, the way it’s constructed. But it never has the power that it has the very first time you see someone wearing it and it jars you a little bit, because it’s new, because it’s different, and because there’s something about it that captivates you because it’s beautiful. That doesn’t last very long. A few months later, it starts to fade. A year later, you’re bored with it. You’re ready to move on. Whereas when you watch a film, you’re immediately sucked back into the present, or the time in which the film is taking place, and you’re led through all those emotions all over again, as though they were occurring for the very first time. That’s an amazing thing.

VAN SANT: It is, yeah. Well, I think that you can look at film either way. Film can be like you’re saying fashion is—something to mark a certain moment.

FORD: Absolutely.

VAN SANT: I tried to design a coat once. I reached a point where I realized that warehousing and shipping were involved, and it scared me.

FORD: Wait. You designed a coat to sell?

VAN SANT: [laughs] A coat, yes. I designed a coat.

FORD: When was this?

VAN SANT: It was about 10 years ago. I used to have a coat, like a Chinese worker’s jacket. I used to wear it around, and eventually I lost it.

FORD: Just send it to me. I can make you a copy pretty easily. [laughs]

VAN SANT: Really?

FORD: Yeah. I’m so used to doing it on such a large scale. When I was at Gucci, we did $2 billion a year in sales for just that one brand. You know, fashion is one of the largest businesses in the world—if you count growing the fibers, manufacturing, selling, and retailing. So you have to be used to thinking on that scale if you’re going to design in a global way. The business of fashion comes fairly second nature to me at this point. Seventy percent of our business was done in our own stores, and we controlled exactly what was bought and how it was bought. When buyers would come in, they would have minimums, and then they had a core collection that they had to buy. If they didn’t follow our guidelines, if they didn’t maintain the shop properly, if they didn’t use the right flowers, then we would drop them. I do that now even in my own business. I have my own freestanding stores, which is why it’s so interesting handing over your film to distributors. It’s really hard for me because I’m used to following not only the design of the product but then how it is advertised: Every single ad layout in the world comes through my office. If it has to go on a bus, I look at the format. If it has to go in a newspaper, I look at the format. Every single step, every party that happens—the hors d’oeuvres have to be this way, and the waiters get put through hair and makeup so they look that way. It’s all controlled. So when you let go of a film to a distributor . . .

I have to say, it’s really terrifying for me.

VAN SANT: You could get involved in that side of it.

FORD: Oh, I’m getting involved. I’m trying to. Depending on your contract with certain distributors, they technically have the legal right to say, “I’m tired of dealing with you. Fuck off. I’m going to make the DVD case look like this!” [laughs] But I’m definitely involved. I’m 48. I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to work at this point with someone over my shoulder. I just hope I can keep making films that I have control over. It’s the only kind of thing that I can do.

VAN SANT: I think you can do it if you just set it up that way. I’ve made smaller-budget films, probably in an effort to try to have control. There are other ways of going about that. . . . You can just fight.

FORD: Well, at this point in your career, you can see you’re in control, can you not?

VAN SANT: I guess so. I’ve always sort of had the lack of self-confidence to say that. . . .

FORD: Oh, come on! You have to just say it!

VAN SANT: I think people would listen to me by now. My style is, “This is so cheap, you’ve got to give me control!” Your style is, “Just give me the control.”

FORD: “Give me the control, don’t ever come on the set, and I’ll show it to you when it’s cut.”

VAN SANT: So you’ve been living in London lately?

FORD: Yeah, I’ve been living here for a long time. I travel pretty much constantly. I have a house in L.A., a small office in L.A., and then I sometimes live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is where I grew up.

VAN SANT: You grew up in Santa Fe?

FORD: I did. Are you running out of things to ask me? [laughs] I can hear you hesitating.

VAN SANT: No. I’m just terribly hungover. [laughs]

FORD: You know, I used to always be hungover until I quit drinking.

VAN SANT: Yeah, I should quit drinking.

FORD: I don’t know. If you don’t need to quit drinking, you shouldn’t quit drinking. I used to really love to drink, and especially living in London, you know, it’s just built for drinking. . . . [laughs]

VAN SANT: A Single Man is a beautiful film. Was it all shot in Pasadena?

FORD: It was shot in Los Angeles, from Malibu to Pasadena to Glendale. And because it was in L.A., it was a larger crew than I would have liked. It seemed like an army of people with vans and trucks. It was a small budget but a lot of people.

VAN SANT: That’s a strange experience, isn’t it? I’ve learned to live with that. You have tons of people who don’t have anything to do with your film. They’re just kind of on the set of a film. When I first experienced that, I really wasn’t sure what was going on. But you’ve done a lot of photo shoots. You’re probably used to something like that.

FORD: I am. Even in fashion, it’s become ridiculous—60 people to take a still photograph. I’ve started taking my own because I got so sick of all of that. I work with my one photo assistant, and a model, and hair and makeup, and that’s it. And, you know, I worked a good bit with Helmut Newton and with Richard Avedon, and the other day with David Bailey. For that whole school of photographers, it’s always been one assistant, one key light, one camera, one backdrop. And these guys worked on film. No one works on film anymore. I don’t shoot on film: That’s the only reason I can be a photographer. To be a photographer now, you just have to kind of catch a base image, and then you can rebuild it, rework it, recolor it. Those old guys like Newton and Avedon—and [Irving] Penn, who just died—were just incredible in the way they could pull off the images they did on film, with no retouching. They truly understood the mechanics of their craft. For most photographers today—I won’t necessarily mention names—you see a picture of 10 people in a magazine, and none of those people were shot together. They take the best head from here, stick it on the best body from that shot, move that over there, and you fill in, which is fine, but that’s a different kind of art—an impressionistic way of interpreting something. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing, but it’s a different way of working.

VAN SANT: So, what are you doing today?

FORD: I’m getting ready to take a bath and go out to dinner. My day is over.

VAN SANT: Where are you going to dinner?

FORD: I am going to dinner at a place called Mark’s Club [in London].

VAN SANT: Mark’s Club. Is it in the same area as The Groucho Club?

FORD: No, it’s not. It’s in Mayfair. It’s owned by the same guy who owns Harry’s Bar and Annabel’s. It’s very old-fashioned. I love Annabel’s, actually. Where else do you see those kinds of people dancing around on the little disco floor with lights in the ceiling, and all those cute military boys coming through in the nighttime, after all those debutante parties?

VAN SANT: Debutante parties?

FORD: They’re all still going to Annabel’s!

VAN SANT: I don’t think I’ve ever seen any other place with the kids, like 18 or 19, who are all dressed up and going out. You just don’t see that anywhere.

FORD: They’re in London, still dressed up and going out—and more drunk and taking more drugs than just about anywhere. I mean, the surface is polished. It’s the other things that are going on that are less than polished.

Gus Van Sant is an Award-Winning writer, producer, and director based in Portland, Oregon.

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