As Chicago prepares for the opening of the brand new Tom Ford store, the city is in an uproar. Added to the fire is the fact that Jay Z has just released a mega hit on his latest album in which he exuberantly proclaims “I don’t pop Molly, I rock Tom Ford.” Like kerosene doused on a fire, social media exploded on last week when he and Mrs. Carter (Beyoncé) performed a live duet of the song at a NYC performance. Although the urban community is currently in a Tom Ford trance, I was shocked to discover how little they actually knew about this luxury genius. Some assumed he was a European designer. Others even assumed he was a new designer. Those “in the know”, kind of chuckled and shook their heads. Tom Ford’s iconic status was solidified long before Jay Z laid the tracks to his new urban anthem. Oh, and Tom Ford is never a “tee-shirt”. Considering Tom Fords accolades, I’m a little shocked at the time it took for Jay Z to discover his brilliance. But then again, Jay Z is just now in the process of transitioning himself from an urban marketed gangsta rapper to global icon with international sophistication and class.
“Fashion’s boldest, most audacious success story ever is how Bridget Foley of Women’s Wear Daily described the meteoric rise of Tom Ford. The true story of how this architecture graduate from Santa Fe, New Mexico, talked his way into his first design job (with no experience), and, after only a few years, took command of the prestigious (yet cash-strapped) house of Gucci, and then, in less than a decade, rose to the very top of the fashion establishment, puts Ford in a league of his own. And that’s not even taking into account the tidal wave of critical acclaim, the courting by Hollywood movie stars, and the monster profits.” In 1990, Ford moved to Milan to assume the role of Womenswear Designer for Gucci. At the time, the exalted leather company was hampered by management infighting and a struggle to keep up with market trends. 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. Ford instantly breathed new life into Gucci. Over the course of the decade, Ford served as Gucci’s driving force (1994-2004), and the company’s annual sales increased from $230 million to $3 billion.
Yes, Tom Ford is an American designer that has European taste. Tom Ford was born on August 27, 1961, in Austin, Texas and spent a year and a half in Paris, where he worked as an intern in Chloé’s press office in 1988. Me moved to Perry Ellis where he would meet Marc Jacobs. During this time he was also a regular fixture at Studio 54 night club as well as other gay venues in NYC. He has honed the helm of both Gucci and YSL “at the same damn time.” When Gucci acquired the house of Yves Saint Laurent (YSL), Ford was named the creative director of that label as well, displacing Saint Laurent himself as designer of the company’s ready-to-wear line. Tom Ford’s success and perhaps most visual attribute comes from his highly sexualized take on the sixties and seventies silhouettes and this has been, in part, responsible for his astounding success. What most do not know is Ford is more than a brilliant and visionary designer. “He is also a charismatic salesman, a ruthless brand executive, an innovative art director, and a canny marketing guru. This refined skillset for multitasking and meticulous attention to detail is what put Gucci, YSL and eventually his own brand, Tom Ford, on its path to world domination. As the writer Sarah Mower pointed out in Vogue, “by the end of his tenure at Gucci in 2004 Ford was designing fifteen men’s and women’s Gucci and YSL collections a year” as well as overseeing their advertising campaigns and filling the role of “corporate titan who had masterminded the purchases of YSL, Balenciaga, and Bottega Veneta, and forged partnerships with Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney.” In April 2004, Ford parted ways with the Gucci group after he and CEO Domenico de Sole, who is credited as Ford’s partner in Gucci’s success, failed to agree with PPR bosses over artistic control of the Group.
Everything that comes to mind when we think of when we think of Tom Ford—the high-impact runways shows, the lavish flagship stores, the notoriously risqué ad campaigns, the sensualized aesthetic and even the master tailoring has a profound and prolific way of conveying the same three core themes: sex, power, and divine decadence. Since resigning from Gucci in 2005, Ford has launched his own fashion brand and he also directed Colin Firth in the film The Single Man. “I don’t think I have ever worked with anyone with a greater passion for detail or a clearer vision of his aesthetic goals,” Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor in chief, wrote after he sat as her cochair for the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute gala in 2003. Ford opened the fashion house, Tom Ford in 2005. Beginning with accessories, Ford laid the groundwork for his swiftly-growing fashion empire which offers menswear, eyewear and beauty products. Ford created significant buzz for his new company when he posed on the cover of a 2006 issue of Vanity Fair wearing Tom Ford Brand menswear, sandwiched between Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson, both of whom posed nude. He has won five Council of Fashion Designers of America awards, four VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards and was named 2001’s GQ designer of the year. While all facets of his label have been received incredibly well, his line of eyewear were the first of his collection to really take-off, with virtually every celebrity from Brad Pitt, Lindsay Lohan, and Madonna to Joaquin Phoenix The Tom Ford line now covers Menswear, Beauty, Eyewear, and both Men and Women’s’ Accessories, The store carries his new, high level luxury menswear, including suits, ties, shirts, knitwear, outerwear, accessories, luggage and small leather goods.
Although he is into his 50s, in a long-term monogamous relationship (with fashion journalist Richard Buckley), and perched atop a self-branded fashion empire, Ford continues to promote himself with a youthful and sexually charged image. So there you go Chicago…next time you hear the verse, now you’ll know the significance and do promise me, the next person you see in a Tom Ford piece, tap him on the shoulder and say “job well done”….see you at the grand opening…cheers…Deo
Check out our slideshow of some of his hot pieces fellas….
Tom Ford Responds to Jay-Z’s Musical Ode to the Designer. “I have been dressing him for years now, and I have to say I think he looks great in my clothes. [He] is one of our biggest customers. He let me know about this quite a while ago.”