Born: Austin, Texas, 27 August 1961. Education: Studied at New York University, Parsons School of Design both in New York and Paris. Career: Started working on the creative staff of Cathy Hardwick, 1986; joined Chloé for a brief period, then Perry Ellis as a design director, 1988; went to Gucci, 1990; named creative director, 1994; resigned with Gucci for five years, 1998; Gucci buys Yves Saint Laurent, 1999; named creative director, Yves Saint Laurent Couture and Yves St. Laurent perfumes, 2000; wowed critics with second YSL collection, 2001. Awards: VH-1 Fashion and Music Awards, Future Best New Designer, 1995; Council of Fashion Designers of America, International Designer of the Year, 1996; International Designer of the Year, Fashion Editors Club Japan, 1996; VH-1 Fashion and Music Awards, Menswear and Womenswear Designer of the Year, 1996; People magazine, among Most Beautiful People, 1997; VH-1 Fashion and Music Awards Womenswear Designer of the Year, 1999; VH-1 Fashion and Music Awards Elle Style Icon award, 1999; Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), Designer of the Year award, 2000; nominated, CFDA Womenswear
Forden, Sara Gay, The House of Gucci, New York, 2000.
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Tom Ford has earned a reputation for his strong, sexy designs. "Sex is something I think about all the time," he commented to Los Angeles Magazine. "Is that sexy? Is she sexy? Sex is not a new thing but everything comes down to interaction with other people." Since 1995, his clothes and accessories have been on the pretentious fashion wave; his sensuous styles are in demand around the world.
As an American designer who works and designs for the Gucci empire in Europe, Ford visualizes the moment of fashion over and over again. Each time he is more successful than the last. He sleeps for only four or five hours a night and turns out two collections per season, Gucci and YSL. Very few people can keep up with his frantic pace and maintain a fashion following, yet Ford won't be nailed down to one look or one couture house. He has the vision to change just as moment changes and is one of the few designers who understands the ambiguous mind of the consumer. With each passing collection, Ford seems to grow and understand not only the fashion industry but the fashion consumer who embraces his fashions.
Ford moved to New York when he was a teenager. He started his postsecondary education at New York University studying art history, later he studied architecture at Parsons School of Design in New York and then completed his studies at the Parsons School of Design in Paris. He began his career as part of the creative staff with designer Cathy Hardwick in 1986. Two years later, he moved to Perry Ellis, then in 1990 joined the Gucci Group N.V. as a womenswear designer in Milan. Gucci originally wanted to fire him because he was too trendy; two years passed and Ford was promoted to design director. His foresight into fashion trends helped him become the creative director of Gucci in 1994.
Ford became responsible for the design of all Gucci product lines, from clothing to fragrance, advertising campaigns, store design, and the Group's corporate image. At the time Gucci was a struggling brand as a result of family disputes, yet Ford built Gucci into a megabrand producing and distributing high-quality goods throughout the world in company-owned stores, franchises, boutiques, department stores, and specialty stores. In the early 2000s, there were approximately 180 Gucci stores worldwide.
Gucci acquired Yves Saint Laurent and Sergio Rossi at the beginning of 2000. As if being design director wasn't enough, Ford took on the role of creative director of Yves Saint Laurent Couture. He works with the overall image of YSL, helping to position the brand in the marketplace. As a designer, he has set a certain standard for modern style and is beloved by the press, who dubbed him the "King of Cool." In his 1999 collection, Ford used Las Vegas and Cher as sources of inspiration for his clothes. In a 1999 article in Los Angeles magazine,
Ford has been viewed by some in the fashion industry as too commercial. His reply is "Commercial is a compliment. It means people will buy it." He was further quoted in a July 2001 Time magazine profile as saying, "I'm always perplexed by people wanting to divide this into business and fashion. My job is to create something amazing that sells; I don't think you can divorce the two." Ford is a designer with vision of what people want and what they will buy. He is truly one of the most exciting and successful designers of the last decade, dressing such famous people as Sting, Tom Hanks, and Jennifer Lopez. He designs for urban men and women, and in his Gucci runway show for fall 2001, he was one of the few designers who sent models out wearing clothes most clients would actually wear—like cargo pants and olive-colored suits. As he told Time, for him, "Fashion doesn't stop at clothes; fashion is everything—art, music, furniture design, graphic design, hair, makeup, architecture, the way cars look—all those things go together to make a moment in time, and that's what excites me."