Posted by: 4pack | October 7, 2008

“Tom Ford”, Designer, 47: Designed Suits For Daniel Craig In “Quantum Of Solace”

“A lot of people think if you wear classic clothes you’re dull. Bond dresses that way, but he does not lead a dull life – not sexually and not in his career,” Ford says, with delightful understatement. “And with Daniel, you have someone who looks classic but leads a very exciting life.” 

“…Ford, who once said he has been on a diet since he was 13, spends “a lot “time looking after myself”. He plays tennis at least three times a week; he does Pilates twice a week; he hikes; he swims; he rides horses on his ranch in Santa Fe; he skis; he watches what he eats and he tries not to drink too much, despite “loving it”

“I haven’t had any plastic surgery – despite what people think, this is my nose,” Ford replied, as smooth as his face. “I have had Restylane and Botox, but I don’t think of that as plastic surgery any more. It’s true I can’t really frown, but I can move my eyebrows, so…”

As well as designing and expanding his eponymous menswear line and getting ready for his first foray into film directing, Ford has been busy this year designing suits for Daniel Craig in the soon-to-be-released James Bond film Quantum Of Solace. But all this multitasking has not muted the man. During the 90s, when Ford rescued Gucci – shepherding it from near bankruptcy when he arrived in 1994 to fashion monolith status, with annual sales of more than $3bn, when he left 10 years later – he was credited with, as one fashion critic put it, “bringing sex back”. His overtly sexy clothes – LBDs and tight trousers for all aspiring Linda Fiorentinos – brought blatant, confident sexuality back after an era dominated by grunge.

A decade on, he has moved away from the high-octane glamour he brought to Gucci and later Yves Saint Laurent (for four years he designed for both, making him arguably the most powerful designer in the world). Instead, his own menswear line, which he started in 2006, is classic and more mature. He has rejected the fashion merry-go-round and trend-chasing that may have left him briefly “burned out” but also made him very wealthy (when he left Gucci and YSL in 2004 he allegedly had £90m). If a man wants to know how it feels to wear, and buy, couture, he can now go to Tom Ford: this is a label where five-figure price tags are the norm. Yet Ford is a far cry from a traditional Savile Row tailor. He has multiple homes in multiple countries; he hangs out with “lots of actors you’d have heard of”, and he is still happy talking about sex, even if he does claim he is “much less overt than I was”. “Honestly,” he insists at one point, “I never set out to make anything sexy.” At this point he had to apologise for eyeing me up – “Sorry, I keep looking at your body because I like how people’s bodies look”.

If ever there were a designer made to make suits for James Bond, it is surely Ford. Hell, the man even looks like Bond. He first met Daniel Craig through artist Sam Taylor-Wood, “who’s a good friend” (this phrase comes up a lot), “at a party” (as does this). Craig then asked him to make his suits for Quantum Of Solace. “A lot of people think if you wear classic clothes you’re dull. Bond dresses that way, but he does not lead a dull life – not sexually and not in his career,” Ford says, with delightful understatement. “And with Daniel, you have someone who looks classic but leads a very exciting life.”

Ford was born in Texas, and grew up in New Mexico and Houston. The son of two realtors, he was a self-described “spoiled child” who went to New York to study art history. He quickly switched to theatrical studies to fulfil his ambition of becoming an actor. He became so successful in commercials – at one point starring in 12 at the same time – that he dropped out of college. “I’m not going to tell you which ones, because I don’t want you to look them up,” he says, but then proceeds to re-enact them, showing the moves one makes when advertising anti-acne cream, shampoo and, to the bemusement of our fellow diners, deodorant. But he soon realised he would never be happy as an actor, mainly because he resented being told what to do. “I did not like having to read a line the way a director told me to when I thought it was stupid. Or not being able to rewrite the line myself.”

In 2004, Ford was unexpectedly forced out of the Gucci Group after negotiations broke down about his contract with Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, which owns 70% of Gucci. Although he puts an all-for-the-best spin on it now, he was stunned at the time and had “something like a midlife crisis. While I realised I had an identity without Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, my life and work had become so meshed. I’m always trying to make things better, make myself better, and I had a sudden panic of, well, who am I?” Ford took three months off, quickly realised he hated not working and returned to plan his own label.

…When Ford edited an issue of Vanity Fair in 2006, he was on the cover, nuzzling a naked Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley. “Honestly, I was not supposed to be on the cover.” He sighs. “That picture was taken when I was showing Rachel McAdams [an actor who left the shoot because she felt “uncomfortable about being naked”] what to do. But, of course, I liked the picture…”

For someone who “hate[s] promoting things with my face”, he must be unhappy much of the time. Adverts for his cologne feature Ford staring straight at the camera. “I understand that I have a certain look that can be used to my advantage. I know the power of that when I walk into a room and talk to people, and I can use it as an advertising tool. Now I am actually selling me, my face, my thoughts. So I am my guy,” he says.

When he launched his label in 2006, it looked like self-indulgent folly to some. Why would someone with such a talent for giving mass appeal to luxury lines run into the narrow niche of, to use Ford’s favourite word, exclusivity? Now, however, when most designers are worrying about the economic downturn, Ford’s business model looks downright prescient. It’s not that he believes the nonsense touted in many fashion magazines that the best form of economising is to buy expensive things because they are “investments”. Instead, it’s that the customers Ford has targeted are people who won’t be affected by a recession or, if they are,”they’re buying fewer Warhols but still buying suits”. Currently there are stores only in New York and Milan, but by this time next year there will be 16 more.

If Ford defined a new image of women in the 90s, what does the success of his label, with its $17,000 jackets and $4,000 blazers, say about 21st-century men? Well, it certainly says something economically. As Ford puts it, “Because of the increase of wealth in this world, it is possible to have a new business model where you can reach a very healthy scale of business catering only to a smaller percentage of people – people with, let’s be real, a lot of money.”



  1. This is an AMAZINGLY informative article making one look at men a bit more objectively than before. Men over 40 looking better than men in their 20’s is something I can SUPPORT!

    Tom Ford is a REAL man, for sure.

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