Mindfood caught up with fashion designer-turned-movie director, Tom Ford, 55, at the Venice Film Festival while he was there to present his second film, Nocturnal Animals. He later traveled with the critically acclaimed movie to the festival in Toronto.
Ford gained fame as the creative director at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. In 2006, he launched his own ‘Tom Ford‘ label. His previous movie, A Single Man, in 2009, earned him an Oscar nomination.
Handsome and funnier in person than you might imagine, Ford is charming and candid.
HOW DID DIRECTING MOVIES COME ABOUT FOR YOU?
When I started out in New York as a teenager, I was an actor. I was not a great actor although I had a very successful career in television commercials. I hated acting. I hated being in front of the camera. I was quite naturally shy. I took lots and lots of acting classes, but I think I am a good storyteller. If you were at a dinner party with me and I could sense that you were getting bored, I’d spice up the story with maybe something that wasn’t even true to try to get you back so I think I’m a good storyteller.
DOES DIRECTING RELATE TO FASHION?
Fashion and film are very separate for me. However, I have spent 30 years in the fashion industry. I’ve worked with some of the best photographers, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, you know, and I know how to tell a story through framing. I understand light so I understand the technical parts of that. Actually, the two industries are not so dissimilar in their process.
WE READ SOMEWHERE THAT YOU THINK ABOUT DEATH A LOT. WHY IS THAT?
Yeah, I read that too. First let me address that. What I meant by thinking about death is I have always, and I’m not quite sure why, ever since I was a child been incredibly aware of the passage of time and the fact that our time on this planet in our current form is finite. That is what gives everything its beauty. You look at a rose, it’s breathtakingly beautiful. If it looked that same way forever we wouldn’t look at it the same way. We know it’s going to wither. We know that it’s not going to last. We feel like we need to experience it, we need to smell it, we need to look at it so I’m very, very aware of the passage of time and the fact that all of us are going to die which means grab onto the moment, savour everything in your life and so that’s what I meant by that. So, yes, I do think about it constantly. I constantly am aware tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.
YOU’RE WEARING CUFFLINKS. WHAT WERE THE FIRST CUFFLINKS THAT YOU EVER BOUGHT OR WORE AND WHY CUFFLINKS AND NOT BUTTONS?
Growing up in New Mexico…..it’s funny when people visit me there I’m usually covered in turquoise jewellery even some gigantic bracelets that I always put under jackets so that you just see a bit of them. They don’t translate. If I take them away from New Mexico I think ‘Oh, I love this. I’m going to wear this.’ They look ridiculous but in Santa Fe where I grew up they absolutely work. The very first pair of cufflinks I had were probably when I was maybe 10 years old and my grandfather gave me a pair of Zuni cufflinks. They’re very beautiful and my son has them now. Yes, he’s now quite old enough to wear cufflinks. I like cufflinks. It’s funny. I wore last night on the red carpet a tie pin and I realised a certain age thing, the very young guy who was interviewing me said, ‘Why are you wearing a diaper pin around your neck?’ I said, ‘Well, it’s not a diaper pin, it’s a collar pin.’ They were popular in the 1920’s and I like them (laughs)
IS IT TRUE THAT YOU HAVE 10,500 SUITS?
I don’t have 10,500 suits. In fact, I’m travelling with carry on luggage. I have this same suit over and over and over. I have probably quite a lot of them but they’re pretty much all the same. I have a uniform. It’s easy. I get up in the morning, I put on that uniform. In America it’s a western shirt, a pair of boots, a pair of jeans, sometimes a tee shirt. I have two uniforms and a tuxedo. I probably have more evening jackets than I have regular suits.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR HOUSE?
My house? My house is a Richard Neutra house in Los Angeles. It is very clean. It is very minimal. I have a house in London. My house in London is a John Nash house from 1827 and it’s very English and my house in New Mexico is a classic adobe house. My house in town and it’s very Santa Fe. I think wherever I am I like to feel the presence of where I am and so they are different.
HOW MUCH OF A NOCTURNAL ANIMAL ARE YOU?
I am such a nocturnal animal. It has plagued me my entire life, and yes, I take sleeping pills to go to sleep. Yes, I’m a nocturnal animal.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU CAN’T SLEEP?
Work. I get a lot of work done because it’s nice. It’s peaceful. It’s quiet. I can concentrate. Usually emails aren’t coming in. I can just be sending them out. I get frustrated when another nocturnal animal answers me back. I do a lot of things at night.
WHAT DOES BEAUTY MEAN TO YOU?
Now this is something I have learned as a fashion designer. Whenever I see anything and it causes a little electric jolt, if you see someone walking down the street and they’re wearing let’s say what one might think is an obnoxious shade of eye shadow but you go (does double take), generally if I look, there is great beauty to it because it is affecting something. It’s affecting me viscerally and so you have to question ‘Well, why am I reacting this way?’ And if you can refocus your brain I think you can find beauty in most things. Really, maybe in everything there is beauty.