Tom Ford is behing honored by the CFDA with the biggest award. Lifetime Achievement. Only he’s sure the proper name would be Midlife Achievement, because after 6 CFDA awards the now iconic designer feels like he’s just getting started. Throughout the interview with Tim Blanks of Style.com he skates over huge topics such as Rihanna’s instagram, blogger show reviews, and the unsustainable demand on today’s fashion designers. The entire chat is really, really good. Be sure to check out the full interview by clicking Style.com.
Lifetime Achievement? So now the end is near.
When Diane von Furstenberg whispered it into my ear at the Oscars, I was almost offended. “What do you mean, Lifetime Achievement Award? Does that mean I’m not going to do anything anymore, that it’s all behind me?” At first I didn’t like it, but actually what it caused me to do was look back on my work, not only in my mind but literally, and I have to say that was cathartic, and a pleasant surprise. I actually liked some things and felt proud of them, and that ultimately made me feel more comfortable with myself. And here I am, maybe a little bit more relaxed and a little less desperate to achieve more. Sometimes high achievers are never satisfied, and you rarely stop to look back and say, “OK, maybe I can calm down, maybe I can enjoy the feeling that I have accomplished something, maybe I don’t need to drive myself so hard.”
Like an exorcism.
It was. But the last ten years for me have been cathartic and transformative. After leaving Gucci Group, there was a dramatic sense of loss and of not being worthy, so rebuilding my life professionally and personally was an enormous struggle. I’ve probably not cut myself any slack. And that’s still going on. But it was ten years in April since I left Gucci, five years today since I quit drinking, and this award has made me think the last ten years have actually been quite amazing, even if they didn’t seem so because I was busy putting out fires and I never stopped and said, “OK, I really did a lot of things: I made a movie, I built a business, had a child, stopped drinking…” And the award has given me a chance to pause and reflect on all of that. However, it has to be renamed the Midlife Achievement Award, and I’m not joking. I mean, if my life was over and I was content to say Lifetime Achievement Award, maybe…but c’mon, this is ridiculous.
Does it make it more meaningful that it has Geoffrey Beene’s name attached to it?
I ended up at Gucci via Geoffrey Beene. I had wanted to work for Mr. Beene—as he was always called—when I was on Seventh Avenue and Richard Lambertson was creative director. I interviewed with him and drew a bunch of sketches for Mr. Beene, but Richard couldn’t hire me at that moment. Then when he went to Gucci as design director with Dawn Mello, I was the first person he called, to be women’s ready-to-wear designer. The football jerseys I did this year that are a knockoff of a knockoff of the Jay Z sweaters that say “Tom Ford 61″ are also an obvious homage to Mr. Beene in the late sixties, when he did three floor-length sequined football jerseys with numbers and stripes.
Surely the rewards are enormous.
But they’re financial, not creative. No one is anything except exhausted and pressured in the fashion world. You don’t have a moment to reflect, with four collections a year for men, four for women, all these mini collections all the time. And the fact that Cruise is now shown with these giant productions means it’s no longer what it was supposed to be, which was clothes that were maybe not strong enough to show but were your real bread and butter, the clothes that women wanted to wear. But now that they’re being shown, they’ll have to be amped up, and women won’t want to wear them anymore. When no one showed these half-collections, no one expected them to alter the direction of fashion or to be reviewed, so you could really create something for your customer. This is why I tried not to be reviewed in the beginning. I wanted to focus on the customer, not the reviews.
The customer reads reviews.
Something new is happening that I’m just clueing into now—this probably won’t go down well—but customers don’t care any more about reviews or hard-copy publications. They care what picture Rihanna just Instagrammed while she’s naked in bed, what new shoes she has on, how she’s talking about them. That’s what they respond to.
(Images from http://blog.saksfifthavenue.com)