Tom Ford on Family, Fashion and Film

Describing his overextended days at Gucci Group or why he likes to bathe four or five times a day, the designer was unapologetic and entertaining at the 92Y.

Following Other Designers’ Work
[I follow] every other designer’s work. I admire so many young designers. I met Joseph Altuzarra last night [at the Met] and he sent me the sweetest e-mail this morning. It is so wonderful watching somebody’s career take off. And Joseph is such a nice person. I admired him before I met him.

Advice for Aspiring Designers
It might be the same thing that people used to tell me when I said I wanted to be an actor, which is, “If there is anything else in the world that you would be happy doing, do that.” I’m serious. This is the harshest industry. I have worked in the film industry with people like Harvey Weinstein, who is a great man but he is also very tough. But, I’m telling you, that industry is easy compared to what we do.

On Dropping Out of NYU and Acting in Commercials
I was going to Studio 54 a lot.…I had 12 national commercials running at the same time. Half of them are under different names and you will never find them. There was a Tom Ford in SAG when I joined. I didn’t really want to be an actor. I kind of wanted to be a movie star. But I was also very insecure. I was doing this Prell shampoo commercial. This hairdresser was brushing my hair, I don’t want to do the lisp and then I will be the next stereotype, and he said, “You’re losing your hair.” I just panicked and started to obsess that my hair was starting to recede.

Getting a B.A. in Environmental Design
It was a combination of interior design and architecture. I wanted to be an architect. I transferred back to Parsons in New York. I took all of my electives in fashion. In 1984-85, I worked in the press office at Chloé in Paris. I packed up shoes, sent back clothes, organized the Chloé sample closet — the same things everyone does when they start out.

Deciding on Fashion While Sick in Bed on a School Trip to Moscow
I was stuck in my room, it was two in the morning and I was thinking, ‘What am I going to do?’ I literally sat up in bed and thought, “Fashion. I have always been obsessed with fashion.” It was just, “Ping,” which is how things happen with me. I just think about things and then the answer comes.

Landing the First Job
I drew up a fashion portfolio. I wanted to get a job with this lovely woman, Cathy Hardwick. I went outside 575 Seventh Avenue with a bunch of quarters — this was before cell phones —and I just called and called and called every 10 minutes. She finally saw me. I showed her my portfolio. I had graduated from Parsons and she assumed since I was showing her a fashion portfolio, I studied fashion. Anyway, I got the job. She then said later it was because I had pretty hands. The first day on the job she said, “Draw some circle skirts.” So I went downstairs to the double R train, went to Bloomingdale’s, found a circle skirt, looked at how the seams were made, ran back to the office, sketched the circle skirts and put them on her desk. So I learned on the job.

Meeting his Life Partner, Richard Buckley
I went to a fashion show and this silver-haired guy was staring at me with these piercing water-blue eyes. It scared me because I absolutely saw and knew my entire future. At the end of the show, I just bolted. About 10 days later, Cathy asked me to pick up some clothes at Women’s Wear Daily. Richard was…at Women’s Wear Daily…He was standing on the roof — I’m telling this from Richard’s vantage point now — and someone asked if he was seeing anyone. He said, “No, there was this guy I had seen at a fashion show” and at that moment the elevator door opened and there I was. Richard jumps in the elevator and he’s practically tap dancing.…We had three dates. We were living together four weeks later; he gave me the keys to his apartment and we have lived together ever since.

Love and Marriage
I would absolutely get married to Richard [Buckley.] By the way, the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages.…I have always wanted children, but I think I’d better get busy soon because I still want to be able to pick them up.

Taking Four or Five Baths a Day
If I’m sending e-mails 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.

Walking Around at Home Mostly Naked
Yes, don’t you walk around your house naked sometimes?

The Digital World
I live on the Internet, absolutely. I do not carry a cell phone but I am on the computer eight hours a day. I feel like if something really happens, somebody is going to get to me. I want to be looking and living and engaged. It’s just a personal thing and I can’t stand to talk to someone on a cell phone. If someone calls me on one, I will say, “Let’s talk later when you are on a hard line.”

Keeping up With the News
I read The Daily Beast, Cheat Sheet and The International Herald Tribune. I live in London and it takes me exactly the time from my house to my office to read it. I am very much an American but I do miss the international take on the news when I am here — rather than “Live at 5: Five New Ways to Reduce Cellulite.”

Leaving New York
I loved New York when I was young. I used to hate to even go to the country for the weekend because I was afraid I would miss something. But at this stage in my life I feel as though…you probably notice maybe not that I close my eyes a lot when I talk because I get overstimulated. Everything is so stimulating in New York. Even when I was trying to sleep, I could feel the vibration.

On the Influence of His Many-Times-Married Liz Taylor-Inspired Grandmother 
She was one of these Texas women — big hair, big makeup, big Cadillac El Dorado, she always had gifts and presents. She used to say one thing and I don’t know if she stole this from Auntie Mame: “You have one decision to make in life. You can either be happy or not be happy.”

Anything on the Bucket List?
Just to have maybe 40 more years of this.


NEXT: Tom's Bon Mots >>


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