As his much-anticipated second movie, Nocturnal Animals, is released, the designer turned film director talks about dress code, family and eccentricity
As I enter the hotel suite, Tom Ford stands in silhouette against an industrial, ceiling-height window, the light refracted behind him in a sunburst. Its an irresistible image, so perfect it almost had to be composed: both man and room shown off to their optimal effect. And, who am I kidding, it probably was. I had been checked at the door for a minute or two while Ford had rearranged some furniture that was irking him. Even a rented room, used for a day to plug a new movie, can be improved. Ford is obsessed with beautiful things and has had an enduring and hugely successful career, first in fashion, now as a film director, making people and places look their best.
Ford strides towards me, eager, like a politician on the election trail, and extends his hand. I had read that he prefers to be called Mr Ford and check if thats the case. No, no, no, he smiles, as if it was one of the top five most ridiculous things hes ever heard. Pleeease call me Tom.
Tom Ford, the man, has always been the most compelling advertisement for Tom Ford, the creative output. He is, its almost inane to note, a very handsome individual. These are looks that many would sell their souls for, but Ford, now an impossible 55 years old, hasnt needed to: just lots of vegetables and fish, no booze for years, tennis three times a week and an occasional restrained touch-up with Botox under the eyes and Just for Men dye on his beard stubble.
Today, as he almost always does, Ford wears a cinched black suit, matching tie, a gold collar bar. A suit is armour, he explains. You know, Im not good in knitwear. His voice, almost a growl, is saturated with disdain. I feel mushy and soft. Im not good in anything but a boot. I feel solid and grounded. You gotta learn in life what makes you feel comfortable in terms of clothing and thats what you should wear. Some people look great in knitwear; thats what they want to wear, they look good in it, it feels right for them. Trainers: I feel weak in trainers. I mean, I wear them when Im at the gym, but I feel soft and I dont like that.
How about when he was shooting his new film, Nocturnal Animals, did Ford wear a suit then? Yes, I wore it on set, its a uniform. Im comfortable, it suits who I am, he replies. Except the parts when we were in Texas, where I wore cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, which looks surprisingly good on me. Well, all of a sudden, 200 years of Texas pioneer background kind of genetically seems to just work on my head. And I dont look like a fool.
Ford I hope this is coming across is surprisingly funny. He is completely serious and at the same time, nullifying the criticism often levelled at those in the fashion world, completely aware that some people will find what hes saying ridiculous. There are numerous stories-cum-urban-legends that have attached themselves to Ford over the years. That he takes five baths a day. That he doesnt like to see or smell food in his office. That he once sent an employee home for wearing three-quarter-length trousers. That he cannot abide hot drinks. That this one courtesy of Victoria Beckham he flies long haul in his suit and his only concession is to undo a single waistcoat button.
Some people would regard him as eccentric, I say. Eccentric? says Ford, visibly perking up, his hands carving arcs, like a matadors. Oh, tell me about that!
The multiple baths in a day. Oh, I can explain that, he counters, a little disappointed perhaps that the rumour was not more outrageous. For me, its meditation. I take a bath in the morning, because the time I lie in the bathtub is when I work out all my problems. I think about the day, I think about what Ive got to do. I think about nothing, I clear my head. Same in the evening, before dinner, I cant go from work and out to a dinner and be good at a dinner meaning be interesting and charming and be interested and listen to someone unless I kind of wash away the day. The same at night, I cant go to sleep unless I get in the bathtub and again, wash away the day. So its meditative for me, its not that I have some cleanliness obsession.
So thats cleared that up. I dont smoke, he goes on. Some people go out and have a cigarette. I dont drink, some people drink. He exhales theatrically. I lie in a bath full of hot water.