The story of Tom Ford the brand revolves around the story of Tom Ford the person.
Raised in Austin, Texas, Ford trained as an architect, hobnobbed with artists, attempted acting and sowed the seeds of later directorial success before even considering fashion design – a background that both signposted and helps explain such wide-ranging success and polymathic expertise later in his life.
Ford’s first foothold in the fashion industry also foreshadowed the insatiable ambition that now drives his brand. After her assistant had withstood Ford’s audacious daily phone calls for an entire month, renown sportswear designer Cathy Hardwick invited him to her office (he arrived in two minutes; he had been calling from the lobby) with every intention of “giving him no hope at all.”
Fast-forward a few years, and Ford had become Gucci Group’s Creative Director and, later, Vice Chairman. And that’s not all: his tenure - calling stylistically upon his bold Texan roots and strategically on sexually brazen photoshoots (in which he has famously starred) - transformed the group from a financial liability into a rapidly acquisitioning $4 billion megapower.
By the time Ford left Gucci in 2003, his award cabinet was in fact a vault exhibiting such prestigious accolades as GQ Designer of the Year. And despite his dismay at the exit, he found himself amply equipped to build on his approach at Gucci in launching his own company. Not, however, before directing a multi-award-winning film, A Single Man, starring Colin Firth. As you do.
Following the publication of the Tom Ford manifesto – a move marking the realisation that his personal brand was essential to commercial success, if unrepresentative of his “natural shyness” – Ford unveiled his eponymous brand in 2005.
Since the Beyoncé-headlined opening of a flagship store on Madison Avenue, New York, in 2007, the number of signature, franchise and partner stores selling Tom Ford has burgeoned to over 100. Valuation now exceeds $1 billion; eyewear sales 1 million.
Tom Ford’s production process, centred on Italian hand-production, is managed by luxury-designer specialists Marcolin, freeing the company to focus primarily on in-house design. Beyond the iconic ‘T’ eyewear logo, the inspiration for this design process is Ford’s heroes, most notably Cary Grant (“Would Cary Grant wear this?” goes the acid test).
Ford characterises his designs, both pioneering and classical, as chasing “a tremendous sense of mood and attitude” – an ambition that explains Ford’s hope that all consumers can interpret his products personally in expressing “the best version of themselves.” This vision also democratises the unapologetic confidence of the Tom Ford brand in its pursuit of “luxurious exclusivity.”
And what better exemplars of this contemporary imploration – beating off competition from the likes of Kanye West, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie - than generation-conquering independent lady Beyoncé, who rocks the Carrie, and latest Bond incarnation and hunk-extraordinaire Daniel Craig, who wore the FT108 whilst filming The Quantum of Solace and the Marko FT0144 during Skyfall?
One answer is Tom Ford himself. Ambitious, cosmopolitan, achingly handsome and inherently progressive in his marriage to long-time partner Richard Buckley, Ford himself embodies the contemporary essence of his brand. And whilst we can't all aspire to such quintessence, a pair of his glasses might just be a start.