144010540 Tom Ford on Movie Stars, YSL, and ‘The One’

Photo: FilmMagic

“Welcome to the hottest place in town tonight,” Fern Mallis proudly exclaimed while greeting last night’s audience at the 92nd Street Y.  The evening served as the fifth installment in her discussion series, “Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis,” and last night’s episode was all about Tom Ford.  Tickets rapidly sold out, forcing 92Y to screen a simulcast in a second room—something they’ve only done once prior for a discussion with Woody Allen.

Throughout the nearly two hours of discussion, a witty banter ensued between the two fashion greats, with Ford maintaining impeccable posture all the way through.  ”I didn’t want to be an actor, I wanted to be a movie star,” he said of his well-known stab at acting in the early days of his career.  Speaking about his family, we learned that while his parents are no longer married, they live two blocks from each other. Ford also admitted that he doesn’t carry a cellphone and takes between four and five baths a day.  His de facto music pick is The Bee Gees, he explained: “I put that on and immediately I’m staying alive.”

The point at which the designer really grabbed his audience is when he candidly spoke about his under-the-radar relationship with former WWD editor, Richard Buckley.  Starting with their chance meeting, Ford took us through his nearly thirty-year union with the man he called “the one.”  On their first date, Ford took the much-older (and at the time, much more successful) Buckley to a restaurant called Albuquerque Eats, so that he could show off some semblance of his southwest upbringing.  It worked, as four weeks later they moved in with each other.

On the subject of design, we learned that Marc Jacobs had once hired Ford to head-up Perry Ellis’s denim division and that Ford himself had once employed the likes of Christopher Bailey and Hedi Slimane.  Speaking of his commercial success, Ford noted, “I’m a commercial fashion designer. I’ve always designed jackets with two sleeves, not that I don’t admire jackets with three sleeves, but mine have two sleeves and they don’t unravel layers like a Russian doll.”

Finally, Mallis prodded for information on Ford’s years working double-time as the designer for Gucci and YSL.  ”Yves was really nice at first,” Ford said of the late Saint Laurent, “though as our collections kept getting better and better reviews and our numbers kept getting higher and higher, Yves wasn’t my friend anymore.”  Towards the end he was “designing sixteen collections a year while taking business meetings as a vice chair of the company…I feel like I kind of willed it to fall apart,” Ford explained, citing creative exhaustion, depression, and a drinking habit as the main reasons for his infamous departure from PPR in 2004.

Closing on a high note, Ford discussed his foray into directing with A Single Man, and the price of making a comeback in women’s ready-to-wear.  ”What excites me now is the very best,” he said in defense of his label’s exceedingly high price point. “Unfortunately that costs money.” Standing up to wish the audience farewell, Ford straightened his suit and swiftly waved like a politician, though perhaps that was in practice for what’s yet to come, as Ford’s worldwide domination doesn’t seem to know or need any boundaries.

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