Tom Ford knows how to work the spotlight. During last year's awards season, the designer-director was riding the success of his first film, "A Single Man." This time around, he's introducing his long-awaited women's collection and new boutique on Rodeo Drive with a star-studded opening party Thursday.
The campaign to whet the public's appetite for the clothes began in September during
While designing for
All the while, Ford was the star, in a shirt unbuttoned over a triangle of man tan, ready to provoke with $75 Gucci condom cases and ads featuring pubic hair shaved into the shape of a GG logo.
Now, he's reading the zeitgeist again. And he's found that many women feel divorced from what the fashion world has become (in no small part thanks to him) — a place that provides entertaining content to be blogged and tweeted but that isn't necessarily a place to find something beautiful to wear.
So he's shifted focus to what he calls "personal luxury," designed with the customer in mind, not the critic.
"What interests me today, after having worked 25 years in the fashion industry, is the very best — the best fabrics, not the second best, the best quality and stitching. I want clothes that will evolve more than they will radically swing," he says in early February, during an interview at his office in the former Geffen Records building on Sunset Boulevard.
So no more blockbuster runway shows with rose petals raining down while fashion reporters scribble furiously.
"I don't want to be reviewed," he says. "I'm not an artist with an opening; this is not a film. I'm just trying to make pretty clothes. And beautiful clothes make beautiful women, but sometimes they don't make fashion news. I don't want to be pushed to think about what we have that's new when we don't need anything new except another version of what we did last year that still looks good to me."
This means the clothes will be seen when they're in stores — not six months before at big runway shows attended by fashion editors and critics. Ford is banking on his force of personality, along with the highest-quality products, to lure customers.
Where most designers need a runway to brand themselves and create an identity for lucrative accessories and beauty collections, Ford's name was already established when he left fashion for a respite in 2004. When he returned just a year later, he started from the bottom up, licensing fragrance and beauty collections to finance his future clothing ventures, including his design studio in London.
He launched his menswear line in April 2007 at his first menswear store on Madison Avenue. Since then, his slim-fitting suits and tuxedos (starting at $3,800) have become Hollywood favorites, worn by celebrities as disparate as
There are many custom details and options in the ready-to-wear and made-to-measure menswear. Suits can be ordered in wool, mohair, cashmere, silk jacquard or velvet. And a tie (starting at $220) can be customized from among seven widths and matched to an exact collar spread. Ford makes everything for the private-jet set, including riding clothes, riding boots, shooting clothes, ski clothes, $900 walking sticks, $4,900 moon boots and jeans with 18-karat gold buttons.
The women's collection will be just as comprehensive, with handbags, shoes and jewelry, as well as clothes for every occasion. The spring collection features an ivory viscose peak lapel jacket ($4,500) and wide leg pants ($1,700); gold-dipped feather earrings ($1,390); black lace and feather spiked heels ($2,410) and many gowns so luxe — a silk georgette hand-embroidered fringe evening column, for example — they are listed simply as "price upon request."
"Even if they are not affordable to everyone, I want people to think, 'If I had the money, I'd love that,'" the designer says.
Ford is as controlled as
He turns 50 this year, and he couldn't be more pleased. "When I was a kid, I always wanted to be 50," he says. "I didn't feel comfortable as a kid. I wasn't good at sports. I wanted to read things other kids weren't reading. I wanted to be at my parents' cocktail parties and mix martinis. I wanted to live the fantasy life I saw in films. Which is why when I was younger, I fell for Richard Buckley, who was 38 when I was 25." He's referring to his longtime companion, with whom he shares homes in Los Angeles, London and Santa Fe, N.M.
Ford's art-directed lifestyle can be intimidating. After all, this is a man who has a different "look" for every locale. When asked about weaknesses in the facade, the only things he can come up with are fondnesses for Hostess doughnuts and "Desperate Housewives." "Maybe I do project an image that's a little hard," he says. "Though it seems to work, so maybe I better not mess with it."
Ford will launch cosmetics in the fall and begin work on his next film soon after. For him, filmmaking seems to be the ultimate form of control. "It's as real as real life. It's a whole world and you control whether they live or die. It's wild," he says.
He's also dressing two people for the Oscars. (Of course, he wouldn't dream of spoiling the big red carpet reveal by saying exactly who they are.) "Friends, who I also admire and think are great," is all he says. "I'm not getting a room at the Beverly Hills Hotel with 20 dresses and all the stylists coming in, like I used to at Gucci."
It's also likely that a few of his famous friends will drop by Thursday's opening party at the Rodeo Drive store, which happens to be directly across from Gucci, his old employer. "It was the only location with enough space for us. And honestly, it's not big enough." The store opens to the public Friday.
Right now, his ambitions are boundless. He points out that