INTERVIEW: TOM FORD

THE UNAF-FORD-ABLE VISION

There is always this one particular day of the year that you find yourself anxiously waiting for more than anything else. For kids, it is Christmas. For movie stars, it is the Oscars. For housewives, it’s watching Oprah give away her favorite things on national TV. But, for fashionistas, it was* the Gucci show.

once every season in the hectic fashion calendar, you would find yourself fixed before the TV screen, taken by the magic of the catwalk, enchanted by the music and the absolute diviness of the outfits. A cry of beauty; the Gucci show was like Breakfast at Tiffany’s for every fashion-infatuated girl and sexually-confused guy. And the mastermind behind it all was the genius visionary Tom ford.

It was the turn of the century, the period between 1995 and 2003, when signs of an economic resurgence blossomed for the first time since the eighties. ford was only there to depict the social mood of an era. In seven years as creative director, he put Gucci back on the fashion map transforming it from a family-run saddlery and luggage label into one of the top three globally renowned, multi-brand groups only to be rivaled by

LVMh and richemont. And better yet, he did it with much of his trademark ease and nonchalance. ford was probably the only designer who read the stock market pages of the Wall street Journal as religiously as the fashion reviews in the International herald Tribune. he understood the power of money and visualized the desires of the noveau riches who unashamedly wanted it to flaunt it-let alone spend it. And of course, spend it in style. This is where the vision behind Gucci came in. Tom’s suave combination of “sex” and “money” created a modern morality tale of The Great Gatsby, catering for the Buchannans of that time.

There is no talk of Tom ford without the word “sex” clicking in every now and then. After all, this is the man whose use of sexual imagery as a marketing force crystallized a new visual aesthetic to nineties fashion. Tom’s sex-sells approach combined with Gucci Group’s aggressive marketing strategy rewarded the company with a major profit growth. Millions wanted to relate to his interpretation of high-voltage, sexed-up glamour, thus flaunting their Gucci G-strings at every opportunity. The ad campaign for spring/summer 2003 fueled a public outrage, as it featured a model whose pubic hair was trimmed in the shape of a G logo. Luckily, the barely-there kimono she sported flew around the global market and off-the-stocks like no-one’s business. even during his days at yves saint Laurent, an advert for the opium fragrance showed a nude chubby model sophie dahl looking like butter-wouldn’t- melt in her mouth. And if you think he has toned down on the sex, think again; the latest campaign for his self-titled men’s perfume shows the bottle nestling in the buttocks of a male model, or in between a shaved woman’s crotch. “how else are you going to sell perfume to heterosexual men? Put the bottle where they want to look,” he once exclaimed, putting an end to your dilemma.

A designer gives a company personality. I say ‘Yes, No, Yes, No, I hate it, I love it, ...’ All those decisions is what made Gucci Gucci. I think you have to have a personality at a brand otherwise, it’s just clothes.
— Tom Ford

If you need to sell dildos to nuns, then ford is your man. Perhaps it is his ability to set the trends and market them as products of desire that made him the most influential fashion designer of the past decade. But it is definitely his impossibly good looks paired with the usual dose of je ne sais quoi that made us all fall for the cult of ford. The 47-year-old Texan-born designer himself doesn’t wear any underwear, neither a tie, but he somehow perpetually manages to look like a total modern dandy in bespoke tailored suits. his shirt is always unbuttoned to reveal manly chest hair that seem to have been meticulously combed and dipped with a generous amount of Baby oil. he has admittedly lost dignity to Clinique non-streak bronzer and cover stick to maintain that oompa Loompa tan. And if that is not enough, ford’s macho charm has been credited with creating a new breed of heterosexual self- conscious males who probably own more beauty creams than your average prima donna. But who inspires him? “I am my own muse,” he says. “I know my value as a product, and I’ve divorced myself as a human from myself as a product.” Product or not, men still want to dress like him and women still wish to be dressed by him.

After ten years in the reign over the house of Gucci, and three at yves saint Laurent, ford shortly ventured into the beauty world, striking a deal with American cosmetics giant estee Lauder. he launched two make- up collections and revamped their classic fragrances, Amber nude and youth dew. Later on, Tom spread his wings to the world of movies. he has three film projects on the way funded by his own production company, fade to Black. his latest is an on-screen adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel A single Man, starring Julianne Moore

and Colin firth. And while some believed that Tom’s foray into the beauty and movie business was a shift too far from fashion, he launched his own exclusive menswear label with a flagship store on Madison Avenue and around 13 other branches worldwide, providing eyewear, perfumes, suits, shirts, and most recently, jeans.

When Tom left the Gucci empire in 2004 due to feuds over establishing a new contract with owners PPr (Printemps-Pinaul-redoute), his departure was conceived in the fashion world as the end of the golden age of luxury. shortly thereafter, boho and indie ideals have evolved seemingly to dictate a new direction in fashion, albeit to last only for a little while. Tom’s collections and shows mainly hinged on the seventies (who can forget the diana ross hair on the catwalks of ysL rive Gauche, or the Beatles’ eleanor rigby playing in the background of a Gucci show?). yet today, fashion is all about recycling looks from the eighties and designer collaborations with high-street chains. for a man whose name has long been synonymous with high-fashion luxury, a disco-inspired capsule collection for h&Mwith clothes reeking of disposability seems as unlikely as Martha stewart causing a fire in the kitchen.

But then again, this is the man who never understood not aspiring to dominate the world. “I had a voice in popular culture,” Tom once revealed. “It is important to me to be part of the cultural flow of the times, to impact on the system and change it.” Always a visionary, never just a designer.

TEXT BY RYAN HOUSSARI

ArtEli Rezkallah