Thomas Carlyle "Tom" Ford (born August 27, 1961) is an American fashion designer and film director. He gained international fame for his turnaround of Gucci and the creation of the Tom Ford label before directing the Oscar-nominated film A Single Man.
Early life (1961â"86)
Tom Ford was born August 27, 1961, in Austin, Texas, to realtors Shirley Burton (nÃ©e Shirley Ann Thrasher) and Thomas David Ford. He spent his early life in the suburbs of Houston, Texas, and in San Marcos, outside Austin; his family moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, when he was 11. In Santa Fe, he entered St. Michael's High School and later moved to Santa Fe Preparatory School, from which he graduated in 1979. Ford left Santa Fe at age 16, when he enrolled at Bard College at Simon's Rock, but quickly dropped out. He then moved to New York City to study art history at New York University.
Ford dropped out of NYU after a year, preferring to concentrate on acting in television commercials; at one time, he was in 12 national advertising campaigns simultaneously. Ford then began studying interior architecture at The New School's famous art and design college, Parsons The New School for Design. During his time in New York, Ford became a fixture at the legendary nightclub Studio 54, where he realized he was gay. The club's disco-era glamor would be a major influence on his later designs. Before his last year at New School, Ford spent a year and a half in Paris, where he worked as an intern in ChloÃ©'s press office. Though his work primarily involved sending clothes out on photo shoots, it triggered his love of fashion. He spent his final year at The New School studying fashion, but nonetheless graduated with a degree in architecture.
Early career (1986â"94)
When interviewing for jobs after graduation, Ford said that he had attended The New School's Parsons division, but concealed that he graduated in architecture, and that his work at Chloe was a low-level public relations position. Despite his lack of experience, Ford called American designer Cathy Hardwick every day for a month in hopes of securing a job at her mid-price sportswear company. Eventually, she agreed to see him. Hardwick later recalled the incident: "I had every intention of giving him no hope. I asked him who his favorite European designers were. He said, 'Armani and Chanel.' Months later I asked him why he said that, and he said, 'Because you were wearing something Armani'. Is it any wonder he got the job?" Ford worked as a design assistant for Hardwick for two years.
In 1988, Ford moved to Perry Ellis, where he knew both Robert McDonald, the company's president, and Marc Jacobs, its designer, socially. He stayed at the company for two years, but grew tired of working in American fashion. In a later interview with the New York Times, he commented, "If I was ever going to become a good designer, I had to leave America. My own culture was inhibiting me. Too much style in America is tacky. It's looked down upon to be too stylish. Europeans, however, appreciate style." Ford would soon have the opportunity to enter the world of European fashion; Gucci, a faltering luxury goods company, was seeking to strengthen its women's ready-to-wear presence as a part of a brand overhaul. At the time, "no one would dream of wearing Gucci," said Dawn Mello, then the company's creative director. Mello hired Fordâ"then a near-unknownâ"as the brand's chief women's ready-to-wear designer in 1990. "I was talking to a lot of people, and most didn't want the job," Mello said. "For an American designer to move to Italy to join a company that was far from being a brand would have been pretty risky." Ford and his longtime partner, fashion journalist Richard Buckley, relocated to Milan that September.
Ford's role at Gucci rapidly expanded; he was designing menswear within six months, and shoes soon after that. When Richard Lambertson left as design director in 1992, Ford took over his position, heading the brand's ready-to-wear, fragrances, image, advertising, and store design. In 1993, when he was in charge of designing eleven product lines, Ford worked eighteen-hour days. During these years, there were creative tensions between Ford and Maurizio Gucci, the company's chairman and 50% owner. According to Mello, "Maurizio always wanted everything to be round and brown, and Tom wanted to make it square and black." Though Maurizio Gucci wanted to fire Ford, Domenico De Sole insisted that he remain. Nonetheless, Ford's work during the early 1990s was primarily behind the scenes; his contributions to Gucci were overshadowed by those of Mello, who was the company's public face.
Gucci and YSL creative director (1994â"2004)
In 1994, Ford was promoted to creative director. In his first year at the helm, he introduced Halston-style velvet hipsters, skinny satin shirts and car-finish metallic patent boots. In 1995, he brought in French stylist Carine Roitfeld and photographer Mario Testino to create a series of new ad campaigns for the company. Between 1995 and 1996, sales at Gucci increased by 90%. On the strength of Ford's collections, Gucci went public in October 1995 with an IPO of $22 per share, followed by an additional global offering in March 1996 at $48 per share, and a third offering in 1999 at $75 per share. In early 1999, luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, headed by Bernard Arnault, increased its shareholdings in Gucci with a view to takeover. Domenico de Sole reacted by issuing new shares of stock in an effort to dilute the value of Arnault's holdings. Ford and De Sole also approached French holding company Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR) about the possibility of forming a strategic alliance. FranÃ§ois Pinault, the company's founder, agreed to the idea and purchased 37 million shares in the company, or a 40% stake. Arnault's share was diluted to 20%. At one point, Ford was the largest individual shareholder of Gucci stock and options.
By 1999, the house, which had been almost bankrupt when Ford joined, was valued at about $4.3 billion. When Ford left in 2004, Gucci Group was valued at $10 billion.
When Gucci acquired the house of Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) in 1999, Ford was named creative director of that label as well, displacing Alber Elbaz who had been Saint Laurent's choice for creative director of the company's ready-to-wear line. Saint Laurent did not hide his displeasure with this development, openly and regularly criticizing Ford's collections. "The poor man does what he can," he is quoted as once saying of his successor. During his time as Creative Director for YSL, Ford nonetheless won numerous Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards. Like his work at Gucci, Ford was able to pull the classic fashion house back into the mainstream. His advertising campaigns for the YSL fragrances Opium (with a red-haired Sophie Dahl completely naked wearing only a necklace and stiletto heels in a sexually suggestive pose) and YSL M7 (with martial arts champion Samuel de Cubber in complete full-frontal nudity) have been famous and provocative.
In April 2004, Ford parted ways with the Gucci group after he and CEO Domenico de Sole, who is credited as Ford's partner in Gucci's success, failed to agree with PPR bosses over artistic control of the Group. He has since referred to this experience as "devastating" because he had "put everything into that for fifteen years."
After leaving Gucci, Ford launched a line of menswear, beauty, eyewear, and accessories in 2006. Dominico De Sole became chairman of the Tom Ford label. In March 2011, Ford was featured on the cover of the bi-annual publication AnOther Man, the fraternal counterpart to Another Magazine, giving his opinion on what makes the modern day gentleman. In 2015, he was named one of GQ's 50 best dressed men. He also received a CFDA Fashion Award for Menswear designer of the year.
Career as a film director
In March 2005, Ford announced the launch of his film production company, Fade to Black. In 2009 he made his directorial debut with A Single Man, based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Isherwood. The drama stars Colin Firth as an LA-based, gay college professor, alongside Julianne Moore, Nicholas Hoult and Matthew Goode. The screenplay was adapted by Canadian David Scearce and Ford; Ford was also one of the producers.
A Single Man premiered on September 11, 2009 at the 66th Venice International Film Festival, where it was nominated for top award the Golden Lion. Colin Firth was awarded the Volpi Cup as Best Actor for his performance. He won a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and was nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe, Independent Spirit Award and Screen Actors Guild Award.
Other nominations for the film included two further Golden Globe categories: Julianne Moore for Best Supporting Actress, and Abel Korzeniowski for Best Original Score. At the Independent Spirit Awards, the film was nominated for Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay. Ford and David Scearce, who had first adapted the book into a novel, also received a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards.
In 2015, Ford became attached to direct Nocturnal Animals, an adaptation of the Austin Wright book Tony and Susan, with George Clooney and Grant Heslov serving as producers. Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams are in talks to play the lead roles, while Joaquin Phoenix and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are also being sought.
Ford is married to Richard Buckley, a journalist and former editor in chief of Vogue Hommes International; they have been in a relationship since meeting in 1986. The couple have a son, Alexander John Buckley Ford, born in September 2012. The family live in Italy, where Ford moved from New York in 1990. Ford and Buckley have owned smooth fox terriers, which have appeared on the runway and in his film A Single Man.
Awards and nominations
Ford has been recognized by important design and cultural councils worldwide, including the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum and TIME.
- 1995: International Award â" Council of Fashion Designers of America
- 1997: People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People
- 1999: Style Icon Award â" Elle Style Awards UK
- 2000: Best International Designer â" VH1/Vogue Awards
- 2000: Fashion Editors Club of Japan Award
- 2000: British GQ International Man of the Year Award
- 2000: Superstar Award â" Fashion Group International
- 2001: Womenswear Designer of the Year â" Council of Fashion Designers of America
- 2001: Best Fashion Designer â" TIME Magazine
- 2001: Designer of the Year â" GQ USA
- 2001: Board of Directors Special Tribute â" Council of Fashion Designers of America
- 2002: Accessory Designer of the Year Award for Yves Saint-Laurent â" Council of Fashion Designers of America
- 2003: Fashion Design Achievement Award â" Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum's National Design Awards
- 2004: Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Award
- 2004: International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame
- 2005: AndrÃ© Leon Talley Lifetime Achievement Award â" Savannah College of Art & Design
- 2006: Accessory Brand Launch â" Accessories Council Excellence (ACE) Awards
- 2007: GLAAD Media Awards â" Victor Russo Award
- 2007: DNR's Person of the Year
- 2008: Menswear Designer of the Year â" Council of Fashion Designers of America
- 2009: Venice Film Festival â" Golden Lion for A Single Man (Nominee)
- 2009: Venice Film Festival â" Queer Lion for A Single Man
- 2009: Critics Choice Awards â" Best Adapted Screenplay for A Single Man (Nominee)
- 2009: Independent Spirit Awards â" Best First Screenplay for A Single Man (Nominee)
- 2009: Independent Spirit Awards â" Best First Feature for A Single Man (Nominee)
- 2009: Honored as one of GQ USA's Men of the Year
- 2009: GQ Germany Man of the Year
- 2010: GLAAD Media Awards â" Outstanding Film Wide Release for A Single Man
- 2010: Menswear Designer of the Year â" Council of Fashion Designers of America (Nominee)
- 2013: Named one of the 50 best-dressed over 50s by the Guardian.
- 2014: CDFA Fashion Awards 2014 - Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award
- 2015: CFDA Fashion Awards 2015 - Menswear Designer of the Year
- Ford, Tom (2004). Tom Ford. Foreword by Anna Wintour, introduction by Graydon Carter, and interview and text by Bridget Foley. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBNÂ 0-500-51197-7. OCLCÂ 62795301.Â
- Tom Ford Official Website
- Tom Ford at the Internet Movie Database
- Tom Ford â" brand and company profile at Fashion Model Directory
- Tom Ford biography at London Fashion Week, British Fashion Council.