Friday, 15 June 2012

When Lou Lou met Tom Ford (sort of!)

As Thursday afternoons go, I can think of a lot worse ways to spend an hour than listening to Tom Ford discussing his career in the fashion industry; his proudest moments and his attitude to life. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Grazia 'Meet the Designer' session at the 'Apple' store on Regent Street. Fashion geek that I am, I was like a child at Christmas the night before, looking forward to hearing what Tom, who has been described as "the very definition of sophistication and glamour", had to say. Apparently I am not the only one interested in what Tom has to say, as Paula Reed revealed that he is the most Googled fashion designer alive, with 91.1m results.

Over 150 people were there to hear Tom in conversation with Paula Reed, Style Director of 'Grazia' magazine. And we definitely weren't disappointed. After Paula introduced Tom, there was a short film showing the world of Tom Ford. And my what a stylish world it is!

On being a fashion legend
"No, not at all. My feet are really kept on the ground by Richard Buckley (Tom's partner of 25 years)....People who feel compelled to achieve, never really think they have achieved. I think that once you feel that you have achieved everything, then you stop thinking and moving, and that is when you really stop achieving."

On starting his training as an architect
"To me, architecture is about building and constructing. It is the same in fashion. A shoe is a piece of architecture, that stands on its own. It has a vocabulary that it has to relate to, and the proportions must be right. When I am designing, I constantly ask myself, "why?"; "who needs it?", "where am I going with this?" It is a combination of both intuition and something cerebral."

On doubting himself
"In fashion you need to doubt yourself right up to the last minute, the night before the show. You constantly have to question yourself."

On arriving in New York
"I arrived in New York wearing an Armani jacket, Calvin Klein jeans and cowboy boots. I had been reading GQ 1977 and that was the look. My jeans were a bit tight. That probably helped my career, that they were too tight!"

On being successful in fashion - What is more important? Talent or hard work?
"Definitely hard work. Talent isn't enough. There are many designers who have much greater talent as a designer than I do, but they may not have my drive, they may not work as hard, they may not have the focus, the desire."

On his proudest moment
"31st December 2011 - My 25th anniversary with Richard Buckley. Professionally, it was the screening of 'A Single Man' at the Venice Film Festival, when the audience all stood and applauded for 10 minutes when the film finished."

On 'A Single Man'
"Style without substance is useless.....The message of the film for me was that you must live every day to its fullest."

On his future plans
"I have an original screenplay ready. But I am currently working on a little thing called womenswear... and eyewear, and fragrance, and menswear." [At this point Paula Reed commented that Tom is the only man she knows who "multitasks like a Mum"!]

"I used to have a 5 year and 10 year plan. Now I have a daily be happy."

On London as a fashion capital
"London fosters young talent. I am not sure why it doesn't make money from the talent. The industry can't support it. Here, eccentricity is admired. Americans are afraid of style. Too much style is seen as a bad thing."

On being called "the King Canute against the tide of casualwear" by Paula Reed
"I enjoy the formality of wearing a suit. When you are in a public place, you inflict yourself on them. We have these beautifully designed buildings.....and then, all these people who look like hell! It is a show of respect to other people who have to look at you!"

On having moments of clarity
"Moments of clarity are very rare. They happen when I feel connected with the Universe and Nature eg. at my ranch in Santa Fe."

On what shaped him as a business person
"It is innate....a survival mechanism. Common sense is not that common!"

On being creative
"The most challenging part is creating on demand. If you are a creative person, creativity comes naturally to you, but it might come to you one month and then.....not for a few more months. Fashion is completely repetitive. I can tell you what I am doing on March 21st, 2013."

On designing menswear
"I had to turn inward to create my brand, e.g. I like big lapels. I think small lapels look sad. A brand is all about the personality and DNA of the designer, e.g. Miuccia Prada is the 'intelligent designer'; Donatella Versace is the 'sexy designer'. I am just starting my brand."

On being described as "eternally curious" by one of the members of the audience
"I am curious on demand. If I want to do something I am curious about it. It is important to have a vision and to create an environment to encourage people's creativity."

On disposable fashion
"My fashion is the opposite of disposable fashion. My pieces are designed to be worn by women for 25 years and then passed on to their children."

On the rumours of a H & M collaboration:
"I have never had a conversation with them. I am amused every time I read that."

This Q & A session was a real treat for me. It is not often that you get the chance to hear from one of the foremost names in the fashion industry. Tom was everything I expected: charming; interesting, witty and eloquent. Tom Ford: Style AND substance! 


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