Why Tom Ford Puts the Logo at the Tip

Tom Ford is the consummate American: ambitious, idealistic, and brash. His combination of sex and celebrity helped reshape fashion from a European subculture into a global force of popular culture—images like Gwyneth Paltrow in the red velvet tuxedo he designed for Gucci, or a model with a bottle of Tom Ford perfume wedged between her breasts. “I think whenever you do something that’s very much about a particular time,” he says, speaking recently from Los Angeles, where he is based, “and then you live long enough to see people looking back at that particular time, or having grown up with that image in their head, you’ve become part of what forms their sense of beauty.” 

He created the first luxury brand of the 21st century, the eponymous Tom Ford. And he decided, at 48, to begin directing films, which were embraced as queer cinema touchstones and have received several accolades. In 2019, he became the chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America—less an American king putting on his crown than a cowboy putting on his ten-gallon hat. “My chief goal, really, was to help American fashion become more internationally known,” he says, adding that “European editors and people in the European fashion industry need to travel to America and see what’s happening.” Still, he admits, laughing, “I don’t know how to help Americans understand how important it is to look at the rest of the world.”

Ford is also distinctly old school—genteel, warm, funny, and snobby, though not an elitist. He turned 60 recently, and now releases his second book, Tom Ford 002, a gloriously enormous, very glossy tome that encompasses the years since his first volume, which was released in 2004, and reviews the collections, celebrities dressed, advertisements made, and films created annually like the world’s most extravagant yearbook. He believes in glamour—though “it isn’t glamour,” he says, “it’s just the way I like things to look”—and remembers fondly the days when you’d wear a sport coat to ride on the airplane. But he is also, in an industry that gleefully chews up and spits out its geniuses, something of a survivor.

We spoke about why he decided to include some of his most controversial moments, what American fashion needs to become a truly global phenomenon, and why he believes celebrity stylists should have less power. His book is on sale November 9.

GQ: I’m curious about the choice to present the book chronologically, rather than, perhaps, thematically. Why did you decide on that approach?

Tom Ford: Well, I had approached the first book that way, and there is a reason. But I also wanted this to follow in that same format, as a kind of chapter two. I think fashion makes more sense when it is chronological, because what you do in one collection influences what you do or don’t do in another collection. I think that it’s a kind of continuous stream of things that play off of each other, [that] react to what, you know—fashion’s a pendulum, it swings back and forth. So it just made sense to me to present it in a chronological format, [to look at] where my head was at in a particular year. What was happening in my life, what I was thinking, what I was feeling, where I was living. When you look back over things, it’s like when you look at family pictures, you immediately remember, that’s what was happening and that’s where I was living, that’s why I did that. And it brings back a whole time, not only personally, but culturally, and what was happening in the world.

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