Tom Ford quotes

Tom Ford. Photo by Nicolas Genin.

Photo by Nicolas Genin.

Tom Ford quotes on Fashion, Beauty and Style. Ford (1961- ) is an American fashion designer, formerly a creative director of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, and now with his own, eponymous label.

Ford helped rescue Gucci from near-bankruptcy in the 1990s, and pushed boundaries with his ad campaigns for different fragrances. Ford has also directed one film, A Single Man, based on the Christopher Isherwood book of the same name.

Ford is openly gay, though it isn't a defining aspect of his identity. His partner, Richard Buckley, is a journalist. They have been together for 23 years.

Art

True artists––and I do think there are some fashion-designer artists––create because they can't do anything but create.

Both film and fashion are businesses where the audience doesn't feel or see the work that goes on behind the scenes.

Beauty

It's funny, our beauty standard has become harder and tougher because we live in a tough age. I don't think anyone wants to walk down the street and feel vulnerable. You want to walk down the street and feel like you're in control.

To me, beauty and sadness are very closely linked. Truly beautiful things make me sad because I know they are going to fade. When I see a beautiful 20-year-old boy or girl––and they are breathtaking––I am filled with a kind of sadness. But maybe they are beautiful because we know they are not permanent and they are in a kind of transition.

I don’t understand why our culture both worships and objectifies beauty, and then slams those of us who participate in it. Because I make that detachment, I’m capable of objectifying a beautiful woman, but that doesn’t demean her in any way. She’s beautiful because she’s a creature who exists physically, in the physical world, who happens to be in a moment of prime.

It wasn’t his beautiful blue eyes and his silvery hair and his slender handsomeness. It was something that reached out to me through his false self––his true self connecting with my true self––and it was instant.
––on falling in love with long-time partner Richard Buckley

Great – now we all look even more beautiful.
––after asking for the lights to be turned down at a taco eatery in London

Fashion

Tom Ford Grey Vetiver

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.

As a fashion designer, I was always aware that I was not an artist, because I was creating something that was made to be sold, marketed, used, and ultimately discarded.

People always ask me how I start a collection, and I tell them that I just look around. What am I tired of? What am I in the mood for? Real fashion change comes from real changes in real life. Everything else is just decoration.

I’ve done 16 collections a year and eight runway shows a year, where you constantly have to reinvent the wheel: the new shoe, the new bag, the new thing, and it’s so disposable. [Menswear] is a different business, it’s a slower business, it’s less about fashion and more about quality, so I can have silver hair and still be doing what I’m doing and have it all make sense.

Both film and fashion are businesses where the audience doesn't feel or see the work that goes on behind the scenes.

The fashion world thrives on irony and bitchiness and meanness. This attack [9/11] is making people sincere. I'm not sure that will be good for fashion.

What I did as a fashion designer for both Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent was to create a character and then costume that character throughout her life.

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.

We shot it [an eyewear ad] with porn stars. Two men and two women. And we paid for them to have sex on set. You don't see it in the shot, but you feel it.

The Gucci woman––you know what she's after. The Saint Laurent woman––she's going to torture you a little bit. You might have sex, but she will drip a little hot wax on you first.

Being at Yves Saint Laurent was such a negative experience for me even though the business boomed while I was there. Yves and his partner, Pierre Bergé, were so difficult and so evil and made my life such misery. I've never talked about this on the record before, but it was an awful time for me...I have letters from Yves Saint Laurent that are so mean you cannot even believe such vitriol is possible. I just think he was jealous, and Yves and I were friends before I took over the company. But then when we began to move the company forward and were very successful...he just became so insanely jealous...Pierre and Yves were just evil. So Yves Saint Laurent doesn't exist for me.
––From an interview in the Advocate, November/December 2009.

I couldn't have cared less about Gucci when I first went there––but soon after I arrived, I cared a lot.

Fashion is much more collaborative than one might think. You have to have an idea and vision and you have to communicate that vision to a team of people and you have to create an environment that allows those people to give the best that they can give.

[Gucci] was almost bankrupt and as a result I just had this moment to create exactly what I wanted, like starting from scratch. It was in my contract that I wasn't allowed to step out onto the runway at the end of a show but nobody was watching me––so we put on this show that I was really proud of and at the end I stepped out. And it was a big success.

Life

I can totally imagine the world without me; I’m so unimportant.

I'm not so sure I’m glad I was born.

From the time we're born until we die, we're kept busy with artificial stuff that isn't important.

But the more information you have, the more comfortable you are with the broad range of human experience, the more you start to see the human side of things.

When I was asked as a child what I wanted to be, I’d say, "I want to be rich, I want to be famous, I want to live in the big city, I want to have a fabulous life." All I’ve done my entire life is fulfill my destiny.

I’m a very serious person. Fun isn’t a word I think about so much.

I’m very silly. I like to just have fun and be silly and say pretty much whatever comes into my mind, do pretty much whatever I want.

I have a very dark side, a side that has struggled a lot with depression, and I've never been one who showed that to the outside world. I think when you say to someone, "Good morning. How are you?" they should say, "Great, terrific," because everyone struggles in life. The Yves Saint Laurent thing used to drive me nuts--his depressions, his alcoholism, his whatever. Most people have a lot of problems. You can define yourself by them, or you can realize that everyone is going through what you're going through and you make the best of it and you get on with your life and you don't necessarily inflict that, because others probably have that too. They're just not inflicting it on you.

All of a sudden I realized that 40 years had gone by and I had everything that I ever wanted, and yet I wasn’t completely, deeply inside, happy or satisfied. It was like, Is that all there is? I had success early, and I had someone I loved already in my life, and dogs and family and houses and things, and yet I felt a little empty and I’ve just recently come out of that. It’s a process. There’s a great quote comparing midlife to reaching the top of the ladder only to realize that you’ve had it against the wrong wall. It wasn’t so much about changing my outer life; it was a question of changing my inner life and living in the present.
––on his mid-life crisis

Love

People occasionally will say to me, even good friends, "your lifestyle." I’m like, "what is that, my lifestyle?" I live with someone I love...we read books, we cook dinner together, we occasionally argue. We go on vacation together. We have been together for 23 years. That is my lifestyle.

Longtime partner, a boyfriend, lover, there is not a good word for that, we need to figure that out in our culture. Lover makes it sound like all you do is have sex....we have to figure out boyfriend, girlfriend, when the girl is 40 years old.

Once upon a time we did not focus on a president's private life.

If sluttiness is what you like, what’s wrong with that? Why do we think being a slut’s bad? Sluttiness is just a lot of freedom.

I love being an American, but it’s sick that if I died tomorrow, 50% of my property would go to the government and the leftovers would go to Richard, whereas if we were a heterosexual couple, that wouldn’t happen.

Money and Materialism

As an adult working in the fashion industry, I struggle with materialism. And I'm one of the least materialistic people that exist, because material possessions don't mean much to me. They're beautiful, I enjoy them, they can enhance your life to a certain degree, but they're ultimately not important.

Most people don’t actually know me. They know the projection of me that I use to sell things.

Politics

Once upon a time we did not focus on a president's private life.

We have the Terminator as governor, and we had an actor as president, so why shouldn't we have a fashion designer as a senator?

Sex

Tom Ford's lipstick ad.

There’s one indulgence every man should try in his lifetime: If you’re straight, sleep with a man at least once, and if you’re gay, don’t go through life without sleeping with a woman. Either way, you might be surprised at how natural it will feel if you can get past the mind-fuck of stereotypes. In the end, it’s just another person that you are relating to in a physical way.

I think that monogamy is artificial. I do not think it’s something that comes naturally to us...The relationship I’ve been in for 18 years––I don’t even want to get into this because he’s going to read this and I’m going to be in so much shit!

In our culture, we use female nudity to sell everything. We're very comfortable objectifying women. Women go out and they are basically wearing nothing...You have to be really physically perfect, as a woman, in our culture to be considered beautiful. But full frontal male nudity challenges us. It makes men nervous. It makes women nervous.

What's wrong with sluts? If sluttiness is what you like, what's wrong with that? Why do we think being a slut's bad? Sluttiness is just a lot of freedom.

My career in fashion has been very much about sexuality and sex, and I think a lot of people think that’s all I can do and what I am all about.

I like everybody with a touch of dirty. I mean, I'm not saying I want to go between someone's legs and find flies buzzing around there...It should be clean. But we've gotten silly about this.

I don’t think of myself as gay. That doesn’t mean that I’m not gay. I just don’t define myself by my sexuality.

I think I developed a taste for vodka and cigarettes because my first kiss with a guy was with Ian, and he tasted like vodka and cigarettes back then.

Sex is just second nature with me. It's not like an obsession or anything.

Style

I am not a person who is about reality. I am about enhanced reality.

When you come down to it, style without substance isn’t worth anything. I didn’t want to make a stylish film that wasn’t about anything. The substance was what was important to me, and the style was a part of telling that story––nothing more, nothing less.
––on his film, A Single Man

Anything she isn’t comfortable in.
––responding to the question "Is there anything a woman shouldn't wear?"

Just look at the Paris Hilton phenomenon and the way every other teenager looks like a prostitute. We’re still trading on that whole flash thing, and for me the Paris Hilton thing is almost an evolution too far of that.

The Gucci woman––you know what she's after. The Saint Laurent woman––she's going to torture you a little bit. You might have sex, but she will drip a little hot wax on you first.

There is no more dramatic accessory than a perfect lip. It is the focus of the face and it has the power to define a woman's whole look.

At home, off-duty, I wear T-shirts from Fruit of the Loom – but I have them tailored.

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Tom Ford & Julianne Moore photo by Nicolas Genin, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike license.

Tom Ford quotes are part of our Quotes feature.

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