Thomas Carlyle "Tom" Ford is an American fashion designer and film director. He gained international fame for his turnaround of the Gucci fashion house and the creation of the Tom Ford label.
Ford was born August 27, 1961 in Austin, Texas. Ford left Santa Fe at age 17, when he moved to New York to study art history at New York University
Ford dropped out of N.Y.U. after only a year, preferring to concentrate on acting in television commercials; at one time, he was in twelve national advertising campaigns simultaneously. Ford then began studying interior architecture at The New School's famous art and design college, Parsons The New School for Design. During his time in New York, Ford became a fixture at the legendary nightclub Studio 54, where he realized he was gay. The club's disco-era glamour would be a major influence on his later designs. Before his last year at New School, Ford spent six months in Paris, where he worked as an intern in Chloe’s press office. Though his work primarily involved sending clothes out on photo shoots, it triggered his love of fashion. He spent his final year at The New School studying fashion, but nonetheless graduated with a degree in architecture
Ford called American designer Cathy Hardwick every day for a month in hopes of securing a job at her mid-price sportswear company. Eventually, she agreed to see him. Hardwick later recalled the incident: "I had every intention of giving him no hope. I asked him who his favourite European designers were. He said, 'Armani and Chanel.' Months later I asked him why he said that, and he said, 'Because you were wearing something Armani'. Is it any wonder he got the job?" Ford worked as a design assistant for Hardwick for two years.
In 1988, Ford moved to Perry Ellis where he knew both , the company's president, and Marc Jacobs, its designer, socially. He stayed at the company for two years, but grew tired of working in American fashion. In a later interview with the New York Times, he commented, "If I was ever going to become a good designer, I had to leave America. My own culture was inhibiting me. Too much style in America is tacky. It's looked down upon to be too stylish. Europeans, however, appreciate style."
Ford would soon have the opportunity to enter the world of European fashion: Gucci, a faltering luxury goods company, was seeking to strengthen its women's ready-to-wear presence as a part of its brand overhaul. At the time, "no one would dream of wearing Gucci," said Dawn Mello, then the company's creative director. Mello hired Ford—then a near-unknown—as the brand's chief women's ready-to-wear designer in 1990. "I was talking to a lot of people, and most didn't want the job," Mello said. "For an American designer to move to Italy to join a company that was far from being a brand would have been pretty risky." Ford and his long-time partner, fashion journalist Richard Buckley, relocated to Milan that September.
Ford's role at Gucci rapidly expanded: he was designing menswear within six months, and shoes soon after that. In 1992, Ford took over his position as design director, heading the brand's ready-to-wear, fragrances, image, advertising, and store design. In 1993, when he was in charge of designing eleven product lines, Ford worked eighteen-hour days. During these years, there were creative tensions between Ford and Maurizio Gucci, the company's chairman and 50% owner. According to Mello, "Maurizio always wanted everything to be round and brown, and Tom wanted to make it square and black." Though Maurizio Gucci wanted to fire Ford, Domenico de Sole insisted that he remain. Nonetheless, Ford's work during the early 1990s was primarily behind the scenes; his contributions to Gucci were overshadowed by those of Mello, who was the company's public face.
In 1994, Ford was promoted to creative director. In his first year at the helm, he was credited with putting the glamour back into fashion introducing Halston-style velvet hipsters, skinny satin shirts and car-finish metallic patent boots. In 1995, he brought in French stylist Carine Roitfeld and photographer Mario Testino to create a series of new, modern ad campaigns for the company. Between 1995 and 1996, sales at Gucci increased by 90%.
By 1999, the house, which had been almost bankrupt when Ford joined, was valued at about $4.3 billion.
When Gucci acquired the house of Yes Saint Laurent, Ford was named the creative director of that label as well. During his time as Creative Director for YSL, Ford won numerous Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards.
In April 2004, Ford parted company with the Gucci group after he and CEO Domenico de Sole, who is credited as Ford's partner in the success story that is Gucci, failed to agree with PPR bosses over creative control of the Group.
Following his departure from Gucci (and YSL), Ford opened the fashion house, Tom Ford. Ford began with accessories; his line of eyewear was the first to become successful through a continuing partnership with Marcolin SPA. The Tom Ford line now covers Menswear, Beauty, Eyewear, and both Men and Women's Accessories. In early 2006, Ford attracted media attention for appearing fully clothed on the cover of Vanity Fair alongside Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson, both nude.
In 2009, Ford made his film directorial debut with A Single Man, which is based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood. The film premiered on September 11, 2009 at the Venice International Film Festival and was nominated for a Golden Lion.
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