Tom Ford Breaks Down His Extraordinary Life in Fashion and Film—And His Most Iconic Looks


It would be impossible to tell the story of Tom Ford’s career without moving across multiple mediums. As a designer, filmmaker, and creative director Ford’s influence on fashion is impressively multi-faceted, so when he sat down to recount his life in looks, he had to approach the subject from all angles. Starting with a casual portrait of an 18-year-old Ford shot by Warhol factory photographer Christopher Makos and ending with his contributions to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s revamped American period rooms, Ford provides a comprehensive overview of his work thus far and the influences behind it. “I was lucky enough just to catch the tail end of Studio 54, and that period became so much a part of what my tastes are,” Ford shared during the shoot. “I was still developing and still young, so it was an important period—though it’s not my favorite picture of myself. I look awfully casual, which I did not even look like then.” 

Ford’s commitment to dressing up would inform his work at Gucci, where he revived the Italian luxury powerhouse by introducing sleek, sexy ready-to-wear. Despite his vision being an essential part of the company’s revival, Ford was discouraged from seeking the spotlight, as then-chairman Maurizio Gucci’s wanted to keep its designers anonymous. “It had been in my contract that I was not allowed to step out onto the runway,” Ford explains. “Maurizio really felt that he wanted the brand to be the important thing, not the fashion designer.” Still, during the fall 1995 collection, Ford finally took ownership of his hard work. “I had this moment where I could design whatever I wanted because no one was looking over my shoulder, and I was very proud of what I did,” he says. “So I stepped out on the runway.”

Once established, Ford’s influence helped shape the red carpets of the 1990s and 2000s, with the now-iconic looks he created for women like Gwyneth Paltrow, Nicole Kidman, Rihanna, and Beyoncé cementing their status as icons. Performers weren’t the only ones to benefit from Ford’s eye; he also helped to revitalize the wardrobe of the world’s greatest spy. “It was incredible I was able to dress Daniel [Craig] through all of his Bond performances,” says Ford. “If you’re a menswear designer, is there anything better than dressing James Bond?” 

Thanks to hit films like A Single Man and Nocturnal Animals, Ford has become the rare creative multi-hyphenate to garner acclaim both onscreen and off. Bringing a perfectionist touch to each project, his films are notable for the impeccable wardrobes chosen by costume designer Arianne Phillips as well as the thoughtful screenplays written by Ford. Surprisingly, it’s the writing process that he finds the most fun. “The reason I love writing so much is because, at that moment, it’s perfect,” says Ford. “It’s in your head [and] the actor’s doing exactly what you want them to do, the shot is exactly the one you want it to be, the camera is moving in exactly the way you want it to be, the music is just right, and the feeling you’re trying to convey is clear to the audience [but] that’s not at all the way it is when you’re working!” 


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