Buro 24/7 Interview: Tom Ford
"I pay attention. And I think people respond to that..."
The stars certainly came out to play this week at the Lindley Hall in London, as Tom Ford presented his sporty and sparkling Autumn/Winter 14 collection to A-list guests. Sequined American football shirts emblazoned with a play on Jay Z's track named after the designer included.
Behind the obvious reference to Mr. Carter's music and his rise to now household name fame – from previously being very well respected in the industry leading Gucci, and moving on to start his own label – the collection is also a nod to Ford's upbringing in the Mid-West, and the similar t-shirt worn by Jay Z on tour, in fact, "I just took the knock off from online, and knocked it off," the designer said backstage...
What were the main references in this collection?
My references are always the same women in my life. And when I create, I'm always thinking: "Okay what does she want to wear now? What does she look good in? What did she wear last week? What do I want to see her in?" And I have great women around me. Great women who work with me, great women in my personal life, great friends. Although this season is quite pared back in comparison to SS14.
So those same women have been buying my clothes for a while now and I need to preempt what they are in the mood for. What am I in the mood to see them in? A bit more restrained, pulled back luxury that's really about the silhouette, about the fabrics and maybe a bit more modest. Still sexy, because they fit well across the hip and they're quite strong and powerful, but very lean.
You have incredible power over your clients. What keeps them interested?
I hope it's quality and I hope it's fit. You know, no matter what you show on a runway, if a woman or man goes to a store and puts on a pair of pants and their butt doesn't look good and they don't look taller, thinner and better and it doesn't feel good: they don't buy it.
So I'm very, very conscious, I fit all the men's clothes on myself. For women's clothes, I am part of the productions, fittings, I put my hands in the pockets I ask, "Does it work? How does that feel?" I ask the woman who's wearing it "can you move?" you know, and I really try to pay attention to the quality of clothes and the cut and the fit of the clothes. And I think that customers respond to that. Ultimately they're not wearing an idea, they're wearing a pair of pants or a beautiful jacket and they want to look good.
What was most challenging for you about this collection?
Maybe coming to grips with pairing things down, you know. When you go a bit more minimal after you're used to kind of putting on a lot of stuff, it takes great restraint to sort of not put more on. But that wasn't what I wanted to do. I wanted to really just kind of take things down to the essence. And so that's one reason why I work so much in black in this collection. I love black; black is our number one selling colour, it's the colour that people really buy and wear. And black is also all about silhouette, because your eyes aren't distracted by colour. There was some colour in the collection: red, animal prints and ivory, but those were also very graphic shades that can still be about shape. Because colour is great, but it's very powerful. Sometimes it can overpower silhouette, and you don't even remember the silhouette, you just remember the colour.
How did your life change with the arrival of your son?
I don't know whether my aesthetic changed, but maybe my weekend clothes changed. Because now on the weekends I'm probably much more casual than I ever was before. But it's just been wonderful, I mean, it's been really wonderful. Actually, these hoods did come from my child because he wears a balaclava when he goes out into the cold, to keep his ears warm. And I thought, "That's quite cool, actually (laughs), I think I'll put that on a bunch of, you know, cashmere knit tops and pull it up over the girl's head." So yeah, you know, everything in your life influences your aesthetic if you're a fashion designer.
What is your advice to modern women?
Only wear what you feel good in. It doesn't matter what fashion says, it doesn't matter what you read in a magazine. Know yourself, know what you like and what colours you always feel the best in, have your own personal style and stick to it. Meaning: change a shoulder or change the hem of your skirt. Don't look at fashion but look at it and then take from it what's good for you. You don't have to look like you've just walked out of a page in a magazine. You're your own individual person. Buy what you like, know yourself, wear what you like. And don't be afraid to wear something five years old, if you love it, twenty years old. It doesn't matter. If you love it, you feel good in it, you like it: wear it.
Which other designers do you like?
Oh, so many. I love Riccardo Tisci, there are quite a lot, I can't even say. There are so many designers, not only young, I mean Miuccia Prada, I have such respect for. Karl Lagerfeld, I love what he does and he is such an inspiration and a great friend and a wonderful person. I like most people in the business. I mean Nicolas Ghèsquiere, I can't wait to see what he does at Vuitton.
We bought Balenciaga at Gucci Group, I was involved in the acquisitions and I went out and said 'we need to buy these brands' and it was designers that I loved and respected. Stella McCartney, Nicolas, Alexander McQueen, Bottega; so I can't wait to see what he does at Vuitton. But there are a lot of young designers that I have tremendous respect for, as well as contemporaries and older designers.
Do you have any advice for new designers?
My main advice to an emerging designer would be to work for someone else before you start your own company. You might be the most talented designer in the world, but still there are so many parts of the business that you can only learn working for somebody else. I feel sorry when I see people just jump right out of school into a business. So: 'work for somebody else.' Main advice.