Masters of Modern Luxury: Tom Ford
Tom Ford has been a high-profile designer for more than 20 years. After successfully reinvigorating the house of Gucci in the 1990s, he established his own exclusive brand in 2005. His rigorous attention to detail and unerring instinct for striking the perfect balance between glamour and sex appeal have made Tom Ford an A-list label and his company one of the most influential forces in the luxury world. Indeed, everything Ford designs—from his garments and accessories to his limited-edition fragrances and beauty collection—seems to be a physical extension of his own inimitable personal style.
Test of Time
Traditionally, for something to be luxurious, it has to be made of the highest quality with attention to every detail. On top of that, one must layer a great service and make the customer feel taken care of. This still holds true, but today luxury, to me, means having more time to enjoy life. Any product or service that can free up your time and mental energy and make choices easier while delivering an added benefit is the absolute in luxury. It means crafting a product that is not hollow.
I live simultaneously in Santa Fe, Los Angeles, and London, and I also spend time in New York for my work. I am constantly traveling, and I feel that, as a designer, this frequent movement gives me a significant advantage. I am exposed to many different cultures all at the same time. My passion for all things visual—art, architecture, film, and contemporary culture—allows me to appreciate and utilize the unique elements of each of these places in my design. However, I am also very much in my comfort zone away from contemporary culture, alone at my ranch in Santa Fe. This allows me time to contemplate, balance myself, and think creatively in a totally different way.
The Human Touch
A huge part of what luxury is for me right now is to be taken care of and to make shopping more enjoyable for people. It is getting someone on the phone instead of an answering machine when I call. It is being able to get help when I walk into the store. Someone who calls me when something comes in that I might like, sends it to my apartment, and will pick it up if I do not like it.
Piece by Piece
In the ’90s, when I started at Gucci, it was a different time. We were helping to create the idea of global luxury and created one look that was “the look.” What I am doing at Tom Ford is the opposite of that; it is much more personal. The pendulum of fashion had swung so far one way that it was time to swing to the other side.
That said, the 21st century really is about the emerging markets in terms of growth. They are at a different place in their relationship to luxury brands. They still want to be told more coherently what to wear and how, rather than flexing their independence as we do in the U.S. and Europe. So we provide everything a man or woman needs, a complete wardrobe, and become the authority in style.
I think silhouette has been a significant but subtle means for transformation. I have always preferred a wider lapel and wider ties, as they seem more elegant and flattering. To me, there is something a bit uptight about a skinny jacket and tie, and after so many seasons of suit jackets becoming slimmer and slimmer, I felt they really could not get any smaller. It seemed that it was time for a change. I wanted to start making stronger suits with broader shoulders that were still fitted in the waist. I feel that accentuating the natural V of the male body makes men appear even more masculine and, in general, more powerful. Some of our clients want slimmer-cut suits, and as we evolved I added them to the collection. The suit I designed for Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall is a slimmer style, but the shoulders are still very strong and the waist very fitted.
From Zero to 100
My main goal is to maintain exclusivity while being global. When we started the business in June 2005, we had outlined a worldwide expansion plan that would result in more than 100 freestanding Tom Ford retail locations, as well as a tightly controlled distribution network of shop-in-shops with luxury retail partners. By the end of 2013, we will have 98 retail locations. But even with that many locations, we will always have that sense of exclusivity through quality and service.