‘I was born 50 years old,’ says 55-year-old style mogul turned film director, Tom Ford with a wry smile. ‘I’ve been planning what I would wear at this age since I was a child. I don’t think you should ever change who you are. Perhaps as you get older you may change the style or brand, but the key is to remain true to your own vision.’
‘At this moment, the greatest artistic channel I have in my life is film,’ he says. ‘It feels like this is where I’m meant to be and this is what I’m meant to be doing. Fashion has been very good to me and I’ve carved a wonderful, very fortunate career from it; I will always be incredibly loyal because I’m a loyal person. It’s helping me in my second career by financing films. That might sound mercenary but it’s the truth.’
When Tom Ford first turned his hand to directing with A Single Man, released in 2009, there was an understandable degree of public scepticism. After all, filmmakers spend lifetimes honing their craft and in spite of his impeccable taste and penchant for perfection, Ford is first and foremost, a clothing designer, having spent decades in the business of style. But if his directorial debut didn’t do enough to silence critics with its quiet and compelling study of life after the loss of a partner, then his sophomore effort, Nocturnal Animals, ought to do the trick.
Nocturnal Animals is a brooding, stylised noir-thriller, based on Austin Wright’s book, Tony and Susan, in which Amy Adams plays an art executive whose perfect existence crumbles on a receiving a book transcript, a terrifying story of violence and betrayal, from her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal). Having already wowed both Toronto and Venice Film Festivals, Nocturnal Animals could put Ford at the top of the Hollywood hotlist, proving beyond a doubt that his foray into cinema was no vanity project.
The older Ford becomes, the more projects he seems to insist on undertaking. Alongside directing films, he runs his eponymous luxury brand and, most challenging of all perhaps, he is a doting father to four-year-old son, Alexander ‘Jack’ John Buckley Ford, born to a surrogate mother using IVF. ‘My son, who’s now four years old, sort of took the bulk of my attention. He’s is my priority, above all else and these are incredibly important developmental stages where he needs his dad to be hands-on, he needs his parents by his side so everything falls by the way.’ Children were always on the designer’s agenda, but he put his own wishes on hold for the sake of his now-husband, journalist Richard Buckley. In 2011, he told VOGUE: “I always said I wanted to have children. And as I got a little bit older, Richard, whom I live with, did not want children. So I decided not to have children. But if I have children, no one will know about it until the child is born.” The couple obviously changed their mind and decided to pursue fatherhood shortly after that interview, and staying true to his word, the first anyone heard of Ford’s son was the extremely chic announcement card he and Buckley posted to friends.
Ford’s relationship with Buckley has been an enduring and stabilising force: ‘I’ve discovered that life stretches beyond those confines,’ he reveals. ‘I have lived with someone for 30 years, I know all about loyalty. Because you shouldn’t let them go. You need to keep firm on that grip and hold on for dear life.’ Even though Ford has previously admitted that he knew he would marry Buckley ten days after their first meeting, the committed couple finally wed in 2012 just before their son’s arrival so that he would be born into a legally recognised family unit.
Ford has a notorious reputation as a perfectionist but with a small child it must be impossible to maintain impeccable standards. In the past Ford has openly talked of his once manicured home being covered in plastic toys and about having to drop his OCD tendency for five baths a day down to two. Now he’s more understated: ‘Well I try to be as healthy as possible, and of course I’ve had to relax a few things. For example, home is not as tidy as it used to be and I’ve had to change my grooming regime a little… Although I’m certainly not ready to be a silver daddy yet!’ he laughs. ‘But my real life’s not like the fantasy Tom Ford world; I am not immersed in this ideal of perfection.’
Though he may demur about his flawless image, the notoriously pernickety Ford knows all too well that the devil is in the detail. Indeed, it’s his obsession with detail that has been the bedrock of his success, from his dazzling 15-year tenure at Gucci and YSL to Nocturnal Animals which took seven years to make instead of three.
While he may bring the same degree of focus and precision to his work as he’s always done, he admits it’s taken him till his fifties to understand fully that there is more to life than work.
For Ford, what’s most important of all is that he feels grounded and far away from the ‘high-functioning alcoholic’ from the time after he left Gucci in 2004. ‘I have a wonderful family and that’s what’s important, that’s helped a lot,’ he says. ‘But I also believe that as you get older the more confident you become. I am certainly more comfortable with myself now than I was 20 or 30 years ago. I’m in a very good place.’