GQ&A

BIL­LION-DOL­LAR FASH­ION DE­SIGNER, AWARD-WIN­NING FILM DI­REC­TOR, GAY FA­THER, RE­COV­ER­ING AD­DICT, OB­SES­SIVE PER­FEC­TION­IST AND DEPRESSIVE INSOMNIAC. YES, MR FORD IS ALL OF THESE AND MUCH MORE. NOW, THE COM­PLI­CATED POLY­MATH SETS THE WORLD TO RIGHTS.

GQ (Australia) - - INSIDE GQ -

Tom Ford has ex­celled in ev­ery­thing he’s touched. But it hasn’t al­ways been smooth sail­ing for the film and fash­ion mas­ter.

When the fash­ion de­signer Tom Ford sud­denly an­nounced that he was go­ing to have a crack at mak­ing movies on the side, Hol­ly­wood laughed at the ap­par­ently ar­ro­gant au­dac­ity, rub­bing its hands in ex­pec­ta­tion of a flop, ru­inous to both his fi­nances and rep­u­ta­tion. But the sur­pris­ing re­sult, 2009’s A Sin­gle Man, was a crit­i­cally ac­claimed tour de force that earned lead Colin Firth an Os­car nom­i­na­tion and its writer/ di­rec­tor uni­ver­sal re­spect. Now Ford, 55, is re­turn­ing to screens with Noc­tur­nal An­i­mals, a keenly an­tic­i­pated thriller which, ever the con­trol freak, he once again wrote, pro­duced, di­rected and fi­nanced. And, once again, it’s gen­er­at­ing early awards buzz for leads Jake Gyl­len­haal and Amy Adams – per­haps even Ford too. The de­signer cer­tainly hasn’t given up the day job, though – man­ag­ing to find the time, en­ergy and nec­es­sary headspace to make movies while si­mul­ta­ne­ously cre­at­ing clothes, ac­ces­sories and cos­met­ics that, col­lec­tively, make a lot of money. His brand, founded 10 years ago, is one of the world’s most suc­cess­ful, a “mass lux­ury” em­pire with an an­nual turnover of more than a bil­lion dol­lars, with Ford’s per­sonal wealth es­ti­mated to be any­where be­tween $260m and $400m. But the pro­fes­sional suc­cess has not come with­out per­sonal cost. Ford, now tee­to­tal, spent his thir­ties and for­ties as a “highly func­tion­ing al­co­holic” and has had his bat­tles with drugs, de­pres­sion and in­som­nia. He still only man­ages to get about three or four hours sleep a night, de­scrib­ing his com­pul­sive per­fec­tion­ism as “al­most a men­tal ill­ness”. Ford says that fa­ther­hood in his fifties has changed him. He and his part­ner of 30 years, Richard Buck­ley, 68, have a three-year-old son, Jack, born through IVF and a sur­ro­gate. GQ has met Mr Ford a num­ber of times over the past 10 years, but when we last spoke, a year back, he seemed very much in the ‘baby bub­ble’: claim­ing to have hardly worked out in two years; ad­mit­ting that his once-im­mac­u­late home was strewn with plas­tic toys, and, as the few flecks of grey in his beard be­trayed, he’d even di­alled down his fa­mously fas­tid­i­ous groom­ing rou­tine. To­day, 12 months on, and Ford’s back – back with a new movie, back in shape and back with his per­fectly man­scaped game face in order to pro­mote it. Be­cause, af­ter all, Tom Ford is the best ad­vert for Tom Ford. GQ: Did you have any ‘sopho­more-al­bum’ nerves about Noc­tur­nal An­i­mals? Tom Ford: The day you start to not feel ner­vous about things, and com­pletely sure about your­self, is the day it all starts to fall apart and you fail. You have to ques­tion ev­ery­thing. GQ: Was there more pres­sure this time, fol­low­ing the suc­cess of A Sin­gle Man? TF: It’s dif­fer­ent pres­sure. There was a lot of pres­sure with A Sin­gle Man be­cause a lot of peo­ple didn’t think I had any clue about what I was do­ing. [And] I didn’t re­alise un­til af­ter, when jour­nal­ists started ask­ing me: ‘How did it feel to know that ev­ery­one was laugh­ing at you when you wanted to make a film?’ That was a rev­e­la­tion. ‘What do you mean peo­ple were laugh­ing at me?’ I had peo­ple say, ‘Oh yeah, no one be­lieved you could do this. Peo­ple in Los An­ge­les thought it was a joke.’ There was a cer­tain amount to prove with A Sin­gle Man. Now, there’s a dif­fer­ent sort of pres­sure, you know. ‘Was it a fluke? Can he make a sec­ond one? Will it be as good?’ GQ: How is it that you can switch from fash­ion to film? Is it ex­er­cis­ing the same cre­ative mus­cle for you, or are they two very dif­fer­ent things? TF: Peo­ple ask, ‘How did you know how to do this?’ But it’s the ex­act same process. Whether cre­at­ing a col­lec­tion or di­rect­ing a film, you have to have a vi­sion, you have to have some­thing to say, a point of view. Then you have to hire in­cred­i­bly tal­ented peo­ple around you to help ful­fil your vi­sion. Then you have to in­spire those peo­ple, cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment and a place where they can per­form, where they can be cre­ative. At the same time, with­out de-mo­ti­vat­ing them, you have to di­rect and guide them, and get them to ful­fil your vi­sion, while mak­ing them feel good about what they’re do­ing, let­ting them con­trib­ute. Then, you edit. You take all of what you have and pull it back into your orig­i­nal con­cept. GQ: How do you get the best out of those you em­ploy?

TF: It’s about work­ing with peo­ple. You have to be a psy­chol­o­gist. I have to be that with de­sign as­sis­tants who work for me, or with fab­ric mills. You can’t in­sult peo­ple and ex­pect to get some­thing cre­ative out of them. You have to find pos­i­tive ways to say, ‘Well, OK, this isn’t re­ally what I wanted, but why don’t we try to do it this way be­cause – wow! – you’re so good when you do this...’ GQ: Tech­ni­cally, though, are film and fash­ion re­moved? TF: Ob­vi­ously, there are tech­ni­cal dif­fer­ences but, in

fash­ion, I’ve spent a lot of time on sets with pho­tog­ra­phers. I un­der­stand light­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy and telling the story through cloth­ing, pho­to­graphs, im­ages... For me, they’re sim­i­lar in a lot of ways. GQ: And what is it you’re try­ing to say with this movie?

TF: I’m old-fash­ioned and be­lieve that there should be a moral to the story – you should take some­thing away from the movie the­atre. The cen­tral theme of this story is, ‘Don’t throw peo­ple away.’ When you find great peo­ple in your life, when you find your soul mate, when you find peo­ple that mean some­thing to you, hold on to them... The whole thing is kind of set against the back­drop of our ridicu­lous throw­away cul­ture where, you know, if life gets tough, ‘Oh, di­vorce your wife, get rid of her, get some­body new’, or, ‘Quit your job, fire that per­son, get rid of them, move on...’ GQ: And you value loy­alty, you have a soul mate...

TF: I’ve been with Richard for 30 years. I have peo­ple work­ing in my de­sign stu­dio who have worked for me for 25... I’m re­ally, re­ally, re­ally loyal. I think most peo­ple in life don’t need more than four or five re­ally close friends. Even two or three can be pretty great. I might be a very lucky per­son and have 10. When Richard and I got mar­ried, we had eight peo­ple [at the cer­e­mony] – no fam­ily mem­bers, just eight peo­ple. They were all peo­ple that we re­ally, truly love. GQ: What kind of boss and di­rec­tor would you say you are?

TF: Well, I hope peo­ple would say that I’m kind. I don’t think I blow up and scream at peo­ple. I’m very de­mand­ing, but I don’t ex­pect any­thing from any­one I wouldn’t do my­self. By the way, I don’t mind pick­ing up a vac­uum and hoover­ing the car­pet if I have to. If it’s dirty and, you know, it’s right there and I have five min­utes, I can just do that... I guess what I’m say­ing is that I ex­pect a lot

from peo­ple, but it isn’t any more than I would ex­pect from my­self. I’m also very di­rect – I know, in­stantly, if I like it, or I hate it, or I don’t like it, or I love it. I’m very strong and opin­ion­ated but, I hope, fair. GQ: How is it that you’re able to do so many dif­fer­ent things – where do you find the time? TF: Sched­ul­ing – I’m crazy about it. A lot of peo­ple might not like to live that way. I do. It’s the only way I can func­tion. I’m ter­ri­ble with sur­prises, I hate sur­prises. I’m not gen­er­ally spon­ta­neous. That might be a neg­a­tive for a lot of peo­ple. I’m some­body who likes rit­ual and regime and rou­tine. I have to have it down on my sched­ule. I plan ev­ery­thing. The two times I’ve made a film, I’ve planned a year and a half in ad­vance so that I had those three months to shoot ab­so­lutely free. I plan ev­ery­thing. GQ: What keeps you awake?

TF: I have a real sleep­ing prob­lem, but when I’m re­laxed and away from the of­fice, I tend to be able to sleep very well with no sleep­ing pills. It’s, I guess, just my mind rac­ing – if I wake up in the mid­dle of the night for any rea­son, my mind im­me­di­ately starts to think, ‘I need to do this, I need to do that. Did I do that?’ Once it goes, that’s it, it’s over – I might as well get up and make my­self some cof­fee, be­cause I can’t shut it off. It’s not a par­tic­u­lar thing, it’s more just a pat­tern of the way my brain works. GQ: How do you switch off when you need to?

TF: Well, I play a lot of ten­nis – most morn­ings, four or five times a week. I think when you’re do­ing some­thing like the sports I’ve al­ways grav­i­tated to – ten­nis, ski­ing or horse rid­ing – they’re all the same in that you can’t think. Maybe most sports are this way? You can’t think about any­thing but that ball com­ing at you; or, when you’re on a horse, you know, you have to be very aware of ev­ery­thing or the horse will throw you off. You have to be very present.

It’s the same with ski­ing... All your wor­ries, all your cares, ev­ery­thing goes away. It’s highly med­i­ta­tive for me, those kinds of sports. Also, I lie in a hot bath. GQ: Do you still take five a day?

TF: Now that I have Jack, I don’t take five, but I cer­tainly take three. I couldn’t func­tion in the morn­ing un­less I could lie in a bath­tub of hot wa­ter, drink a cup of cof­fee and wake up. That for me is in­cred­i­bly med­i­ta­tive; it’s where I or­gan­ise my thoughts and my brain is able to then switch into a higher gear and get through the day. GQ: That’s the morn­ing rit­ual?

TF: Oh that’s def­i­nitely the morn­ing rit­ual. I get up re­ally early, some­times at 4:30 or 5am, so I can do that and have plenty of time to my­self be­fore any­one else in the house wakes up. I of­ten go down to the gym and work out and then come back and get dressed. Then I’m ready to get Jack dressed at 7:30. GQ: What’s your groom­ing reg­i­men like these days?

TF: I don’t know whether it’s Jack or whether it’s just get­ting older, but I’ve re­laxed on that. But right now, I’m highly groomed be­cause I’m about to go into a spot­light of in­ter­views, pho­to­graphs, photo calls, press [for Noc­tur­nal An­i­mals] and so I’ve had to kind of pull my­self to­gether. The beard’s in good shape – it’s per­fectly man­i­cured, just the right shade of brown. It’s per­fect, just a lit­tle bit of grey in there. GQ: Any guilty plea­sures?

TF: Oh God. Oooh, mas­tur­bat­ing to porn? I don’t know. My guilti­est plea­sure... I sup­pose that sounds like I should be eat­ing Mag­num ice creams. I’m not eat­ing those at the mo­ment – I’m be­ing very good. I don’t have a guilty plea­sure other than in­ter­net porn. I think that might be it. GQ: Are you happy in life?

TF: Yeah, I am happy. [But] what is ‘happy’, any­way? I think that my films are a lit­tle bit about this. I think that our cul­ture, for maybe the first time in his­tory, in the last hun­dred years or so, through the com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of things and through try­ing to sell peo­ple prod­ucts – we set a kind of ar­ti­fi­cial goal of hap­pi­ness. What is ‘happy’? All of us, ev­ery day, go through happy mo­ments, sad mo­ments, frus­trat­ing mo­ments. In our lives, we have happy pe­ri­ods and then we have very sad pe­ri­ods. All those things are part of life and this idea that there’s a ‘happy life’ isn’t re­al­is­tic. It isn’t ac­tu­ally the course of life, and yet our en­tire cul­ture is built around, ‘Whoo, we can be happy!’ Can you re­ally just be happy? I don’t think so. Yes, I’m happy, but what does that mean? Yes, as happy as a per­son can be. I also ex­pect that maybe later to­day I’ll be sad or up­set or de­pressed or an­gry or ir­ri­tated. It’s nor­mal. GQ: You’ve strug­gled with de­pres­sion in the past – it’s ob­vi­ously some­thing that you still need to mon­i­tor. TF: Of course. That’s the kind of thing you’re born with and I think it’s with you for­ever. GQ: What are the warn­ing signs and how do you man­age it?

TF: Hon­estly, the dark side creeps in when I don’t have enough to do – when I have free time to kind of ponder and think. When I’m work­ing, or I’m busy build­ing some­thing or cre­at­ing some­thing or do­ing some­thing, that sub­sides. GQ: How are you find­ing fa­ther­hood these days?

TF: You find new things ev­ery day be­cause [your child] finds new things ev­ery day. As they de­velop and evolve, you do as well. You just can’t be­lieve that you could love your child any more, but of course, ev­ery day and ev­ery month, you love them even more. You can’t be­lieve how much you love them.

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