TOM FORD: TEN INSTANTLY WITH DEREK BLASBERG

FROM THE VOLT (SPRING SUMMER 2011)

We can remember the romance between our man in New York Derek Blasberg and the fashion icon Tom Ford when it began, nearly a decade ago. Well we’re not exactly sure it can be classified as romance since Ford has only acknowledged Blasberg’s existence in the past few years, but still it’s a relationship with history. Our earliest memories include a teenage Blasberg nicking our show invites so he could sneak into Ford-era Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent shows.

Recently Blasberg has been seeing quite a lot of the king of sex. He was at his now-legendary show in New York when he returned to womenswear (with models such as Beyonce, Julianne Moore, Daphne Guinness and Rachel Feinstein), and this autumn he paid the designer a visit at his new London HQ. There they spoke of all manner of things including I Love Lucy, supermodels, straight porn, the state of sex today and making out with Terry Richardson. Here is a transcript of that conversation.

 

DEREK BLASBERG: SO LET’S TALK ABOUT THE EXTRAVAGANZA THAT WE WITNESSED IN NEW YORK.

TOM FORD: First of all, it’s very hard for me to talk about fashion. I hate when I sit down at a dinner party and someone starts talking to me about fashion. I just can’t stand it. Maybe most bankers like talking about banking, or maybe not, but since I do it all day long and since I feel that everything I have to say about fashion is in my clothes… I would rather sit and gossip for an hour than sit here and talk about fashion. But it’s a fashion magazine, so let’s talk about fashion.

 

DB: WELL, I’M NOT SO INTERESTED IN TALKING ABOUT THE TRENDS OF THE SEASON ARE, OR YOUR FAVORITE MATERIAL. WHAT HAPPENED IN NEW YORK TRANSCENDED A FASHION SHOW WAS – IT WAS A FASHION SPECTACLE!

TF: It was because I had fun! I had so much fun!

 

DB: HOW DID IT COME TO YOU? DID YOU PLAN IT FOR WEEKS AND WEEKS?

TF: I had told myself a long time ago there’s no way I’m going back to womenswear until have something new to say. Then, when I decided – when I could see what was going on in the fashion world, and I could see that a certain type of clothing and a certain type of woman wasn’t being addressed –I felt like the fun had gone out of fashion. It had gotten so businesslike and so serious, and of course it is a business and you have to make money. But the most important thing is joy. People used to get so excited about fashion. And being on the outside for a while, looking at it from the outside in, it just didn’t look fun to me. It looked like something had gotten off track. I had something new to say: the collection is quite traditional clothes, which was part of my message. Let’s get back to beautiful clothes that you don’t want to throw away every three seasons, and hopefully you’ll pull them out in 15 years and someone will ask what you’re wearing.

 

DB: I’M SURE THAT HAPPENS TO YOU ALL THE TIME.

TF: Yes, people always say to me, “I’m wearing you. From 2002, from that Gucci collection…”

 

DB: DO YOU REMEMBER EVERY COLLECTION? EVERY LOOK AND EVERY MODEL?

TF: Of course I remember [the garment and the collection]. I don’t really remember the models that wore it, and that’s one reason when I was thinking how I was going to show the collection, I said I can’t do another goddman show with a bunch of bland girls walking mindlessly into a bank of photographers. I just can’t get excited about that.

 

DB: OH, SO THAT’S WHY YOU SHOVED BEYONCE IN FRONT OF TERRY RICHARDSON.

TF: I thought, “How can I make this fun?” I have to say, and this may make it seem less glamorous, the whole came to me when I was sitting on a train from London to Paris with the fabulous Whitney [Bromberg Hawkings], who is our European Director of PR. All of a sudden it just popped in my head: “I’m going to do the Don Loper fashion show from I Love Lucy"…

DB: I LOVE LUCY? I DON’T REMEMBER A FASHION SHOW.

TF: It’s genius! Lucy and Ethel are in Los Angeles, and Don Loper was an LA fashion designer, and he had a couture salon. They want to go to the Don Loper fashion show, so they go to the store and every dress costs $500. Don Loper comes in – and of course the audience all claps, even though no one knows who Don Loper is today, although I do know he did exist. Lucy can’t afford this $500 little simple dress, but then Don Loper comes in and says [queue accent] “Oh, you’re Mrs. Ricki Ricardo, I’m doing this fashion show on all the wives of Hollywood stars and I would love for you to be in the show, and what you get for being in the show is a free outfit.” So she agrees to do the show, but she lays out by the pool all day long and she suntans too much and he gives her a tweed outfit and she can barely walk. During the show Don Loper comes up and introduces everyone: Mrs. Van Heflin is wearing a two-piece blah blah blah. And then everyone claps.

DB: EVERYONE WAS CLAPPING AT YOUR SHOW, EVEN IF YOU DIDN’T USE PRODUCER’S WIVES. HOW DID YOU WIDDLE DOWN YOUR LIST OF GIRLS?

TF: I chose those models because I knew them. I was one of the first people to give Liya a job, and the same with Carolyn Murphy. Amber opened the show with the belted hip huggers, which was my first hit. So I went back to try and get those models, and I took a handful of the contemporary girls working today… the girls that jump out at me on the pages of the fashion magazines. And then I thought, well, Lisa Eisner inspires me, so why don’t I just put her in the show.

 

DB: THE ACTRESSES AND PERSONALITIES IN THE SHOW: MARISA BERENSON, DAPHNE GUINNESS, JULIANNE MOORE, AND MORE MORE MORE. THEY WERE PERFECTION. DID YOU PICK THE GIRLS AND THEN DESIGN, OR DID YOU DESIGN THEM AND THEN FIT A GIRL?

 

TF: It was a combination of both. I had a rough idea [when I started the collection in the spring], and I made a board of all the women I know who inspire me, and then some that I don’t know who inspire me. Then I thought about those women while I was designing, but I didn’t call any of them until about July, when the collection was almost set, and I wanted to make sure that something was right for each woman – because you really can’t ask one of those women to do something like this and then say, “Gee, Never mind, but thanks.” I just wanted to have a good time with it. I wanted the clothes to just be beautiful, and I had to be careful not to make it too kitsch, because I also wanted some moments were people were like, “Whoa, that’s beautiful.”

 

DB: THAT MOMENT DEFINITELY HAPPENED. A FEW TIMES.

TF: It was so much fun. When I went to bed that night, I said to Richard I felt really great. It’s true: I felt terrific after the show. That was the first time ever in my life after a fashion show that I’m going to bed and not at all worried about the reviews. I don’t care. I liked it, and I felt good, and I didn’t care.

 

DB: TO ME, YOU PICKED UP RIGHT WHERE YOU LEFT OFF. I WAS AT YOUR LAST SHOW FOR YSL, AND IT WAS PHENEMONAL.

TF: At YSL I had already made a shift – I was already 40 at YSL – and I was moving to a different phase. I started dressing – and when I say mature I don’t mean old – women than I had dressed at Gucci when I was trendier and targeting a younger costumer. I think my last collection at YSL was one of my best, even though I was very miserable at YSL while I was doing it.

 

DB: YOU WERE MISERABLE BECAUSE YOU WERE LEAVING?

TF: I was miserable because I kind of willed my exit. [My relationship at Gucci Group] had run its course. I was designing 16 collections a year and shuttling back and forth between Paris and Milan and London. I was burning out. I was also Vice Chairman of Gucci Group, so I spent a lot of time in the Netherlands, I was in business meetings constantly and I was head of the acquisitions committee, which meant I was responsible for acquiring brands like Balenciaga and McQueen, and then overseeing these brands, and making sure they performed. And I was drinking and going out back then. I was burning the candle at every end possible, and I was getting bored.

 

DB: WILL YOU TRY AND DO A SHOW LIKE THIS ONE AGAIN NEXT YEAR?

TF: No. I’m determined to keep this fresh, and fun. And I think when you have fun with what you do it’s usually better and people respond to it more. I’m not doing a show next season, and I may not do a show for a while.

 

DB: YOUR TEAM WAS ON LOCK DOWN WITH THIS SHOW. NO PICTURES, NO ACCESS, NO NOTHING!

TF: My job is to serve the costumer. I don’t want to find myself designing for the press. I want to be designing for the costumer. The reason there were no pictures after is that I’m not sure [the websites who instantly stream the fashion shows] service the shopper. You design clothes, and they’re not in stores for 6 months. There’s no reason that – immediately, or 45 minutes later – people all over the world need to see your clothes, and then it can be knocked off for 29$. By the time it comes to the store you’re bored with it, it’s over exposed, and my costumer doesn’t want to wear the same jacket they just saw on so-and-so on a red carpet or in a tabloid.

 

DB: YOU DIDN’T EVEN FORMALLY ANNOUNCE YOU WERE DOING A SHOW.

TF: I didn’t want to announce if first, because I didn’t want to build anticipation. I didn’t even start on this whole project until after the Oscars, I didn’t even have a team at the beginning of April, or any manufacturers. I had to kill myself to put it together.

 

DB: WHILE YOU WERE ON HIATUS, WERE YOU LOOKING AT WHAT THE OTHER DESIGNERS WERE DOING?

TF: I have to say yes. But not like people would think. I look at some of the shows of the major designers I care about, but usually a month or so after they happened. I haven’t looked at this season yet. [Fashion] is a very small world, and to those of us who aren’t in that world it’s just not important.

 

DB: LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR WORLD, TOM. CONGRATULATIONS ON THESE SWANKY NEW OFFICES.

TF: The office looks like hell. We just moved in and it looks like hell, look there’s a drill over there.

 

DB: THAT’S SO BUTCH OF YOU, TOM.

TF: I bought that myself, by the way. I needed my refrigerator connected and no one would do it, so I sent my driver out to get that drill, and cut a hole in the back of the bureau and plugged in the fucking refrigerator because I was tired of waiting for someone else to do it.

 

DB: AND SUCH NICE LIGHTING.

TF: I’m tired. That’s why we’re in dim light.

 

DB: WHEN WE SPOKE AROUND THE TIME THAT A SINGLE MAN CAME OUT, YOU TOLD ME THAT YOU WERE DEPRESSED AFTER YOU LEFT GUCCI, AND THAT THE FILM WAS BORN FROM YOUR INSTINCT, BUT ALSO FROM YOUR RESTLESSNESS. HOW DO YOU FEEL NOW?

TF: I wasn’t depressed when it came out, but I was depressed when I left Gucci. That film was my mid life crisis on screen, it was total catharsis. And it was enormously helpful. If anyone wants to know anything about me all they have to do is watch that filmI took Christopher Isherwood’s character and grafted myself on top of it. Everything I was feeling, everything I was going through, everything I do feel, everything I believe in – it’s all in that movie.

 

DB: THERE WAS A COCKTAIL CULTURE WHEN YOU WERE AT GUCCI AND YSL. HAS THAT CARRIED ON?

TF: There was a mega cocktail culture my whole career. I used to have three or four vodka tonics before a show, and then I would have them while I was doing my interviews, and then I moved to London – well, London is the drinking capital of the world. But I do not drink now.

 

DB: WHY? TO FOCUS, TO BE CONNECTED, TO DEBLOAT?

TF: I did debloat, I lost like 12 pounds and I can eat anything I want now. I can’t even gain wait. I could eat ice cream and cake all day long, and I’ll stay at the same weight, which is nice. I realized I wasn’t drinking to relax, I was drinking to escape. What I was trying to escape from was boring fucking goddamn industry dinner parties, which I don’t go to anymore. The only way I could endure them was to have a few drinks. I was doing too many things that I just didn’t want to be doing. So I don’t do them anymore.

 

DB: THIS ISN’T MY MOST ORIGINAL QUESTION, BUT HERE GOES: WHAT DO YOU THINK IS SEXY NOW?

TF: I can tell you what I don’t think is sexy: All these breasts that look like grapefruit halves, that don’t move, that are firm. I think it’s twisted that we have all these 10yearold girls who want collagen lips because Mommy has them, and because they’ve grown up only seeing collagen lips. It’s like when 13-year-old girls used to think they could get their ears pierced, and now they think, “Oh, I’m 13 I can get my new tits and new lips.” Which is the way it is. They think it’s a right of passage to be a woman – because we’ve lost touch with actually what humans look like. So what do I think is sexy now? A woman who has not had breast implants, a woman who is relaxed… one reason I think that the 70s will always be the decade for me – and obviously I grew up in that era – is that the beauty standard was touchable, kissable. Women didn’t wear bras because this was a time of female liberation, and the fashion was actually smallish breasts, but whatever breasts you had didn’t matter. You felt like you could just slip your hand in their blouse, it was a kissable sort of beauty, it was friendly. It wasn’t off-putting and hard. Now our beauty standard is Lara Croft.

 

DB: YOU ONCE TOLD ME YOU WOULDN’T SHAVE LETTERS INTO A WOMAN’S PUBIC HAIR NOWADAYS.

TF: I just branded a TF into a guy’s butt for a fashion shoot, though.

 

DB: SO YOU’RE STILL INTO THE WELL-PLACED LOGO?

TF: Well I did it as a sort of funny thing. [The picture is of a cowboy in a corral] and he’s wearing chaps and he’s naked and [the girls in the picture] tie him up and they’re branding a TF into his butt.

 

DB: OH YES.

TF: Had I not done the G at Gucci, I might not have done the TF. But I’ve got my own brand now, so it’s time to claim that. Besides, the guy had a very cute butt.

 

DB: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE CONSIDERED THE ULTIMATE MODERN SEDUCER?

TF: I find it so amusing when people say I’m the ultimate seducer.

 

DB: WHY, YOU DON’T THINK YOU ARE?

TF: I have a very different opinion of myself then other people do. I see a much different person, and it always amazes me that people see something else.

 

DB: BUT YOU CAN ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU HAVE BUILT AN IMAGE, AND AN EMPIRE ON YOUR ABILITY TO SEDUCE, RIGHT?

TF: I think I’m pretty natural, and that’s seductive. I think some people take that naturalness as being fake. Like, “How could he be that natural?” I pretty much say what I think about whatever. I think when people are real, that’s seductive.

 

DB: I HAVE TO TELL YOU, AFTER YOUR SHOW IN NEW YORK, I SPOKE TO A FEW OF THE WOMEN THAT WERE IN THE SHOW: RITA, LOU, JULIA, DARIA AND NATALIA, INCLUDED. AND THEY ALL MENTIONED THEIR AROUSAL DURING THE FITTINGS. MORE THAN ONE MENTIONED YOU CARESSING THEIR BREASTS. DO YOU DO THAT CONSCIOUSLY?

TF: I like women. I will always touch anybody’s body if I can. I’m a very physical person. And I like touching people, and I touch people a lot. In America I would probably be arrested. I would definitely be sued for sexual harassment. For example, I walk though my design studio and I have this girl, who I love, and every time I walk past her I grab her back and press gently on her neck. I just feel like I have to touch her. And I do it to a guy too. I have this great young assistant and he’s just really sweet. I just sort of touch them all the time.

 

DB: YEAH, YOU WOULD DEFINITELY BE SUED IN NEW YORK.

TF: I know, except I think they’re all happy and they like it and they don’t mind.

 

DB. DO YOU THINK THERE’S A BIT OF HETEROSEXUALITY INTO YOU? GO WITH ME HERE: WHEN I WAS PREPPING FOR THIS INTERVIEW, I THOUGHT ABOUT THAT SCENE IN THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT WHEN ANNETTE BENNING AND JULIANNE MOORE ARE WATCHING GAY PORN TO GET OFF. IS THAT WHAT YOU’RE DOING WHEN YOU’RE WITH THESE WOMEN? GETTING OFF ON BEING STRAIGHT?

TF: Have I already told you this? I watch straight porn all the time…

 

DB: WELL THE IMAGE IN THE PORNOGRAPHY IS ALSO VERY TOM FORD: THESE GLISTENING, TANNED BEEFED OUT MEN…

TF: See, I don’t like that. In that particular scene those boys were too manicured. I’d rather watch you having sex.

 

DB: THANK YOU, TOM.

TF: I don’t mean that in a bad way.

 

DB: I DIDN’T TAKE IN A BAD WAY.

TF: I don’t mean that you’re not brown and glistening.

 

DB: WE’RE GETTING OFF TOPIC! WHAT I’M TRYING TO ASK IS THAT, SIMILAR TO THAT SCENE, DO YOU GET OFF BY ACTING HETEROSEXUAL WITH THESE WOMEN? IS YOUR OUTLET TOUCHING THE BREASTS OF WOMEN AND ASKING OSCAR WINNING ACTRESSES TO HAVE YOUR CHILDREN?

TF: I wouldn’t call it how I get off. I call it being myself.

 

DB: DO YOU WATCH HETEROSEXUAL PORN A LOT?

TF: I do! All the time.

 

DB: BUT THERE’S NO CLOTHES IN PORN.

TF: Who cares?

 

DB: I GUESS THERE CAN BE SHOES…

TF: I do have two gay women friend who watch porn, and I know several straight women who love to watch gay porn. So I know that there’s this cross over. I won’t tell you who it is, but she’s someone you know, and I’m often funneling her homo porn DVDs, and she’s straight and married and has kids.

 

DB: THE ONES THAT YOU GET SICK OF?

TF: Well, I don’t buy the DVDs anymore, but I have a good stash of old ones from before I watched it on the Internet. How are you going to put this into your profile?

 

DB: WELL, YOU HATE TALKING ABOUT FASHION, SO LET’S JUST TALK ABOUT PORN.

TF: It’s not that I hate fashion; I just don’t like talking about it.

 

DB: OK, THEN LET’S TALK ABOUT DIFFERENT KIND OF MOVIES: YOUR FEATURE FILMS. ARE YOU WORKING ON ANOTHER ONE?

TF: I have a new screenplay, which I’ve written myself from scratch and is completely different to A Single Man. That was my homo angst movie and this is something else. I was going to try and shoot it in August, but now I need a little distance from it. I’m probably going to rewrite the screenplay over Christmas in Mustique, which is where I had some good luck writing A Single Man for two Christmas’s in a row. I need to make sure it’s really the right thing, and that I’m as passionate about it as I was A Single Man. I may be rushing myself to try and shoot it in August. In the past four years I’ve started a menswear company, fragrance, eyewear, we almost have 30 stores now, just started women’s and I made a movie that did well. I still drive myself and drive myself and drive myself, and now I need to stop and say, I did some great things.

 

DB: DO YOU STILL WANT TO MOVE?

TF: We looked and looked, but we decided not to. Our house is too big, so we just decided to turn the top two or three floors into guest rooms, and to condense our living space into the bottom three floors.

 

DB: YOU COULD RUN A YOUTH HOSTEL ON THOSE TOP FLOORS, TOM.

TF: Oh stop it. When I was kid I never thought there would come a day when I would say, “My house is too big.” I would have liked to live at Chatsworth. However, when you have to page your boyfriend to find him in the house, and there’s no one else there, and you go from room to room and it’s empty… It doesn’t feel cozy and comfortable. Where is everyone?

 

DB: I CAN’T SAY I RELATE, BUT I UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU’RE GETTING AT.

TF: One day you will relate.

 

DB: HOW DO YOU LOOK AT AGING?

TF: Well, what are you going to do?

 

DB: DO YOU LOOK IN THE MIRROR ALL THE TIME?

TF: Yes, all the time. Absolutely. [But] I don’t look in the mirror and admire, I look in the mirror and critique. That’s my job, and it’s just built in. I do it with everybody. I can immediately detect upon meeting someone that their head is too big for their body, they don’t have a neck, their third tooth over was chipped and the other teeth were fake, and badly done. They had some restalyn there, which was too much and made them look slightly Simian. They had three hairs growing out of that ear, and they missed two hairs on that eyebrow. That’s just what I do. So I look in the mirror and I turn the same thing onto myself. It isn’t that I’m saying, “Oh my god I’m getting older.” I’m saying, “OK, I have that line now. Is that going to go away? Should I not worry?” I’m very aware of my time, I’m very aware of how long I have, and how long I can keep a certain look.

 

DB: THAT IS A SKILL NOT EVERYONE HAS.

TF: We all have to sort of adjust our role models every five years, and ask, “Is this a realistic goal anymore? Am I going to look like a freak if I keep trying to pursue this? Is it time to get a little older? Is it time to go gray at the temples? Is it time to go grey…wherever? Is it time to realize that I’m in a next phase?” You have to do that.

 

DB: THINGS SEEM TO BE GOING WELL FOR YOU.

TF: I wouldn’t go back a day. As I said, and I really mean this: I’ve never been happier. I’ve never been more in love with Richard, and it’s been 24 years. That doesn’t mean we haven’t had some tough years, some real ups and downs. But right now, I’m just completely happy. If anything, I have too many good things happening right now, and that’s wearing me out.

 

DB: I KNOW, YOU ALREADY TOLD ME: YOUR HOUSE IS TOO BIG. TOUGH LIFE, TOM FORD.

TF: Listen, this is going to sound bad in print: But never wish for seven houses.

www.tomford.com

by Derek Blasberg