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).

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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.