Tom Ford & Royal Caribbean Join Forces
Tom Ford is something of an anachronism. Through the years he’s wowed fashion fans with dazzling runway shows, editorial spreads, perfumes, balms, and even movies. Now, in his mid-fifties, Ford is continuing to trail blaze with a new film, Nocturnal Animals.
You’d be hard pressed if in your whole life you saw the work of one genius. The word is tossed around lightly these days, but the truth is that true genius is rare. Even rarer are people so immensely talented in their field that their work spills over to adjoining bailiwicks. Tom Ford’s zeal led him to top design posts at some of the biggest fashion houses in the world, but that wasn’t enough for the enterprising creative. Since his tenure at YSL and Gucci, Ford has gone on to launch his own eponymous menswear and accessories brand, along with quick sojourns into the world of photography and film. Building on the critical success of 2009’s A Single Man, Ford has just sold his latest foray as a director, Nocturnal Animals, to Focus Features for an outstanding $20 million deal at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Yet, despite his multifarious endeavors, Ford’s creativity remains unaltered.
“I’m a perfectionist to the point of insanity. It’s horrible, like telling people their eyebrows are not right or their breast implants aren’t quite the right shape,” said Ford. While officious, the American designer applies the same fastidiousness to his own appearance. Ford usually sports his trademark black vest and pants with an impeccably pressed open-collared shirt. It’s a look he started crafting in the early nineties as his career took off.
An architecture student at New York’s famed Parsons School of Design, Ford fibbed to get his first entrée into the fashion world. After years of working his way up in the industry, he was eventually appointed head designer of Gucci in 1994. Amid falling sales and revenue, the company’s owners left him to his own devices as they explored various ways to sell off the design house. With total creative freedom Ford turned Gucci into one of the most profitable fashion brands on the planet.
As a designer he’s known for reintroducing a sleek and sexy seventies aesthetic into nineties fashion. His photo shoots, featuring scantily clad models and often with Ford himself in the frame, were so steamy they were dubbed porno-chic. His fashion career culminated in 1999, when Gucci bought Yves Saint Laurent, putting Ford in the catbird seat as the creative head of both houses. Yet, despite the daunting workload the designer remained restless.
After years shuttling back and forth from Paris, to Milan, planning over sixteen fashion shows a year, Ford decided to hang it up and do the unthinkable: write, produce, and direct movies. It was a huge risk, one that he didn’t fully appreciate at the time.
“After the movie came out, everyone said, ‘we didn’t think you could do it,’” the designer said in a 2010 OWN network special. “Apparently they were all laughing behind my back.”
But no one was laughing when 2009’s A Single Man hit the box office. The plot was based on a Christopher Isherwood story about a college professor in the midst of a midlife crisis, struggling to reconcile his sexuality with the oppressive social order around him. While loosely taken from Isherwood’s prose, Ford injected more of his own personality to the movie’s lead George Falconer, played by Colin Firth. The film’s critical and commercial success led a to a slew of award nominations for Firth, and a Golden Globe win for Julianne Moore in her supporting role as Firth’s boozy best friend Charlotte.
While Ford returned to fashion after his brief stint in the world of film, the effort bore fruit. “Whenever anyone wants to get to know me, I tell them to just watch that movie,” said the designer.
His vast personal investment in filmmaking is perhaps why Ford is again taking a break from managing his own label and recently launched women’s ready-to-wear line, to tackle his second movie, Nocturnal Animals. The project stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams, in an adaptation of Austin Wright’s 1993 novel Tony and Susan.
The work is still in pre-production, with shooting to start later in the year, yet Ford’s presentation at this year’s Cannes Film Festival drew a significant amount of attention from international buyers. Though he originally planned on financing the film himself, to ensure full creative control over the project, Focus Features made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. The highly publicized $20 million deal was not only one of the biggest made at the two-week festival, but also made Ford the de rigueur toast of Hollywood once again.
“Designing women’s clothes is harder than the film industry though,” said Ford of his recent work. “Fashion is so perishable but with films you can have about a four or five year break. We don’t have time to catch our breath in fashion.”
Apart from his women’s ready-to-wear line, Ford has also taken the beauty world by storm, injecting his personal taste into perfumes, colognes, lotions, and balms. This year, Royal Caribbean International is proud to announce that Anthem of the Seas, the smartest ship at sea, will be the first to carry Tom Ford products.
Through his various endeavors Ford still unwinds the same way at the end of the day. While his extraordinarily busy professional life keeps him occupied, the designer still finds time to relax in the English countryside with his partner of twenty-seven years, British journalist Richard Buckley.
“I love taking a bath,” related Ford, “sometimes I take three baths in a day.”
Whether Ford can translate his consistent success in the fashion world to the movie industry remains to be seen. What is certain is that regardless of the challenges, the American designer remains one of the hardest working men in the business.
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