World Champion Tom Ford
By Terry Richardson
Living in the present also happens to be at the core of his business strategy. A pragmatic man, Ford is in menswear because it�s less fickle, more reliable, than women�s fashion. �I didn�t want to do it the same way again,� he says. �I�ve done 16 collections a year and eight runway shows a year, where you constantly have to reinvent the wheel: the new shoe, the new bag, the new thing, and it�s so disposable. This is a different business, it�s a slower business, it�s less about fashion and more about quality, so I can have silver hair and still be doing what I�m doing and have it all make sense.� Although he doesn�t rule out introducing women�s wear, it would have to be strictly on his terms. �I do think someone needs to reinvent the way that women�s fashion works, whether I choose to do that in two or three years or not. I�m just afraid that once I stick my toe in that pond I�ll be sucked up and the next 30 years will whiz by and I�ll just have a bunch of dresses hanging in a museum, and I won�t have had time to have really lived.�
Who is likely to shop at the Tom Ford store, where a money clip might set you back a few thou and a top hat sits in a display case without apparent irony? When I walked around the store�s elegant dressing rooms I couldn�t help thinking of Tyler Br�l�, the jet-setting founder of Wallpaper magazine and Monocle, who is forever searching for the perfect this, the ultimate that, and who might well want a shirt in all 340 colors the store offers. (Who knew there were so many?). Ford describes the typical buyer as a man much like himself, although one suspects his eye is really on the booming Asian market. �I was in Beijing and Hong Kong and Shanghai in April looking at store locations, and I wish every American could go and stand on the banks of the Yangtze River in Shanghai and look across at the skyline, which is something from a science fiction movie. You feel so humble: Whoa, this is where it�s happening; this is the future. You get a completely different perspective of America there than we do here.�
Although he got into trouble at the time of the Iraq invasion for telling an Italian newspaper he was embarrassed to be American, Ford doesn�t disguise his despair over the Bush administration. A donor to Barack Obama�s campaign, he says he�ll probably vote for Hillary Clinton when it comes down to it. �In order to get things done in our system, whether we like it or not, you need to know how to operate in the system, and I think she�s quite an expert at that, and I think her heart is in the right place, I think her values are the right ones, and the more I�ve watched and thought, for me, I think it�s Hillary.�
Wary of identity politics -- �I don�t feel defined or restricted by my sexuality� -- he is nevertheless scathing about the political debate over same-sex marriage. He and Buckley even toyed with the idea of applying for British citizenship so they could register for a civil union there. �I love being an American, but it�s sick that if I died tomorrow, 50% of my property would go to the government and the leftovers would go to Richard, whereas if we were a heterosexual couple, that wouldn�t happen.�
Ford doesn�t take himself seriously enough to expect anyone else to, but his transgressive ad campaigns have a clear political subtext: We need to get over our sexual hang-ups. Like other designers of his generation, he extols the �70s as a time of sexual license and liberation. �I remember when it was in vogue to have gay friends or to be at Studio 54 while two guys were fucking -- fucking -- right there in front of you, and there�s princess so-and-so smoking a cigarette and having a cocktail, and it was all, like, �I�m cool, I�m liberal, that�s OK, that�s great.�� He shrugs off critics who claim he objectifies women by pointing out that he�s an equal opportunity objectifier; he�d be the first to run more penises in his ads if he could get away with it. Certainly, the ease with which he interacted with the models for Out�s boxing-inspired shoot reflected a man who was supremely comfortable around other men�s bodies. �I complimented their cocks in the shower,� he recalls. �I told one guy, �Your cock is really good; mine is usually bigger than this,� and he said, �Oh, it�s just the water -- go stand under the shower.��
This seems so breathtakingly audacious -- imagine it tripping off the tongue of any other designer -- that you wait a split second for the punch line or the wink that says �just kidding,� only to realize that Tom Ford, human and product both, is at once completely serious and utterly blas�. �If you behave that way and you respect people, I think they get it,� he says. �They sense from me that I�m not going to give one of them a blow job.� He shrugs. �I just don�t do that.�
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