Tom Ford, the international fashion icon of the 1990s and early 2000s, has compared the length of his cultural influence peak to the Beatles. Ford theorizes that a decade was the natural span of time for it to last.
Ford — who went on to write, produce and direct two acclaimed Hollywood feature films — also wondered how long Taylor Swift has in her post as the Princess of Pop.
“I had a 10-year run,” Ford, speaking to GQ for a long-form interview published this week, said of his tenure as Gucci’s design director, before he left and started his own namesake label. “And I think that’s all you get. A PR person would tell me not to say that. But that was where I moved the needle culturally. I was in my 30s and early 40s.
“How many years will Taylor have it?” Ford continued. “I mean, the Beatles. When you actually go back and look at how long they existed, it was like seven years, eight years. Nothing.”
The Beatles’ reign over pop and rock music indeed spanned eight years, from 1962 to 1970. The band formed its original lineup in 1960 before Ringo Starr joined up two years later. From there, they took over the world, releasing “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me” with countless hits to follow.
Ford’s ascent wasn’t as steep as the Fab Four’s, but it was impressive. He was hired by Gucci in 1990 at the ripe age of 30. Within 10 years, he had almost singlehandedly restored the floundering label into a global powerhouse.
“I mean, if you get that much time — that’s amazing,” Ford said.
After a decade as their design director, a period in which he was living and breathing women’s fashion — “24 hours a day,” he told GQ, “there can be nothing else in your life” — he helped transform the company into a conglomerate. Armed with $3 billion to invest, Gucci bought Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta to create the Kering luxury group.
“The first acquisition was Saint Laurent, and it was a billion dollars,” Ford said. “And it was done only if I would design it. Because at that time, everything I touched, worked. Not always the case, but it was definitely the case then. We had to deploy this cash, but my criteria in figuring out who to invest in was: I’m the only creative person here. In case something happens, you can’t have a company that big with one creative. Who do I admire? Whoever those people are that I admire and I’m jealous of, we need to get.”
That is when Ford recruited Alexander McQueen, he said.
“I was a commercial fashion designer,” Ford said. “That doesn’t mean there wasn’t an artistic element to what I did. But I was a commercial fashion designer. Lee was an artist who happened to use the medium of clothing and fashion shows to express himself. At that moment in time, [current Louis Vuitton artistic director of womenswear] Nicolas Ghesquière was hot. Absolutely hot. And he did something totally different than what I did. I wanted him to start his own collection. He didn’t want to do that.
“So we bought Balenciaga and he was at Balenciaga,” Ford continued. “Stella [McCartney] addressed a totally different customer that we did not have. She was onto all of this environmental stuff, way ahead of everybody else. And so that made sense. With Bottega [Veneta], I went after Tomas Maier. He and Richard were best friends back in the 80s, and he had the best taste. In assembling it, you needed brands that didn’t compete so that you could have a very well-rounded portfolio. And people that I admired. So that’s what we did.”
Ford eventually left Kering and launched his own namesake label, which he sold in November 2022 for nearly $3 billion.
As comfortable as that could make his life, Ford remains hungry — but not for the fashion world.
Ford wrote, produced and directed 2009’s “A Single Man” and 2016’s “Nocturnal Animals.” Both films featured A-list starring casts and outperformed expectations at the box office — “A Single Man” pulled in $25 million globally on a $7 million budget; “Nocturnal Animals” grossed $30 million on a $22 million budget.
Ford, 62, is not content with that Hollywood legacy. Despite moving from Los Angeles to Palm Beach, Florida recently, he said he wants to spend the next 20 years making movies.
“And the clock is ticking. And so it was time to say goodbye to fashion,” Ford said of selling his label. “Fashion is a younger man’s game. It is the world of people from 30 to maybe 50. I’m 62. I’m living in your world. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have something to contribute. I do think certain professions get better as they get older. I think writers sometimes have a perspective that comes with age. Architects, for some reason, really get good the older they become. 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.”