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"I was a commercial fashion designer," Tom Ford says in GQ exit interview

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Tom Ford's first interview since selling his company Credits: Tom Ford

One year ago, in November 2022, the fashion industry witnessed the acquisition of Tom Ford International by beauty behemoth Estée Lauder for a cool 2.8 billion dollars. In an exclusive interview with GQ’s Editorial Director Will Welch, Tom Ford, the eponymous designer, offers unfiltered insights into this unprecedented business move and why he is turning his back on fashion. Here are three poignant quotes that capture the essence of his reflections.

On his dual identity as a commercial designer and businessman:

“I am a commercial fashion designer. I am half businessman. Half designer. I always was. There’s an intuition that comes with the kind of business brain I have. You know what’s coming next. You feel it.”

“My greatest gift is, you can lay five pairs of shoes down in front of me, and the one that I pick will be the commercial one. I have commercial taste. Maybe, hopefully, at a high level. But if you’re not making money, you can’t do what you want.”

Reflecting on his breakthrough moment:

“It was with men’s. There was a men’s show in Florence. At that time I was young enough to still actually go out to clubs. And you could feel this ’70s revival starting up, so I went deep into that. I took the Gucci loafer for men, and I made it in patent leather car finish. And I used tons of velvet and color, and silk shirts open to here. And it worked. And so I thought, Okay, well I’m just going to carry this through for women. And I did. Although it was the next show [fall 1996] for Gucci that was the closest one to what is still my own permanent taste—the show with the white dresses with the cutouts, and the women in the tuxedos.”

On the rationale behind exiting the fashion stage:

“There are several reasons I sold my company. I felt, after 35 years, I had said everything I could say with fashion. It’s important to know when to get off the stage. I loved making the two films that I made. That was the most fun I’ve ever had in my entire life. I’m 62. Hopefully, I’ll remain somewhat together until 82. So I wanna spend the next 20 years of my life making films. And the clock is ticking. And so it was time to say goodbye to fashion. Fashion is a younger man’s game. It is the world of people from 30 to maybe 50. I'm 62. Designers rarely change the world of fashion at 62. I did it at 35, maybe until 45. Then I shifted into the moment when you become a household name and you make a lot of money.”

Estee Lauder
Tom Ford