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Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis: Tom Ford

Last night the always dapper Tom Ford sat down with Fern Mallis at the 92Y in New York City to talk about his life and career. While it’s little surprise that Ford is incredibly well spoken (and has amazing posture!), it was refreshing that he was also one of the funniest and engaging interviews I’ve seen in a long while. Here are some highlights from the two hour interview.

  • Tom Ford's 92Y Talk is the only one to ever be livestreamed, aside from one with Woody Allen, due to tremendous popular demand.
  • Ford's talk sold out four months ago to which Ford remarked, "I don't know what to say about that, but I'm thrilled."
  • Ford noted that he is a huge fan of Miuccia Prada and that he thinks the Met exhibit was very smart and reflective of how thoughtful a designer she is.
  • "It's important to take the spirit of the past and put your own stamp on it."
  • Ford is very much into astrology (and is a Virgo).
  • "I grew up in a typical flat wide ranch in Texas," says the designer adding that he had a wonderful very American upbringing. Given his Texas roots, he has a "cowboy thing" and I don't "look stupid like most people when I put on a cowboy hat; it looks like it just grew there [when I put one on]!"
  • "When I was five I wanted to be 50."
  • "As a kid all I wanted to do was mix cocktails and attend cocktail parties." Fittingly, now that he is 50, Ford says he feels better than he ever has before.
  • As a kid, Ford didn't want to carry a book bag: "I thought it looked messy," so he carried a briefcase instead.
  • Ford dropped out of NYU after a year: "You know I was going to Studio 54 a lot…" After dropping out, he went into acting and, at one point, had 12 commercials airing at the same time. He acted under a stage name (which he would not reveal) because the name Tom Ford was already registered with SAG.
  • Tom Ford interned in the Chloe press office in Paris from 1984 to 1985.
  • "I get people who say Nicolas Ghesquiere is one of my favorite designers — he's one of mine too, but don't tell me that if I'm interviewing you!"
  • Tom Ford knew Richard Buckley was "the one" right away. They went on three dates and moved in together after four weeks. They've now been together for over 25 years.
  • "Only hire people you want to have dinner with."
  • Marc Jacobs was the one who hired Tom Ford to work at Perry Ellis America, but they only worked together for a few weeks.
  • Christopher Bailey and Francisco Costa were among those on Ford's team at Gucci.
  • Ford bought a lot of materialistic things when he found success at Gucci, but "they didn't make me happy," he remarked adding, "sometimes you have to be lucky enough to be given the opportunity to buy a lot of things to realize that [they don't bring happiness]."
  • Regarding his taking over as creative director at Yves Saint Laurent: "Alber Elbaz and I are now friends. I think he realizes I did not fire him."
  • Yves Saint Laurent wanted Ford to design for his namesake brand and was a strong supporter at first, but as sales for YSL went up, Saint Laurent became increasingly less supportive.
  • "I have some beautifully handwritten notes from Yves Saint Laurent telling me how I, in 10 minutes, ruined everything he did in 40 years."
  • "I knew in 2002 I couldn't keep designing Gucci and YSL. I was doing 16 collection a year. I had every material possession, but I wasn't happy." He goes on to explain that he began to drink to escape.
  • After leaving Gucci and YSL, all Ford wanted to do was play golf — with wooden clubs and custom shoes, of course.
  • Tom Ford noted that he was wearing one of his fragrances, Tobacco Vanille.
  • "The film industry is slow; I would loose my mind if that was all I did."
  • "I'm a commercial fashion designer; I've always designed jackets with two sleeves. Fashion is not my art, but my film was."
  • Ford currently has three film projects in the works, but we won't see them for awhile as he is focusing on women's ready-to-wear.
  • "I have to face the fact I'm doing women's ready-to-wear for the next couple of years before I can do another movie."
  • "At Gucci I didn't shop. If I needed something I just made it. When I left, suddently I needed to shop, but I wasn't finding what I needed," says Ford explaining how his return to menswear design came organically. As for his womenswear return, "I missed sparkly things."
  • When asked if he would ever do a lower priced line, Ford explained that what excites him now is the best quality (in other words, don't hold your breath).
  • "It drives me crazy that there are men who don't care if their suit jacket button holes work."
  • "I've always wanted to be a cosmetic surgeon. It's like fashion; they're architectural, you have to figure out where the seams go."
  • "When I put on the Bee Gees, there's no way I can be sad. I'm stayin' alive!"
  • When asked about Gwyneth Paltrow's Oscar dress, Ford remarked, "It's nice to know I can still have a fashion moment."

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