If you are wondering who Tom Ford is or want to learn a little bit about his background, then read on. In this blog post, we focus on this formidable designer and summarise the history of one of the world’s most popular designer brands.
Hardly any other fashion designer combines understatement and wow factor as well as Tom Ford. The Texan jack-of-all-trades is world-famous for perfectly fitting black suits as well as for exuberant bling-bling. His elegant sunglasses and glasses are classics across the board – and incidentally he is also highly successful as a film director. The only question is when this man actually sleeps…
From Texas to Milan
At least this question can be answered very quickly: three to four hours at the most, and if Tom Ford is still feeling inspired after midnight, he has Post-Its under his pillow. Nothing comes from nothing, which is even more true in the fast-moving fashion industry than elsewhere.
Tom Ford’s success story therefore has little to do with a fairy tale, but above all a lot to do with hard work. From his childhood as a design-savvy boy who begged his parents for Gucci loafers at the age of twelve, Ford made an almost meteoric rise that propelled him into the fashion Olympus alongside star designers such as Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace and Calvin Klein. The latter, by the way, is a great role model of his.
But let’s start at the beginning: Tom Ford was born in 1961 in Austin, Texas, the son of two real estate agents, but grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. From there he moved to New York, where he initially studied art history at New York University, but then switched to architecture and design at Parsons School of Design. After graduating, he worked as a designer for two American labels, but was discovered in 1990 by Dawn Mellow, then creative director of Gucci, and hired as a womenswear designer. A huge career leap for the young Ford, who happily moved to Milan for it.
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The Gucci Revolution
At the time, Gucci was far away from being the all-encompassing luxury corporation it is today; in fact, the traditional label was on the verge of bankruptcy. Tom Ford, however, had a vision, and he pursued it with great success. Only four years after he took over, he was no longer responsible only for women’s fashion, but for all product lines, store design, corporate image and advertising campaigns.
Later, he was also responsible for the Yves Saint Laurent label, which belonged to Gucci. Tom Ford’s unerring instinct for the perfect photo and his gifted sense of aesthetics led to the Gucci Group’s turnover increasing from 230 million dollars in 1994 to almost 3 billion dollars in 2003 during his time as creative director. A truly brilliant success that made Tom Ford a living legend.
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Year of Liberation 2005
In 2004, Tom Ford threw in the towel and left Gucci. Soon after, in 2005, he founded his own brand Tom Ford, cooperated with Marcolin for sensational eyewear collections and, in collaboration with Estée Lauder, started his own beauty line, which, like everything else Ford touched, became a resounding success. Stores in New York, Milan, Tokyo or on the famous Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles (see photo) completed the total package.
Fashion, however, is not the only passion driving Tom Ford. 2005 was the ultimate year of innovation: Tom Ford not only set up his own fashion business – along with his partner and later husband Richard Buckley, he founded his own film production company Fade To Black. His first film, A Single Man, which Ford co-wrote, produced and directed, was hailed by critics and fans alike as an aesthetic masterpiece and earned lead actor Colin Firth an Oscar nomination. The second feature film Nocturnal Animals followed in 2016, starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Professionally, everything is going smoothly for Tom Ford, he collects awards just like others collect stamps, and his eyewear designs have also won several awards. On a private level, too, everything was looking good for a long time; his son Alexander was born in 2012, and Tom Ford and Richard Buckley married in 2014. The two men were a couple for 35 years until Richard Buckley finally succumbed to his long-standing cancer in September 2021 – just a few days after Ford was celebrated for his dazzling disco-glam show at New York Fashion Week.