Celebrated fashion designer Tom Ford is best known for turning Gucci into a brand worth billions of dollars, before leaving the business (now owned by Kering) to launch his own highly successful brand.
Born to realtors in Austin, Texas, Ford spent his childhood in Texas and New Mexico, before decamping for New York to attend New York University, majoring in art history. Quitting after one year, Ford acted in television commercials before moving onto Parsons, where he studied architecture.
It was fashion, however, that really piqued his interest, after he took a year off to work at the press office of Chloé in Paris. After graduating, he relentlessly called Cathy Hardwick, American sportswear designer, for a job.
“I had every intention of giving him no hope. I asked him who his favourite European designers were. He said, 'Armani and Chanel.' Months later I asked him why he said that, and he said, 'Because you were wearing something Armani.' Is it any wonder he got the job?” she told The New York Times. Thereafter, Ford moved to Perry Ellis, then Europe, feeling like he couldn’t improve his design skills without leaving the country.
His role at Gucci eventually was elevated to creative director in 1994. Back then, the brand was nearly bankrupt and deeply unfashionable. He brought a sexiness and glamour to the brand, bringing on photographer Mario Testino and stylist Carine Roitfeld to shoot racy campaigns. He and Gucci’s president, Domenico de Sole, took the company public and — in a bid to avoid a takeover by LVMH — joined forces with PPR (now Kering). By 2004, Gucci was valued at over $10 billion.
Unfortunately, it was not to last. After creative difference with the PPR management, Ford and de Sole departed the company. Ford settled in Los Angeles, and directed and produced the film A Single Man, which garnered an Oscar Academy nomination and Golden Globe nomination.
In 2006, Ford returned to fashion with his own label, initially with cosmetics and menswear before returning to the high-octane glamour of womenswear that had become his signature and trademark. De Sole also returned as chief executive of his label. As of 2013, his company is set to turn over $1 billion in retail sales.
Ford and his longtime partner, Richard Buckley, have a son, born September 2012.