If the fashion world didn't have a Tom Ford, it would have to invent one. Smart, good looking, and charming, with unerring taste, he seems genetically engineered to rule the design universe. The man Rita Wilson calls "the sexiest gay man... [more]
If the fashion world didn't have a Tom Ford, it would have to invent one. Smart, good looking, and charming, with unerring taste, he seems genetically engineered to rule the design universe. The man Rita Wilson calls "the sexiest gay man alive" has never known an awkward phase. Even in high school, when most of us were plagued by bad skin and worse fashion sense, Ford was perfectly polished.
After growing up in Texas, Ford spent his adolescent years in Santa Fe. Though firmly middle-class, the teenage Tom managed to secure for himself the trappings of wealth -- the Gucci loafers, the prep school. NYU was a natural choice for college. Gorgeous, gay, and immaculately groomed, it didn't take long for Ford and Studio 54 to find each other. He soon became a regular at the nightclub and a member of Andy Warhol's Factory crowd. This period would later have a big influence on his design sense. At the time, however, it only had a bad influence on his studies -- Ford dropped out at the end of his freshman year. He'd begun modeling and acting, and his career was taking off. At one point, 12 commercials featuring Ford were running simultaneously on television.
When Ford was ready to return to school he enrolled in Parsons, where he earned a degree in architecture. Shortly before graduation he realized what the rest of the world would soon know: he was destined to be a fashion designer, even if he had no formal experience in the industry at all. After hearing much pleading, designer Cathy Hardwick agreed to hire him as an assistant. From there, he went to Perry Ellis; in 1990, Gucci followed.
Ford arrived at Gucci at the lowest point in its history. Nearing bankruptcy, the label had been all but ruined by internecine family squabbling, unimaginative designing, and wanton licensing. Paychecks dried up, and all the designers but Ford left, leaving him in charge of 11 product lines. His first collection was a bust in 1994. But by 1995, he'd begun to find his vision. Subsequent collections were more and more successful. Ford emphasized outrageously sexy tailoring, monochromatic black, retro-70s styling, logos, and standout staple pieces. By 1996, sales were up 115 percent, quadrupling by 1998. Lately, Ford has refined his sensibilities, adding color and flounces. Rumor has it that he'll take over design for recent Gucci purchase Yves Saint Laurent. Whatever designs come forth from the talented Texan, they should be as exciting as the drama of his own life. [show less]