Tall, dark and handsome, Tom Ford broke many a heart when he walked away from Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent four years ago. But the celebrity designer is back on the prowl with a series of fragrances, an eyewear line – and a head-to-toe menswear collection that’s spreading faster than hot gossip. Jessica Michault and Prestige Hong Kong Deputy Editor Stephen Short engage the man in an exclusive interview.
IT’S A CRISP day in London, with an icy breeze whipping through Hyde Park as we make our way to Kings Road for an intimate chat with the sexiest man in fashion, Tom Ford.
Yes, he’s back, after retiring in April 2004, when he left his position as creative director at Gucci Group (designing the men’s and women’s collections for both Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent) to pursue other avenues – most of them lined with stars in Hollywood. When he took his farewell bow, in a fire-engine-red velvet coat, more than one woman gnashed her teeth in frustration and wondered, “Where do I go for sexy clothes now?” Others whispered confidently, “He’ll be back.”
After all, this is the award-winning American designer who single-handedly breathed life back into Gucci, transforming the brand into a fashion powerhouse. Its luxe quotient was so diluted that it had become something of an industry joke.
Well, the whispers were right. Exactly one year later, Ford announced to the world that he was now officially a brand. With TOM FORD, he surprised many by forgoing a clothing line and instead negotiating astute business partnerships in the satellite luxury arenas of fragrance and eyewear that orbit the fashion world. He simultaneously announced that he had teamed up with the Marcolin Group, to create an eyewear collection now considered must-have accessories, and with the renowned Estée Lauder company.
With Estée Lauder the joint venture was twofold: the Tom Ford for Estée Lauder collection, launched in November 2005, was followed by the stand-alone Tom Ford Beauty line, which debuted in the autumn of 2006. The latter includes a group of fragrances comprising Tom Ford Black Orchid; Private Blend, a 12-piece unisex fragrance collection; Black Orchid-Voile de Fleur; a men’s scent called Tom Ford for Men; and recently a second, more exclusive men’s fragrance called Extreme.
Hope ran high among fashionistas that Ford’s next move would be a line of womenswear. But the outside-the-box thinker again surprised the industry by deciding instead to take care of his fellow man – announcing the creation of Tom Ford Menswear in February 2006 in partnership with Ermenegildo Zegna.
Available exclusively at his New York flagship store for the first six months after its 2007 opening but soon to be available worldwide – and this month in Hong Kong at Lane Crawford – the collection is designed to be all-inclusive, to dress a man in stylish clothing from head to toe, from the inside (socks, boxers, undershirts) out (belts, shoes, hats, cufflinks). Over the next 10 years, the company plans to open more than 100 Tom Ford free-standing retail stores in places such as Hong Kong, Beijing, Kuwait, Dubai, Qatar, Moscow, Zurich and St Moritz.
The Tom Ford design studio is housed in a stately red brick and stone building picturesquely flanked by a quiet park on one side and a stone courtyard on the other. The studio entrance is tucked away at the back. Up a flight of steps covered in a purple-tinged grey carpet is the reception area. Here mannequins dressed in the menswear line flank the entrance and a large Guy Bourdinesque print of the ad campaign for Ford’s eponymous men’s fragrance has pride of place on the wall. In keeping with his sexy aesthetic, the bottle is balanced between the bare breasts of a moist-skinned, red-lipped model.
Ford is running late. He’s on the phone with business partner Domenico De Sole, who’s available only briefly between long-haul flights. De Sole memorably left Gucci with Ford when they parted ways with French parent group PPR, and has again teamed up with the designer for his latest endeavour as chairman of the company.
While we wait, the designer’s faithful assistant, Whitney, keeps us company. Heavily pregnant with her first child, she’s wearing high heels and a form-fitting knit Azzedine Alaïa dress that looks even better – dare we say sexier? – pulled tight over her taut belly.
When Ford is ready for us, we’re guided up another flight of stairs to his private office. The 46-year-old designer greets us at the door and ushers us in with a smile. The room is suffused with light from a wall full of windows, and the intoxicating aroma of Ford’s new men’s fragrance, Extreme, permeates the air. An oversized Macassar ebony table dominates the long room, at the far end of which is Ford’s large desk. On a side table, propped against a wall, are black-and-white photos of his partner of 21 years, Richard Buckley, and Ford’s close friend Carine Roitfeld, the editor of French Vogue. Halfway obscured behind them is a framed photo of Ford’s notorious 2002 ad for M7, a perfume he launched while running YSL, featuring a full frontal nude male.
Dressed in an impeccably cut, grey three-piece suit, Ford motions for us to sit in two chairs next to him, orders up drinks (his is a Diet Coke), leans back in his chair, looks us straight in the eyes and smiles – ready for his first question.
Congratulations on being nominated for a Council of Fashion Designers of America Award.
Thank you. I’ve won it before but not for my own brand, so keep your fingers crossed for me.
Do you really care about such awards?
Of course they matter. It’s nice to know that what you’re doing other people like. Sales are the ultimate recognition of whether what you do is the right thing, and our sales are strong.
Karl Lagerfeld’s a big fan of yours. He told Prestige Hong Kong that you designed his favourite coat, a “unique piece.” What do you think of that compliment and of him?
I love it and I love Karl. In fact, I have a lot of great things to say about Karl. In the mid-’90s, when I started at Gucci as creative director and we turned it around, a lot of people hyped that as being a new formula. Then Marc Jacobs went to Vuitton. But Karl was the original. Karl was the first person to go to an older company and revitalise it; that’s what he did at Chanel. I have tremendous admiration for Karl. Once I started working with Gucci, I met Karl and we became friends. We see each other for dinner when I’m in Paris. He’s also a Virgo, so we’re kindred spirits in terms of the way our brains and personalities work together. I think he’s an amazing guy. When you look at other designers his age, and then you look at what Karl’s doing, Karl is what you want to be. He’s so alive and so quick-witted and so smart, and so completely contemporary and current. So I love that about him. Karl will never retire, I don’t think. He’ll just keep going until the end. He’s just an amazing person.
Lagerfeld says he does everything his way and takes no advice. What about you?
Well, when my staff says to me, “Here’s plan A and this is plan B,” I always say, “There is no plan B. We have to figure out how to work plan A. And if you hit a wall you have to go around the wall, or dig under the wall, but you just don’t stop.” I’m very much that way when I‘m determined and I think something’s right. I figure out a way to make it happen. So sometimes you pound your head into the wall, against the wall, around the wall, under the wall and you still don’t succeed, but you must make sure you’ve tried everything when you think it’s right.
This is a very intimate set of photographs that your photographer Jeff Burton created for us. It’s so Tom Ford, don’t you think?
Yes, these are some of my favourite pictures. I love them because Jeff is someone who I’m very comfortable with. I actually don’t like having pictures taken of myself.
You’re kidding. I thought you’d be the opposite.
No! No one ever believes that, but I hate it. I really do, I hate it. So I only show the world one side of my face. I don’t give a lot in pictures because I hate it. I think these pictures capture something that not all photos do because we were so relaxed together.
You’re a great-looking guy. Which guys in the past or the present would you like to dress?
I wouldn’t mind dressing Barack Obama. I think he’s a great-looking guy but I think his suits don’t fit him very well. I think he’s a terrific potential presidential candidate and I’m very excited as a Democrat, so Hillary or Obama, I like both options. So, I wouldn’t mind dressing Obama. I wouldn’t say he’s badly dressed, but he could sharpen up his look a little better.
I find his dress too invisible. How would you sharpen it up?
Well, I think that may be calculated. He may not want to look like he spends too much time on his appearance, and I understand that. I can’t say it’s like a burning desire, where I get up every day and I think, “Wow, I need to dress Obama.” I’m actually quite content with who I dress and who I have dressed, but you asked the question, so I’ve answered it.
I appreciate that. Do you know him personally?
No, I have not met him and I don’t know him.
What about Hillary Clinton?
No, I’ve never met Hillary either. I’ve met her husband. In fact, Bill Clinton wore a tie that I designed when he signed a peace accord back in the early ’90s or so, whenever he was president.
You have a lot going on in Asia. How did you get together with Lane Crawford, which will oversee your Asian operations?
For a long time I knew Lane Crawford when I was working at Gucci and Saint Laurent. Lane Crawford today is wholly different from how it was back then. I think what [President, Lane Crawford Joyce Group] Bonnie Brooks and [President, Lane Crawford] Jennifer Woo have done is great.
The revamped store in ifc mall is unbelievable, isn’t it?
Oh my God! That store is sooo beautiful. It’s sooo beautiful. And you know, I spent an enormous amount of time in Hong Kong during the 1980s.
Really? That’s not well known.
I had my sample room in Hong Kong when I worked at Perry Ellis America. Everything was produced in Hong Kong. I used to stay at the Regent Hotel back then. So from ’86 to ’89 I would spend three to four months per year there. I would go around the factories all day, gather my suitcases full of samples and go back to my hotel room. I don’t like anyone knowing, but I’ll tell you something. At that time I was so skinny, I was a perfect women’s size eight. I would put everything on myself. I could immediately look at a shoulder and say that’s 17, that’s 16-and-a-half, that’s 15-and-a-half, change the shoulder bridge, and so on. I’d go back to the factories and say, “Change that, change that and change that.” Then I’d go back to the hotel and try it all on again. That’s the way I worked for a long time.
Did you learn any Cantonese in Hong Kong you can share with us?
[Laughs] Let’s just say I used to know a few words in Cantonese, but I’m not going to repeat them for you now.
Did you think you would come back to fashion when you left in 2004?
No, I thought I was never going to do fashion again. I was a textbook-case burnout. I’d been burned out from not only designing two collections, which I was very proud of, but the last two years of my time at Gucci were complex contract negotiations almost every day with PPR. And it was more and more apparent that what they wanted was not what we wanted. I just saw François [PPR Chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault] the other night, actually. I gave him a big hug and a kiss. We’re friendly, I like him enormously as a man, but as business partners we had different visions. And so it started to become apparent that we were going to have to leave and that was very traumatic because I had devoted an enormous amount of myself to the company, as had Domenico. So, no, I really thought I was not going to come back to fashion.
What were your impressions of the menswear market before you launched Tom Ford?
I was examining it through the eyes of a consumer. When I left Gucci, I thought, “Well, what am I going to wear?” because at Gucci and YSL I made my own clothes for 14 years. So I went to all the competition, because I thought, “I love Prada, I love the skinny little Prada suit,” but when I went I found that there were five jackets and four pairs of pants and maybe the cut was a little too trendy for me, and the fabric was not what I would want.
I couldn’t find a company that addressed my needs. So I started having my clothes made on Savile Row at Anderson and Shepherd, who did a wonderful job, but it was kind of a struggle to ever get them to do anything different – cut a lapel extra wide or give my jacket shoulder a bit of a roll. And I started realising that I’m a fashion designer, I can go and draw and battle with them and say, “Why don’t you cut the lapel this way” and I can get what I want, but for the average consumer I realised there was a big niche in the men’s market.
Most fashion brands do a small capsule men’s collection. For example, if you go to Gucci, there’s a men’s collection but it isn’t really head-to-toe everything. It’s not a men’s store that has five floors of menswear just devoted to men and every single thing they need. What I’m doing now is kind of a reaction to everything we did at Gucci, where we democratised luxury to the point where I don’t know if it was a true luxury product anymore. It was a great product. But I couldn’t find the level of service that I wanted from anyone and I realised that there was a missing gap between fashion designer and tailor that no one was meeting in the market.
And from a business standpoint, I also thought about Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani, who still dominate the world of menswear in terms of actual men all over the world, they’re both in their 70s . . . There was no one working in menswear that was creating a company built completely for men.
Do you remember the moment you realised you wanted to do a menswear line?
I can’t remember the exact moment, but I’m sure there was one because that’s how I am. I might have been in bed and realised “yes.” But I was also really missing designing. I was missing building things, I was missing being around beautiful things and being able to think of an idea and make it. I also realised through retiring, for only really about six months, that I will never retire and that I will never retire again. I don’t need to fantasise about it because I realised that about 90 percent of the enjoyment of my life comes from work.
The Tom Ford brand will expand at quite a clip, yes?
We have 18 stores opening this year. We opened our first store in Osaka with Lane Crawford on February 1 in Hankyu, a beautiful shop-in-shop where we were the number one selling vendor opening day. We sold US$40,000 in the first two hours, and response has been great. We’re doing a shop-in-shop in Hong Kong as well [opening this month in Lane Crawford, ifc mall]. But we also have two different locations for stand-alone stores in Hong Kong under negotiation now. Because that was our goal and it had been very hard to find good real estate. We have a five-floor flagship store opening in Milan in June, which is the old Ermenegildo Zegna store that we’ve gutted, and I hope it will be ready on time to open for the menswear shows in June.
No place is harder than Hong Kong when it comes to finding the right location.
[Laughs] No kidding, no kidding, no kidding. It’s been tough.
It seems that Tom Ford is going beyond bespoke, if that’s possible. It’s Savile Row with more snap. You’re super precise. The same way Cary Grant could phone his Savile Row tailor from a film set and tell him to move a buttonhole one-eighth of an inch. You’re designing for a really impeccable gentleman.
[Pauses] International impeccable gentleman. That’s nice.
But do enough of them exist in the world today?
The difference is Cary Grant was a very stylish man. He knew how to direct his tailor, and not everybody today knows how to do that. Therefore, we’ve created a hybrid between a tailor and a fashion designer. We’re doing something I don’t think has existed. We want to make every man look like Cary Grant, with a little help from us.
Do many or any of your clients “direct” you?
We do have some, but I like to think I’ve thought of it all for them in advance. I don’t say this in an egotistical way, but I’ve never had someone say to me “could you do that?” and I hadn’t already done it or thought about it, because that’s my job.
In fact, you dress the man in full.
We are getting men who’ve been dressing at tailors and men who’ve been at fashion brands but who want more selection. If you need a top hat, we make them. If you need a morning suit, we make them. Now, we’re not going to be doing huge business in morning suits, but in England everyone still wears morning suits for weddings, and if you want one, where do you go? Who has that?
Who’s your target customer – you?
I am. I like to design for me as I am, me if I was 60, me if I was 25, me if I were thin, blond, six foot tall and 25; everything runs through a filter of “Would I wear that if I were that person? Would I want to see my father in that or my nephew in that?” But I happen to be our actual target customer. Our real target is men in their 30s and 40s, urban customers, very sophisticated, [a man who] knows himself, who wants beautiful tailored clothing but with a bit of a modern shape.
So this is couture for men?
In a way. It’s the closest to what women have had in Chanel for a long time. They can go and buy a very high level of ready to wear, but you can also have something made for you. But men really haven’t had that, that kind of a company that just caters to them.
What are your failsafe rules to help make me look like an international impeccable gentleman?
I usually tell the client, nip the waist in more because it will create more air between your waist and your arm, which will make you look thinner, which will look better in photographs. Always keep your jacket buttoned. If I had one rule for men, it’s this. Keep your jacket buttoned always. It instantly makes your silhouette. It’ll take pounds off you if you keep it buttoned, just in terms of your shape. Especially if you’re someone who’s being photographed, you really should always have your jacket buttoned.
How do you perceive the Asian male?
The Asian man might seem more gentle than his American counterpart, but it’s just a different aesthetic. It’s like the English always seem gay to Americans. They’re not, but it’s just that in Europe, and in Asia in a different way, maybe men are more comfortable . . . I just don’t know how to answer that question because, you know, there certainly is an Asian macho style, which isn’t the same as American macho or European macho and Italian macho.
How do you keep yourself looking so great. It must take a lot of effort?
It does, but I don’t put in the effort in a gym. For example, I’ve been skiing recently in Aspen. I ski a lot, I ride, I play tennis at least three times a week. I do Pilates, I do yoga. I’m a physically active person. I weigh myself on a scale every day, every morning at the same time. If I gain more than two or three pounds, like I have right now, I’m going to eat vegetables tonight.
That’s a very precise approach to diet.
Yes, seriously. But I still live. I don’t ever cut out vodka and tonics. My trick is that if I eat vegetables at night three or four days in a row, I quickly snap back to my ideal weight and I just am very conscious of it. I always have been.
It obviously works.
That’s just the way I am, I guess. But I can’t say I stand in front of the mirror and criticise and think, “Shit, my stomach’s looking floppier, my butt’s starting to sag or, you know, what am I going to do about” . . . and I’m not crazy about it. I realise I’m getting older. We’re all getting older. I don’t mind getting wrinkles. I don’t mind looking my age, but I just want to look the best version of my age and feel good, too. And . . . I like clothes . . . so when I put on a suit I want to feel like I look good, you know? Why spend all that energy, time, effort and money buying beautiful clothes if you’re not going to keep your body in the best shape it can be in.
It’s a kind of pride thing. I take pride in my appearance. And dressing well is kind of good manners, if you ask me. You’re inflicting yourself on the public in the same way as a piece of furniture. When you’re standing in a room, your effect on that room is the same as a chair’s effect, or a sculpture. You’re part of someone’s view, you’re a part of that world, and so you should . . . I find it’s a show of respect to try to put on your best face and look as good as you can.
I’ve heard that you’re a hygiene fanatic who takes baths three times a day.
I take baths, yes, but it’s really nothing to do with hygiene. Sometimes at my ranch, I won’t bathe for three or four days. I take baths because when I’m in the city and working, I find it relaxing when I get up in the morning and need to wake up slowly. I’m not a great morning person, so I lie in a hot bathtub and just kind of come to life. Then I take a bath before I go out to dinner, as I’m exhausted by the day and I feel like I need to lie in that bathtub, so I can put on a crisp shirt and go out to dinner and then when I come home I want to lie in the bath and wash all the cigarette smoke off myself from wherever I’ve just been . . . and just relax enough so I can go to sleep . . . because I don’t sleep very well. So it isn’t a cleanliness thing. In fact, I think Americans are often too clean. And sometimes I don’t use soap when I take these baths. The goal isn’t to soap myself up and scrub everything off. It’s just to sort of lie in the hot water. It’s relaxation.
Growing up in Texas as a boy, what were your first memories of luxury and fashion?
My first memories were of my grandmother. She was the typical Texas woman. She always had the latest Cadillac, she had big hair and big jewellery and she was flamboyant and she was verrry Texas. So for me, that was glamour at that moment in time. Looking back, it wouldn’t be what I would call glamorous today, but she was very glamorous when I was a child. She was like a cartoon character. She always smelled great, she always looked great and she always had on something new and she was always full of life and wonderful. Which was a stark contrast to my mother, who now I find much chicer than my grandmother, but she was much more subtle and restrained, which as a child didn’t seem as interesting as a woman who had big earrings that made noise when she moved her head.
So that Texas taste, big hair and a lot of make-up – until I left Texas and lived other places in the world – was my standard. Everyone looked like a beauty queen and it was all about that Miss America look. And I have to say that to this day I still have a thing for big hair.
My more mature formation of glamour came when I moved to New York in the late ’70s. I’m stuck in that era because it was my late teenage years and my early 20s, and that is very formative because you’re becoming sexual and becoming attracted to other people and you’re really starting to become an adult and starting to fantasise about your adult life. So that kind of slick minimal glamour of the ’70s will always be a part of my taste. Just like Giorgio Armani is in the 1930s and Nicolas [Ghesquière] is maybe in the 1980s. I guess everyone is rooted in the period that they’re a product of.
You’ve been with your partner, Richard, a long time, and recently on the Internet there’s been talk about how you said you wanted to have a son. How hard or easy will that be?
That story seems to have jumped all over the Internet in the last few days. And it was just that. It doesn’t matter if it’s a son or daughter. I’ve always wanted to have a child and I’m getting to the age where if I’m going to do that, I’m going to need to do it soon. It is something I’m thinking about, but I can tell you I have not taken any formal steps. I do not have a child in the works [laughs]. If I’m going to do it, then it must be in the next couple of years because I’d like to still be able to pick the child up without pulling my back out. It may be one of the last things in my life that I haven’t . . . well, there are a lot of things I haven’t accomplished, but that’s certainly a major one.
Karl Lagerfeld told me he feels Chinese women inhabit clothes in a different way from Western women. Do you agree?
I think the way Chinese and Japanese women wear clothes is so different. I find that Chinese women inhabit clothes very well. What I love about the Chinese is that this is a culture that has understood luxury for centuries and centuries and centuries. In fact, I find them very comfortable with things that Westerners might think were maybe too luxurious. I find as a fashion designer that’s an ideal situation. The Chinese have no fear of luxury.
Not only that, they have a bold approach to luxury.
It’s very bold, but not bold in a crass way. It’s bold in an appreciative way of understanding beauty and well-made things.
Words like “exclusive” and “limited edition” are used for everything now in fashion. For you, what’s authentic luxury?
First of all, the product has to be made of the highest quality. Attention to detail – the way the buttonholes work, the way the back of the lapels are rolled back – and the best quality product.
On top of that you have to layer great service, because luxury for me is getting someone on the phone instead of an answering machine when I call. And it’s being able to get help when I walk into the store, and someone who calls me when something comes in that I might like, and sends it to my apartment and will pick it up if I don’t like it, and really takes care of the customer in a way that once upon a time people were able to receive that kind of service. That is a huge part of what luxury is for me right now – to be taken care of.
You’ve said you think the future of menswear and the future of fashion in general is China. Why?
I think that all Americans specifically and perhaps all Europeans should go to Shanghai and stand on the banks of the Bund and look across at the cityscape, which was not there 15 years ago, and you feel the 21st century, you see it being built before your eyes. It’s very humbling. It’s a very humbling thing to realise that Europe was the centre of the world in the 19th century, and America had the 20th century, and for me the 21st century is not just China but emerging markets.
Are many women coming into your New York store and trying to buy a Tom Ford menswear suit?
Yes they are.
And are you serving them?
No. I haven’t made a suit for a woman. I may one day, but the reason I haven’t is . . . and I know this from working at Saint Laurent. A Saint Laurent suit may look like a men’s suit but it’s not a men’s suit. It’s not made like a men’s suit. Even though the details may look like a men’s suit, it really has got to be cut to a woman’s body. It’s a completely different way of manufacturing. I’m not currently set up to be able to do that and I’m not sure I want to open that door yet.
I’m sure a lot of women are waiting for that door to open.
I really may some day, but I’ve got a good three years more work to get this company really set up properly. We’re set up properly for menswear, but if I were to try to tackle women’s I’d be expected to compete at the level of Miuccia [Prada] and Karl [Lagerfeld]. I would have to have an atelier with 40 women sewing, I would have to have the factories and everything set up to produce the collection, I would have to have different store locations from the ones I have because those are men’s stores. I would have to have a completely different design team – everything. I just couldn’t layer it on what I’m doing now. I just couldn’t do it physically.
You have a film production company, Fade to Black. What’s happening with that?
I’ve been working on a project for a couple of years. It’s a Christopher Isherwood book that I bought the rights to. Christopher is a writer I love and who I knew a little bit in the ’80s before he died. I adapted the screenplay myself and we were set to go, we had cast the film, when the writer’s strike threw everything off and actors started accepting things that gave them more money.
So I’m trying to make it now later in the summer, but I’m almost hesitant to talk about it because I think it takes so long and people are very quick to say, “Oh, he tried that and it didn’t work.” So I sort of made up my mind that I wasn’t going to talk about it until the movie was done. It’s something I’m very passionate about. God knows I have enough going on, but I still want to make it work.
What’s the last book you read?
Well, this is perfect . . . it’s the Christopher Isherwood diaries, because I’m having a little problem in Act Two of my screenplay and I was trying to find something in Christopher’s life or his thoughts about something. Because all of his books are autobiographical, so I was trying to find a clue as to what to do with the second act of my screenplay.
I also read the Dana Thomas book [Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Lustre]. She went out on a limb with that. She said what she thought. I thought it was a great book, especially for anyone who’s not in our business, to understand what we do. I’ve given that book to a few friends, saying, “If you want to know what our business is like, read this book.”
Do you have a defining suit from your past, say for a graduation?
I do have one. It was a green suit. It was fabulous. I have a portrait that was painted of me in that suit. I was nine. It was green, double breasted with gold buttons, and I wore it with a shirt of a paler shade of green. I thought that suit was really hot!
Was Richard the inspiration for the Tom Ford for Men fragrance?
No not at all. In fact, Richard and I have a funny relationship in that we never discuss business. I often design things that I think are right for Richard because he’s a kind of guy that I find very attractive – obviously – but his colouring is different from mine, he looks better in steely blues and greys because of his white hair and blue eyes.
But we never discuss business and, in fact, he doesn’t love fragrance – period. He’s not a fragrance consumer, but I have to say he probably likes that fragrance more than others I’ve done because it’s less heavy. I tend to like heavy fragrances, and our goal with that was to create a fragrance with a broader appeal. I tend to wear more Private Blend – Tobacco Vanille is my favourite. I have something on today that I’m working on that’s lavender-based, but it’s still quite heavy. I like heavy fragrances.
As you’ve aged, does the need to be “in the know” lessen?
Oh, absolutely. You start to trust your own instinct more. And that’s kind of important too. To rise above the chatter of the world, and I don’t mean that in any egotistical way. When you’re young, you’re very impressionable, like a sponge, and you just take things in. As you get older, you become confident enough in your own tastes . . . By the way, can I say, at TF we are fashionable but we’re not about the latest fashions.
What’s the first thing you notice when you meet a man?
Confidence, confidence, confidence! And you can fake it. I mean, it’s best if it’s real. Actually, I’m a very shy person, and you might say that’s bullshit, but I am and I guess I developed that ability to project from an early age. It’s armour. A lot of performers have it, and I’m not saying that I’m a fake at all. In fact, sometimes I’m too honest when I talk to people – often when I talk to journalists. But you project that – the confidence – and the way you carry yourself and the way you walk. That’s the first thing I always notice, the thing that makes people jump out: somebody who walks right up to you and says, “Hi, how are you?” and looks you right in the eyes.
And wearing a Tom Ford suit could help with that?
Absolutely! For a man or a woman, that was always my goal with clothes. To hide the things you don’t like and enhance the things you do like. To make you feel good about yourself so that you can stop feeling self-conscious and start concentrating on the person you’re with. And that, I think, makes people very attractive.
Written by Jessica Michault and Stephen Short
Photography by Jeff Burton