The 92Y fashion talk kicked off with interviewer Fern Mallis describing Ford as the perfect Virgo due to his exacting nature. ‘To really obsess about a millimetre of a shoe heel, it helps to be Virgo,’ Ford agreed, according to WWD.
The designer said his precise taste had roots in his Texan childhood, when he was bullied for carrying a briefcase rather than a rucksack to school. ‘I thought it looked messy,’ he said.
That meticulousness has proven a formula for success at Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and at his eponymous brand. Before Tom Ford launched Tom Ford, though, he was ‘a good corporate soldier’ for the Gucci Group, even when Saint Laurent himself took issue with Ford’s design.
‘As things started to go well and we started to get good reviews, he was no longer my friend,’ Ford said of the designer. ‘I actually have some wonderful handwritten letters, very beautiful handwriting. “In 13 minutes, you have destroyed what I have worked for for 40 years.”’
When Ford exited Gucci Group in 2004, he found himself drinking excessively and bored of golf (despite wearing custom-made cleats and playing with wooden clubs). Film provided a new creative outlet, and Ford proved just as successful at his new pursuit as at fashion (his film A Single Man earned star Colin Firth an Oscar nomination). Though he has three other film projects in the works, Ford still views himself primarily as ‘a commercial fashion designer,’ he said.
‘I always design jackets with two sleeves.... Fashion for me is a creative endeavour but it is not art for me.’ That’s not to suggest that he’s driven solely by commercial concerns, or easily led by the promise of the payoff that could come from a collaboration for a retailer like H&M. ‘What excites me is the very best,’ he said. ‘And that tends to cost money.’
One of the few ambitions Ford has yet to realise is that of fatherhood. ‘I have always wanted children,’ he said, ‘but I think I’d better get busy soon because I still want to be able to pick them up.’
And about those baths: ‘If I’m sending emails and I get all wound up and stressed and don’t know what to do with myself for 20 minutes, I just go soak in hot water and lie there, thinking, “What should I do?” So it’s meditative.’