In 2016, Tom Ford told the Financial Times he was “decided” to show his eponymous magnificence, eyewear and style firm right into a $3bn enterprise by 2025.
He didn’t fairly make the mark, however he received shut. On Tuesday, Estée Lauder Corporations introduced that it had acquired the Tom Ford model in a deal that values it at $2.8bn. The sale is poised to make a billionaire of 61-year-old Ford, who made his identify reworking a close to bankrupt Gucci right into a style powerhouse earlier than launching his eponymous firm in 2005.
It may additionally sign Ford’s exit from style. Zegna has agreed to broaden its licence for Tom Ford’s menswear to incorporate womenswear, childrenswear and equipment, whereas Marcolin has “considerably prolonged” its licence for Tom Ford eyewear, ELC mentioned. However Ford and chair Domenico De Sole have solely agreed to remain till the tip of subsequent yr.
“He wasn’t keen to get entangled for longer than [the end of 2023],” says a supply aware of the negotiations. “He’s not enthusiastic about style anymore.”
Pals and former colleagues say Ford’s pursuits way back migrated to Hollywood, the place he has directed two critically acclaimed movies, A Single Man (2009) and Nocturnal Animals (2016). Primarily based in LA since 2017, he stepped down as chair of the Council of Style Designers of America in Could. “There’s not numerous grace in [fashion] any extra,” he informed the FT in 2016. “It appears to have escalated to a degree the place there’s not numerous respect for the designer. And that’s actually unhappy.”
“I really feel like he’s ‘achieved’ style. What else might he need to show?” says Whitney Bromberg Hawkings, who labored with him for 20 years. “It’s the attractive exit. He’s not hanging on.”
Ford’s movie star way back transcended the insular world of style. His impeccable grooming, daily routine and uniform of white shirt, darkish tie, gold pin and single-breasted peaked-lapel swimsuit are the stuff of fascination. Former staff describe him as “extremely exacting”, “anal about all the pieces”, “foolish”, “humorous”, “insanely witty”, “type” and “the hardest-working human being on this planet”. He engenders fierce loyalty, a lot of his workers work for him for many years.
“Tom’s large success got here all the way down to the truth that he was as fabulous and movie-star-like as something he ever designed,” Anna Wintour wrote in an e mail. “His personal private model has at all times been as alluring as the homes he has labored for — although behind all of the glamour is an extremely hard-working man with a depraved sense of humour who’s probably the most loyal and type pal.”
“He’s pushed,” says Steven Kolb, who labored with him on the CFDA. “You don’t get to be Tom Ford and promote a enterprise for $2.3bn [in upfront payments] if you happen to aren’t sure of what you need in life.”
Ford was born in Austin, Texas in 1961, the son of two actual property brokers. His curiosity in style manifested early: friends teased him for displaying as much as faculty in a blazer, loafers and attaché case. Ford moved to New York in 1979 to review artwork historical past at New York College, dropping out after a yr to pursue performing in LA. He returned to enrol in an inside structure course however shortly segued to style, working at sportswear label Cathy Hardwick after which at Perry Ellis underneath Marc Jacobs. In 1990, he decamped to Milan to design womenswear at Gucci and 4 years later, he was promoted to inventive director.
His autumn/winter 1995 assortment heralded a glamorous new route for a staid leather-based items home mired in monetary turmoil. Ford’s standing as style’s “it” designer was cemented when Madonna appeared on the MTV Video Music Awards in one of many assortment’s core appears.
By 2004 Gucci had develop into the Gucci Group, and Ford was presiding over a $10bn portfolio that included Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and Stella McCartney. However contract negotiations with the group’s new homeowners, the Pinault household, soured, and Ford left that yr. The day he discovered he and Gucci have been parting methods, he took Hawkings to see “Love Really” in Leicester Sq. at midday the place “we cried our brains out”, she recalled.
“I had no voice in up to date tradition,” Ford recalled of that point. “I had such a robust voice within the ’90s, and an identification that I labored very arduous to attain. And rapidly I didn’t have that, and I didn’t actually know what I used to be going to do.”
He leased an workplace in Chelsea, the place he laid the plans for an upscale magnificence enterprise that he launched with Estée Lauder to nice fanfare in 2006. Their first perfume, Black Orchid, turned a bestseller; extra adopted, together with lipstick, priced at a then-punchy $48, and a full make-up vary.
“It’s achieved phenomenally properly,” says Lana Todorovich, president of luxurious retailer Neiman Marcus. “It introduced an concept of glamour [that was missing in beauty].” Licences for eyewear and menswear ensued, and in September 2010 Ford returned to the runway to debut his first womenswear assortment.
By the tip of the last decade, the Tom Ford label was eyeing an annual turnover of $1bn. However the pandemic took a toll, forcing the corporate to furlough and lay off workers. ELC mentioned it expects the model to hit the $1bn web gross sales mark “over the following couple of years”.
The pandemic was additionally tough for Ford personally. Richard Buckley, his husband and accomplice of 35 years, handed away after a protracted sickness in September 2021, aged 72. Collectively they’d a son, Jack, by surrogate 10 years in the past.
“The world is aware of Tom’s a perfectionist, that he has impeccable type, that he’s a designer,” says Diane von Furstenberg. “He’s the Marlboro Man of style. He’s additionally, on prime of it, an awfully type human being.”
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