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A Singular Man

Debonair designer and director Tom Ford can dress us, groom us, entertain us—and, as we learned when we sat down to talk with him recently, enlighten us.

You recently launched a men’s grooming collection. Tell us about that.
The collection is a precise skin care and grooming regimen for men that’s straightforward and effective. I’m very much about not wasting time and energy, and this collection is step one, cleanse and moisturize, step two, cover up imperfections, and step three, add a bit of color. It’s simple, quick and intuitive.

Do you have a favorite product in the line?
I love them all, but if I had to choose one I’d say the Bronzing Gel. I use it every single day of my life—I don’t leave the house without it, because I don’t go out in the sun anymore. If I didn’t use bronzer, I’d look very pale.

What fragrance do you wear? You’re said to always smell amazing.
Well, of course, my preferred scents are part of my fragrance collection. My favorite Private Blend fragrance is Tobacco Vanille. I also wear Neroli Portofino quite a bit.

What’s the best thing you’ve smelled lately?
I actually love the way human beings smell naturally, especially my son, Jack. And, this may sound strange, but I love the smell of my dog’s ears.

Your 2009 movie, A Single Man, was such a success, even garnering an Oscar nomination for Colin Firth and a Golden Globe nod for Julianne Moore. Do you have plans for another film?
Well, my production this past year was my son; and, of course, my other production was my women’s runway collection, which showed in London. But my second film isn’t too far behind.

What did you learn from the experience of making A Single Man?
Because I related to the story on such a personal level, it really reminded me of the importance of personal fulfillment. It reinforced the significance of spending time with my family and doing the things that bring me the most joy.

Tell us about your relationship with Hollywood.
People there are much more polite to each other, oddly enough. If you give a screenplay to someone to read, they never say, “This sucks, this is terrible, this whole act is awful.” They say, “Oh, it’s really great, just not what we’re looking for right now.”

What’s the best movie you’ve seen lately?
I’m a romantic, so beautiful, romantic things usually make my cry. I thought that The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen in years. I also have several favorite films. I adore watching old Hollywood pictures like Dinner at Eight when I want to feel as though everything in the world is fine. Then I love very visual films, like those by Hitchcock or Kubrick. Images from their films have greatly influenced my taste, and are just burned into my mind.

Do you pay attention to street style?
I think my latest women’s collection certainly engages with the notion of street style. Whenever I’m working on a line, everything has to be very real. I think of the woman I’m designing for and ask myself, “Who is this, and where is she going?”

We’d love to hear who’s on your current best-dressed list, both male and female.
I love Rihanna’s style. In fact, she inspired parts of my fall/winter 2013 collection. I also adore dressing Jay Z and Justin Timberlake. They both have an innate sense of style.

Tell us about your relationship with Justin Timberlake. Are you responsible for the straight hair?
I do like the straighter hair, but I’m not responsible for it—that’s all Justin. I adore him. He’s an enormous talent. It’s been such a pleasure and honor to work with him throughout his career.

You made your mark with sexually charged Gucci ads, and have continued that with your own line. Is it safe to say you’re still, as New York magazine put it, a “sex god”?
I’d hardly refer to myself as a “sex god,” but nudity for me is something beautiful.

Do you feel that, with your unbuttoned white shirts, you brought the hairy chest back?
I feel that my chest it still good. It’s the last thing to go on a man, so I say, show off the things that work.

What did you learn from working as a model?
I never really wanted to be a model or an actor. I always kind of wanted to be a movie star. But I learned quickly that I was very insecure. Ultimately, that helped me realize I’d make a better designer and director than model or actor.

Will the Studio 54 days forever be an inspiration for you?
I really came of age in the ’70s, especially in New York, and Studio 54 was a pivotal part of that experience. So the aesthetics of American pop culture of that time—cinema, disco and art—will always greatly influence me.

Do you read reviews of your work?
I do, whether I agree with them or not. If I disagree, I’m not afraid to say so. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion.

How important are fashion shows these days?
I’ve never been interested in designing for magazine editors—I’ve always wanted to focus on my customer. So, for a while, I resisted staging shows for my line. However, I ultimately realized that I’m a showman, and I felt a little sad without a show. Also, our business has reached a scale where we can no longer satisfy global demand with small, private presentations.

Your prices are relatively high for both mens- and womenswear. Take us through the making of, say, a $250 to $300 necktie. What goes into the product—the hand craftsmanship, the bespoke details…
With us, even a ready-to-wear suit involves hours and hours of handwork. All our fabrics are exclusive and developed by us. Our margins are not artificial. I believe the quality will be remembered long after the price is forgotten.

Tell us about your home life. Where do you spend most of your time?
Most of my time at home now is devoted to my son. I spend time with him every morning—I feed him, dress him and have a good two or three hours with him before I go to the office. At night, I put him to bed and try to spend as much time with him as possible.

What’s your favorite room in your home?
I don’t know that I have a favorite room. However, I could run my life from my bedroom with a phone, television and computer.

Your middle name is Carlyle, and you keep an apartment at The Carlyle. Is there a connection or is that just a coincidence?
Well, you know, I just love The Carlyle. The service is always amazing.