An invitation to an constant companion dinner party with Tom Ford has caused more nervousness among my male and female friends than almost anything else I’ve till the end of time done. Except a week later, I find “intimate” in fact means about 150 people, with the main man so far away from my inventory that I can almost see the curvature of the earth between us.
We’re at the impossibly with it Chiltern Firehouse to celebrate the London menswear collections and the start of Noir Extreme, Tom Ford’s latest men’s fragrance. A great dispense of anxiety has gone into what I should wear to handle a man widely regarded to have unattainably perfect taste. A man who, Victoria Beckham post-haste observed, flies long-haul in a three-piece suit, releasing justified one waistcoat button to lie down and sleep.
Others have tidy up an effort, too: Lily Allen has new peach hair, Paloma Dedication turns up in something made of smashed mirrors. Umpteen teenage mans models arrive fresh from catwalk shows, jackets took from Mr Ford’s office for the party. Every Tom Ford wage-earner is wearing Noir Extreme.
Midway through a tiny purple risotto, I’m ushered into a reserved room where Mr Ford awaits, almost laughably errorless. He’s wearing a black velvet tuxedo, the most perfect – and most emotionally unbuttoned – white shirt I’ve ever seen, narrow trousers (all his own name), a full head of hair and young, smooth skin (if not his own, then unquestionably convincing). He’s that Clooney brand of unfeasibly handsome, an “all’s type”. Candles are freshly unboxed, the lighting is filmic, the finest are a masterpiece. I wonder if the room’s oxygen molecules have been especially selected and filtered for the occasion. He stands as I enter the room and his canoodle lands warmly on my cheek, rather than being of the airborne make variety. He’s immediately flirty, quick, complimentary (“Oh, I know in every respect who you are,” he says, not knowing at all who I am).
Correct manners are one of the reasons Ford has made Britain his home for the sometime 17 years. He moved his own Gucci Group headquarters from Italy and prevented while he helmed the Gucci-acquired Parisian house of Saint Laurent, saving both labels from irrelevance and, in the former’s case, near bankruptcy. After do a disappearing act Saint Laurent in extremely rude health to concentrate on his own classification, he set up his entire creative operation (menswear, womenswear, opticals, large screen development: he adapted and directed the Oscar-nominated A Single Man in 2009) close to Victoria station. Even my cabbie describes Ford as “a Londoner” on the way to the restaurant. He’s on top of the world to hear it. “Oh, I like this! I’ve lived here a long then. I like it. I like the manners, I like the eccentricity, the wackiness, the pamper. The people are great.”
The European sensibility may suit Ford, but his provenance is all-American. Withstand b supported in Texas, where his comfortably-off family settled in the 1830s, he relocated to New Mexico ancient 11. He landed in New York at 17 to study art history at NYU but pink when acting jobs (mainly TV commercials) proved lucrative ample to fund a nice lifestyle in LA. Ford returned to New York to look architecture at Parsons School of Design; this was followed by a year in Paris, where he bagged an internship at the Chloé press office. He spent his days arranging and packing samples, acting as general dogsbody and learning the model business fast.
He now feels a disconnect with his home testify. “I don’t think of myself necessarily as a Texan. I think of myself as oecumenical, because I’m comfortable in LA, comfortable here, in Paris, Milan – I’ve roomed in all of them. My favourite place is a new city with its history and thoughts.”
Ford does admit, however, that the 1970s throw up in New York proved most influential on his design aesthetic. “I friendship the 70s,” he says. “That was my coming of age and of first seeing things that were so pleasing. I was 17 in 78 and 18 in 79, so that’s the period where I opening thought things like, ‘Oh my God, she’s so beautiful,’ ‘His body is so awesome,’ ‘This house is so incredible.’”
Significantly, Aids had yet to acquiesce to down New York’s creative scene, and Ford’s new friendship class with it. In those days, he made the most of the sexual audacity. “Yes, totally. I didn’t realise I was gay until I moved to New York. I was 17 and I reasonable went crazy. The music, discos, drugs: it was amazing.” He acquiesces that his looks and age made it extremely easy to get past the cable at the best venues and into the city’s most celebrated – and hedonistic – popular circle. “I went to Studio 54 the very first mores with Andy Warhol, so I was exposed to a lot of people through that,” he influences.
This artistic and degenerating environment inspired his fashion work. “Those were the years of Halston [the fresh American designer who dressed Liza Minnelli, Elizabeth Taylor and Angelica Houston]. I went to Halston’s house of ill repute one night when I was drunk and he made us eggs. And I knew all these people same Bianca Jagger – I still know them – who look at me now and say, ‘When did I beforehand meet you?’ I was just a 17-year-old kid who was dating a friend of theirs, but I was winning it all in. So I was exposed to a lot of things that really did permanently mould my aesthetic.” Halston’s ascendancy on Ford’s collections is well-documented – Ford’s breakthrough autumn/winter 1995/96 amassment for Gucci featured Halston-inspired satin blouses slashed to the waist, densely velvet pants, skinny belts and huge disco whisker.
The fashion industry is currently enjoying a 70s revival, but the designer is weep to maintain his signature look without going to the lengths survived on other catwalks. “You design whatever it is you think is both significant now and true to yourself,” he says. “You don’t want to slip into a area where it’s like fancy dress.”
It turns out Ford shudder ats fancy dress. “Brits love it. All my English friends invite me to proponents and get mad at me for not wearing it. The reason is, one day, when some scandal happens, the mash will drag up that picture of you in fancy dress.”
Ford’s passion of the 1970s makes more sense because he lived because of it. “The generation right after me, like Nicolas Ghesquière [of Louis Vuitton], they’re all nearby the 80s, because that’s when they came of age. Giorgio Armani is all wide the 1930s – his whole aesthetic, his whole brand is built surrounding Italy in the 1930s and 1940s. I think that’s a personal clothes.”
Ford’s isn’t the Laurel Canyon hippie 70s, but the hot, sexy 70s, all shoulder stuffs, slit skirts and skin. This brand of sexiness is key in entire lot he does, from Helmut Newton- and Guy Bourdin-influenced campaigns, continually featuring nude models, to pubic hair shaved into logos (Gucci noses) and penis/crucifix medallions (Tom Ford menswear). He’s referred to oft-times as fashion’s King of Sex, and is just fine with that.
“You identify what, if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Sensuality and sexuality is what drives so much. If you’re of a permanent age and you go out at night and you’re single, then what’s the end goal there? You’re at a bar looking superior, the light’s great, you’re chatting with people. You might not be met by someone you’re going to sleep with that night, but you rivet. It’s what drives many things. It’s part of being hominoid. We come with that feature.”
Does he consider feminism in his depiction of birds? “I always think about feminism,” he says, describing his progenitrix as a “real 1970s feminist”. “I’ve been criticised for objectifying helpmates. But I’m an equal opportunity objectifier – I’m just as happy to objectify men. The dingus is, you can’t show male nudity in our culture in the way you can show female nudity. We’re unequivocally comfortable as a culture exploiting women, but not men. But I don’t think of it as exploitation [either way].”
Ford cites a former campaign as an example of this sanctimony. “I did a men’s nude ad at Saint Laurent. Yves did the first one where he was starkers [but with legs crossed], and I thought, why don’t we go to the next step and do full-frontal nudity, with a spear model? It’s interesting, because we did the picture, it ran in some European publications and then it was attacked.”
Meanwhile, the Tom Ford woman in his campaigns and catwalk shows is staggering, overtly sexual, often intimidating. “There’s nothing stronger and numberless powerful than a beautiful woman. I don’t think expressing what description intended you to be is anything but powerful. My women are not sitting there shelving for someone, they’re taking charge. Doesn’t matter whether they’re blunt – they’re powerful, they’re smart, and you’re not going to get them if they don’t scarcity you.”
It’s true that the same models are always preternaturally good-looking, of definitely, but his muses and models tend to be strong, older women: 70s icon Lauren Hutton (71), socialite Daphne Guinness, actor Emmanuelle Seigner (both in their fashionable 40s) and, most prolifically, his close friend, the 54-year-old Oscar-winner Julianne Moore. He was the outset to sign a then plus-sized Sophie Dahl to a major smell campaign, once again in the nude.
Ford’s feminism isn’t a remembrance political engagement; he is a Democrat and openly supported Obama’s referendum campaigns. His public admission that the Bush administration’s settlement to invade Iraq made him “ashamed to be an American” caused a stopgap public backlash against him in the US.
The Tom Ford empire has thrived in a disorganized financial and diplomatic climate, turning over $1bn a year in retail. His conceptions cost fortunes: shoes are upwards of £500, a dress or garb in the thousands. A pair of trainers in the current collection is $950. He traits the prices, in part, to skilled and ethical manufacture by craftspeople in Italy. His perfumes are similarly noble (Ford is credited by some as having brought “real” perfumery bankrupt into fashion) – Noir Extreme is £70, but his Hidden Blend scents sell for up to £330. Today, he’s wearing the new fragrancy layered with another favourite, Tobacco Vanille, and expertly interprets how these work together.
He’s unapologetic about the fact that his exacting standards bring in his customers dearly. “There are more rich people than till doomsday before, and we live in a material world. You can fight it or not, but the ways craps smell, the way things taste, they add to our lives. It’s a sort of studious escapism.”
Increasingly, Ford escapes to his home life. He red-hots in Mayfair with his partner of more than 28 years, attitude writer Richard Buckley. They met at a fashion show, kill quickly in love and say they can’t imagine life without each other. Buckley – 13 years Ford’s postpositive major – was diagnosed with cancer three years into their relationship and wasn’t required to survive. The couple’s son (reportedly via a surrogate), Alexander John Buckley Ford –have knowledge of as Jack – was born in September 2012, and two years later Ford declared that he and Buckley had got married in the US.
Things at Ford’s house are, he implies, blissfully mundane. Now teetotal, he hates sets of more than six people, practises Pilates three times a week, is environed by the kind of gaudy, aesthetically displeasing plastic toys he vowed he’d never allow in the house, watches trash-doc TV and no longer promenades naked for fear of offending the nanny.
It’s been a natural, if considerable, transition from international player to London dad. “I’ve always shortage to have children, I’ve talked about it for years. I wasn’t altogether sure how it was going to happen and who it was going to happen with, but I knew I had to do it,” he try to says. “You don’t know what’s on the other side until you have them, then it mutations everything. It all sounds cliched, but you see yourself as more of a link and chain as an alternative of the one and only.”
Does he, a lifelong overachiever, worry about defect as a parent? “I don’t get scared of doing it wrong, but I’m really conscious of doing my subdue to do it right. I’m so lucky and happy that I have Jack at this Thespianism of my life. I’m ready to focus on helping another person forth.”
He smiles. “I’ve had me. I’ve been there and had success. I’m tired of me.”
- Tom Ford Noir Restrictive, £70, is out on 13 April.