A simple question. Which way does Mr. Ford really want to go with his career? I mean, dude is sitting on a couple of hundred million (American), and he did just sell an Andy Warhol for $33 million, and he did just do a fine job helming a nice little indie film. Tommy from Texas has lots of choices, n'est pas?
Tom Ford walked away from fashion’s pinnacle of success at Gucci and YSL because of what he felt was a stifling environment (gilded, but a cage nonetheless) back in 2004. After a legendary blow-up and walk-out at Gucci where he was Creative Director for both Gucci and YSL, he’d had enough one afternoon and walked away from a situation that he felt was becoming creatively stifling for him. (Plus, he was getting nasty little letters from Yves about the YSL direction.) Whilst there, Tom Ford had taken the house of Gucci from a market cap of $4 billion to over $10 billion, he the man with the touch Midas would envy.
Which brings us forward to the present. Ford seems more relevant than ever, his name still spoken with reverence and deference after his big comeback in 2010 with his women’s line, and everywhere one turns, there are rumors aplenty regarding the return of this titan of fashion with his own line for men and women, including “secret shows” for his 2011 summer line. He was even pinned as one of Time Magazine’s 100 with a blurb written by one Rita Hanks.
Tom Ford is busy building his brand and empire. He has opened flagship stores in New York and Los Angeles. He has signed licensing deals for eyewear and a beauty brand to build with Esteé Lauder. Plus, add another hit to Tom Ford’s string of successful launches, this one of the celluloid variety with the independent film, A Single Man, based upon the Isherwood novel of the same. Directed by Ford with a deft touch, filled with lovely, lithe actors delivering solid lines, draped in fashionable clothing of Ford’s designing, Tom Ford has proven he can crack any industry, except for maybe acting. But, let’s not count him out just yet on that front.
Tina Brown recently shared with Ford (in a terrific little interview for DailyBeast.com) that Ralph Lauren threatened for years to direct a film, but could never quite pull the trigger on the right project. To which Tom Ford encouraged Sir Ralph, Lord of the Polo, “Do it, Ralph. We’re none of us getting any younger.” Or, something to that effect. But, what about Tom? What does he want?
Today, rumors about Tom Ford persist: They say he’s on the short-list to succeed the officially dismissed Galliano at Dior for LVMH (Sarah Burton seems more likely). Then there’s everyone’s favorite that the Lord of uber-luxe is collaborating with H&M on an everyman limited line for the retailer (put me on the mailing list for that one). Except for helming another film -- he is looking for a next project for his production company -- it is doubtful Ford would divide his attentions away from his business at-hand, viz., expanding Tom Ford brand around the globe. And, of course the ridiculous rumor – that he’s running out of cash.
As a college student in NY, Tom Ford was friendly with Andy Warhol, and last year Ford did sell-off one of Warhol’s self-portraits (purple-hued) for $33 million. Net worth of $250 million, Tom Ford most likely sold the Warhol last year to help finance his new women’s line and continue the launch of Tom Ford stores, of which there are currently 21 stand-alone and shop-in shops, with plans to expand to 100 shops within several years.
But, like his creative hero Ralph Lauren, Tom Ford seeks to be a fashion house unto himself. After all, as he has (in)famously said, “I am my own muse.” As with any good creative, we can be certain that he’ll never run out of inspiration for his eponymous lines of fashion, perfumes, furniture, beauty products, $35 bars of soap, eyewear and fine footwear anytime soon.
To be frank, I like Mr. Ford’s chances. If I look at other designers or labels that licensed themselves out of fashion significance (whether selling out for the cash, or by mistake), we see many designers whose lines now litter the clothes bin of history at Nordstrom Rack: Abboud, Perry Ellis, and you too, Calvin Klein. Not likely, Ford, though.
Like Armani and Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein (okay, we’ll keep you in this group, CK), these fashion houses of distinction take decades to develop. And, like any good example of compound interest growing over time, a dollop of fashion integrity goes a long way toward the making of not just a fashion superstar, but also a house of fashion (and a bona fide billionaire a few times over) if only the principal will resist the impulse to sell-out. He can still direct a movie every two or three years, though, as long as he designs the clothes … you know, to build the brand.