How Tom Ford went from designer to director

The mere mention of the name Tom Ford Immediately evokes haute couture, extravagance and exquisite taste. Despite branching out into screenwriting and directing with his 2009 feature A single man and follow-up 2016 nocturnal animals, Ford remains a key player in the fashion industry. He is best known as the creative director of the once bankrupt fashion house Gucci, and played a key role in its transformation from a struggling accessories brand into a profitable luxury design house. During his 14 years at Gucci (ten at the helm as chief creative officer), Ford grew Gucci’s annual revenue from $200 million to $3 billion. After his resignation in 2005, Ford continued to launch his eponymous Tom Ford brand.

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The multi-talented Ford is a true renaissance man and thrives in any creative field he lends himself to. In 2009, Ford realized his dream of becoming a filmmaker with his first feature film A single man. Seven years later, he will release his second film nocturnal animals critically acclaimed. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in November 2021, Ford opened up about his upcoming movie. “I’ve been working on a script for a book I own the rights to, but I’ve been so busy – and during the pandemic, like a lot of people, I felt a bit in shock and not really creative. “, he says. “But I’m not tired of the question. I just wish my answer could be, “We start shooting in two months. » » Here’s how Tom Ford went from designer to director.


Ford’s Youth

Tom Ford was born in Austin, Texas in 1961 to realtor parents Shirley Burton and his namesake Tom Ford Sr. Ford grew up in Texas and later moved to New Mexico with his family when he was 11 years old. . He was destined for a career in design. since childhood; at age six, he was rearranging the furniture in his house and offering his mother advice on his hairstyle and shoes. His fascination with films also began in his youth, as he was a regular at a local arthouse theater that showed classic Hollywood movies, and according to The Independent, he once told Entertainment Weekly that ‘in another era, he would have worked for MGM Grand.

After graduating from Santa Fe Preparatory School in 1979, Ford moved to New York to study art history at NYU. It was while at NYU that a friend of his introduced him to Studio 54, where after years of dating women, Ford realized he was gay. His time at NYU was cut short, however, when he decided to drop out to focus on acting in television commercials. Ford’s short-lived acting career was remarkably successful, and at one point he was featured in 12 national advertising campaigns at once. Ford would eventually study architecture at Parsons The New School For Design. In his final year he shifted his focus to fashion design, but graduated with a degree in architecture in 1986. It was at this point in his life that Ford set his sights on the fashion industry .


A successful career in fashion

After graduating from Parsons, Ford became obsessed with breaking into the fashion industry. He was determined to work for American designer Cathy Hardwick and called her once a day for a month straight until she agreed to interview him. Her perseverance paid off when she offered him a job as a design assistant, a position he held for two years. It is at Cathy Hardwick that Tom Ford will meet his longtime partner Richard Buckley. Ford and Buckley had a 35-year relationship and shared a son named Jack before Buckley passed away in 2021.

In 1988 Ford moved to Perry Ellis as he had a connection to womenswear designer Marc Jacobs and President Robert McDonald. Ford would work for Perry Ellis for two years before getting tired of American fashion and deciding to move to Europe to, as he puts it, “become a good designer”. In 1990 Ford began working for Gucci as a designer of women’s ready-to-wear. At the time, Gucci was an unprofitable and failing accessories brand and was in the midst of a brand overhaul. In 1992 Ford was appointed design director at Gucci and in 1994 promoted to creative director.


Ford is known for bringing the luxury brand back to life. His designs exuded excess and sex appeal and were inspired by his disco-era days at Studio 54. During his tenure as creative director, Ford also brought in Yves St. Laurent, Sergio Rossi, Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga under the Gucci banner. Ford and Gucci will eventually separate in 2004 when the Pinault-Printemps-Redoute holding company acquires a majority stake in the brand. After Ford left Gucci, he designed his eponymous line of beauty products, eyewear, accessories and menswear. Ford also recently wrote an essay for Air Mail, citing his thoughts on fashion designer Ridley Scott’s biopic Gucci Housewhich is more like a movie review written by experts.

Related: Exclusive: Robert Bentivegna on Writing House of Gucci

A growing film career

In 2005, Ford decided to focus on his movie aspirations, signing CAA talent agent Byron Lourd and starting his own production company Fade to Black Productions. In 2006, he bought the rights to the novel by Christopher Isherwood A single man and a screenplay written by David Scearce, which Ford would ultimately rewrite 15 times. Having no directing experience, Ford read books on the subject, including On making movies by David Mamet. According to an interview with the New York Times, Ford’s friends advised him to make a short film first to show off his talent and to hire a professional screenwriter. Ford hired a screenwriter, but his penchant for creative control led to disagreements.

A single man was a difficult project to fund partly because major studios were unwilling to shell out for a first filmmaker, and partly because of the subject matter. Ford would ultimately finance the $7 million production budget with his own money against the advice of Hollywood insiders. In 2009, A single man premiered at the 66th Venice International Film Festival to critical acclaim. It would go on to be nominated and win a host of awards for lead actor Colin Firth, and a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film. A single man follows the life of English professor George Falconer (Firth) who falls into depression and contemplates suicide after the death of his longtime lover and partner.


In 2015, Ford will write and direct his second feature film nocturnal animals, which is one of the best psychological thrillers of the last decade. The film follows an art gallery owner (Amy Adams) who receives a handwritten novel from her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal), which bears haunting parallels to their real-life marriage. Ford was prepared to cover the $22.5 million budget for nocturnal animals as well as to maintain creative control. However, Focus Features acquired the project when they made Ford an offer he couldn’t refuse, giving him a budget of $20 million while allowing him full creative control, final cut and approval. advertisements for all campaigns. The publicity endorsement was particularly appealing to the sophomore director as he felt The Weinstein Company failed to market his first film. A single man to the best of their abilities. Ford told The Hollywood Reporter in a November 2021 interview that “Apart from having Jack and raising him, doing A single man is probably the thing I’m most proud of because it was incredibly personal,” Ford says. “I loved the process. It was so fulfilling. I wish I had time to do more movies, but somehow I created this great company.