Tom Ford's Next Chapter: 'At This Point, My Work is More Sensual than Sexual'

by Hetty Mahlich on 29 November 2021

The American designer and CFDA chairman's new book charts the glamorous history of the brand Tom Ford. It also details the man behind it all, and how his outlook has changed.

The American designer and CFDA chairman's new book charts the glamorous history of the brand Tom Ford. It also details the man behind it all, and how his outlook has changed.

Designer Tom Ford's Gucci legacy, established in the 90s and early 00s, has been at the forefront of our minds as of late. Earlier this year, the brand's creative director Alessandro Michele's rehashed Ford's A/W 96 red velvet suit as part of the Aria collection, which remixed the house's most iconic sartorial codes. During his legendary tenure, Ford released campaigns featuring double G's shaved into pubic hair and collections which showed that sex really does sell. This period, alongside his work at Yves Saint Laurent, went down in fashion history and was detailed by the designer in his debut book in 2004. Now, he's ready to let go of the past with a second volume; an ode to the global success of his eponymous label and filmmaking career.

I think that at this point, my work is more sensual than sexual.- Tom Ford
Tom Ford A/W 14 womenswear campaign, photograph Johnny Dufort

The hefty coffee table book, published by Rizzoli, charts Ford's work across fashion and film since he painfully parted ways with the Kering-owned brands. After a brief hiatus, he returned to fashion with his business partner Domenico De Sole to launch Tom Ford menswear in 2007, then womenswear three years later. The global powerhouse now also offers eyeglass frames, make-up and 37 sell-out fragrances. 'His name is short and works perfectly on storefronts, labels, book covers, and fragrance bottles', writes journalist Graydon Carton in the introduction. Alongside his work in fashion, Ford directed the Academy Award-nominated films A Single Man (2009) and Nocturnal Animals (2016).

Tom Ford's first womenswear show for S/S 11 featured looks designed according to the personalities of the female powerhouses who make up his celebrity clientele, including Beyoncé, Julianne Moore, Daphne Guinness and Karen Elson. Ford doesn't see the collection as his finest moment, however, neither S/S 12 which he terms a 'disaster'. Fast forward to S/S 16 and Nick Knight's film of Lady Gaga disco-dancing in place of a runway show, and it's clear that brand Tom Ford found its feet. It's a regular occurrence on red carpet best dressed lists - although the designer is adamant he's never paid anyone to wear his clothes.

The 44 glossy A3 pages which make up Tom Ford 002 reveal the high-octane campaigns which have defined Ford's approach to fashion, together with a notable change in outlook. Nick Knight, Steven Meisel, Inez & Vinoodh and many more image-makers feature, but there's no more pubic hair artwork. 'There is nothing in the past that I'm sorry that I did...Yes, I probably wouldn't put a perfume bottle between a woman's breasts in an ad now. The broader cultural attitude has changed', Ford says in the book. He goes on: 'I think that at this point, my work is more sensual than sexual.'

Ford no longer uses fur - once a favourite of his - nor fake fur as it doesn't biodegrade. Last year, the brand created a watch from ocean plastic, and the designer reveals that creating a better world for his son is key to evolving his label. He also admits to Bridget Foley in the book that when he became chairman of the CFDA in 2019, he expected to do little more than perhaps make a speech once or twice a year. Then the pandemic hit and Ford found a new calling in promoting the role of the American designer as more than just makers of athletic wear. In 2020, he spearheaded the 'A Common Thread' initiative with Vogue to support American designers, set up a black advisory born and made the board of directors more diverse. Ford vehemently believes in the designers who define today's American fashion landscape; he himself was an American in Paris (and Milan), who changed the face of European fashion. The first acquisitions of Kering, today's luxury fashion ringmaster along with fellow conglomerate LVMH, were made by Ford. These include Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta.

'Tom Ford Black Orchid', 2016, Nick Knight

Marking his 60th birthday and 15 years of the Tom Ford label, the book took on a tragically poignant status following the sudden passing of his partner Richard in September. Tom Ford 002 reveals a more intimate side to the designer beyond the billboard campaign persona, where he often smoulders wearing tinted burnt orange aviators with his white shirt unbuttoned.

Ford's lasting impact on fashion today is undeniable, but what the designer's next chapter holds will undoubtedly be no less spectacular.

You can buy Tom Ford 002, published by Rizzoli, here.


Fashion Film

Fashion Film: Tom Ford S/S 16

02 October 2015
Lady Gaga, a Soul Train dance-off and Tom Ford's S/S 16 collection come together in a fashion film by Nick Knight.

Nick Knight Shoots Tom Ford Black Orchid Parfum Campaign

26 August 2020
The photographer reprises his work with the Texan designer on the 2020 imagery for the new edition of the hit perfume.

Tom Ford Redefines Eco-Luxury With New Watch Made From Ocean Plastic

19 November 2020
The Tom Ford Ocean Plastic Timepiece launches today as the first luxury watch to be made entirely from ocean plastic.
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